How to Avoid Common Problems with Employee Leave Management


Leave management can be a tedious and challenging process for employees and Human Resources alike. Getting approval for a leave, tracking it properly, and following legal requirements set by the state or federal government make it a complex process. Even big companies with many resources struggle with leave management.

Recently, Amazon admitted that it failed to streamline the process for employee leave, including parental and medical leave and disability. In a feature story in The New York Times, employees and former employees shared stories of being underpaid or terminated because of glitches in Amazon’s employee leave system. 

“In a time when organizations can ill afford to watch any employees walk out the door, experts say inattention to HR technology integration and failing to ensure both HR staff and line managers are well-educated about the intricacies of leave policies can have an outsized impact on employee retention and company performance,” according to SHRM

While the tech giant is striving to correct the process at its company, you can learn from common employee leave management mistakes: 

Scale HR Along with the Business

Behemoths like Amazon have a large, global workforce. Sometimes, they acquire other smaller companies that already had their own HR departments and ways of doing things. As a result, keeping track of everyone’s whereabouts is quite the undertaking.

These disparate leave management systems remain in place as the company grows. Then, one person in Dubai is getting treated differently about his leave than another in the United States. Employers have to be careful about following the applicable state and federal laws. But they also must have certain universal policies in place to ensure fairness. Having one set of standards and procedures for getting approval and tracking employee leave is also a way to simplify the process. 

By growing Human Resources as the company becomes bigger, employers can better anticipate problems and manage employee leave. What’s important is to have a centralized HR system to ensure fairness, equity, and fewer chances for errors. 

READ: Q&A: How to Optimize Learning and Development for a Remote Workplace

Define Company Policies

All too often, especially at small- to mid-size companies, HR is lax about clearly defined policies related to leave. One manager might say, “Go be with your ill mom for a few days. I will cover for you.” Another might make you put everything in writing and provide medical notes. Maybe no one is officially tracking the time off. Without rules about what kinds of leave to approve, you may get different answers from different managers. Employees who feel they were wrongfully denied leave may resent colleagues, who were able to take leave. Have a standard set of requirements and step-by-step instructions for gaining approval. 

Train People

Supervisors and anyone who has control of the approval process must be trained well. They need to know how to comply with the law and unions. Of course, they should be well educated on company policies. And they should know how to effectively use the leave management technology. 

The training must be the same across geographies and ensure that everyone is on the same page about who should get approval and what circumstances warrant denial. A big part of streamlining the process for leave management is having supervisors and executives buy into the policies and procedures and encourage compliance.   

READ: The Great Resignation: How to Prevent Employee Burnout

Lead with Empathy

People need to feel as though their employer cares. Human Resources needs to lead with heart. Often, people take leave to care for their families or ill loved ones. They might have an illness, condition, or injury that requires they get rest themselves. Or maybe they are burned out, and they are trying to rejuvenate themselves. 

Regardless, HR departments that show understanding and recognition that people have challenges outside of work are more likely to endear themselves to talent. Leading with empathy has been paramount during the pandemic. It is one of the major ways companies can win the talent war.

To demonstrate you care, you should be open to the idea of approving leave, show sympathy when warranted, and make sure employees on approved leave are getting the amount of time and money to which they have a right. The latter is of the utmost importance. 

Invest in Proper Technology

You can streamline the process by investing in leave management technology. Choosing secure tech like Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) software can help streamline the process. It can automate accrual policies, prorations, carryover, and the entire approval process, for example. Ideally, employees can track their leave accrual, PTO, pay, etc. In addition, the technology helps the company comply with legal, union, and company policies.  

Beware Outsourcing

Third-party outsourcing can complicate matters for big and small companies alike. After all, the process then moves out of the office, and other people may be handling the requests of your employees. Some larger companies might benefit from outsourcing, but the third party must work closely with headquarters for it to be successful, especially when it comes to leave management. 

Ultimately, employers should take advantage of the available leave management technology and streamline their processes to ensure everyone is getting a fair shake. Errors can always happen, but if proper procedures are in place, they can be identified and fixed. Being human and recognizing that employees will need to take leave at different points in their career can help businesses show they care. During a historic labor shortage, every effort to empathize with employees is a step toward winning the talent war. 

What do you think? Have you invested in leave management software? What are your great leave management challenges? Continue the conversation with us on LinkedIn or Twitter

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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