As the holidays are fast approaching, requests for leave may begin to start landing on your desk… We all like to have time off over the holidays but taking advantage can have a huge impact on your business operations. Excessive absences result in additional pressure on remaining team members, loss of productivity, extra pressure on your leave administration staff, and reduced customer service due to a lack of resources and stressed out employees.
What to do?
The first step in processing a leave request is to determine if an absence is FMLA-qualifying. Remember that an employee doesn’t need to directly request FMLA, but you and your staff should be trained to determine if the reason for a leave request qualifies as a serious health condition under the FMLA. If the leave is not FMLA-qualifying, the employee may use other available time off.
For the absences that are FMLA-qualifying, you should process the leave request according to your Absence Process as noted in an infographic we created last year. As well as creating this Absence Process, there are three steps you can take to prevent FMLA Abuse in the workplace over the holidays:
- Ensure Provider Certification is Complete and Sufficient,
- Utilize Second and Third Opinions, and
- Use the Honest Suspicion Rule.
You can read more about these steps here, but this year I think it’s important to highlight a few more tools that may prove useful over the coming holiday season.
3 Useful Tools for Managing FMLA
- Firstly, it is important to enforce your absence policies. We all know how hectic it can be at this time of year, without having to follow up with employees who may have a genuine reason for taking leave, but ensure you and your team are well-trained and equipped to deal with employees requests for FMLA leave over the coming weeks. And be sure that all of your employees are treated fairly to avoid any complaints of unfair treatment.
- Make your employees aware of disciplinary action if they don’t comply with your absence policies. This can act as a deterrent to employees who may be considering requesting fraudulent FMLA leave. Again, ensure all employees are treated equally, and disciplinary action is applied across the board to avoid any FMLA interference claims.
- Analyzing attendance records can highlight any patterns of FMLA requests that may fall in line with holidays, PTO days, or assigned days off. If you do notice a strong pattern in absences, you have the right to interview employees about the reason for their leave. This gives the employee the opportunity to explain the reason for the leave and hopefully mitigate your fears of fraudulent FMLA requests.
For those employees who genuinely need to take leave for their own personal illness or to take care of a family member, these steps should be easy to complete ensuring they are provided with their full rights under the FMLA.