Planning for Your Employee's FMLA Leave

Thoughtful planning and discussion before a FMLA Leave will pave the way for smooth transitions for all involved.

Meet with the employee

If possible and appropriate, use the Work Responsibilities Coverage Form as a basis for your discussion. With respect to each task or project listed, ask the employee for his or her ideas about who might best take over these responsibilities temporarily.

  • Clarify the employee’s expectations about when the STD Leave will begin and when he or she will return to work (or, in the case of a reduced-schedule leave, to a regular work schedule).
    • Let the employee know that the FAS Leaves Liaison will be his or her central point of contact during the leave period and that you will receive status updates from her regarding the prospective return to work date.
    • A return to work plan can be established once the FAS Leaves Liaison has confirmed a return to work date with the Disability Benefits Office. If the employee’s return requires some work-related accommodation, the FAS Leaves Liaison will schedule time for the Senior Disability Case Manager to be involved and lend expertise.
  • If the employee requests a reduced-schedule leave, ask him or her for a proposed schedule of leave, and if appropriate, discuss whether the leave can be scheduled for a time that will not inconvenience the department. For example, if the employee anticipates weekly physical therapy for a neck injury, you may ask for a schedule and also ask that therapy sessions be booked at times that accommodate your department’s needs.
  • Ask about the degree to which the employee wishes to keep private any information relating to the STD Leave. Review the list of other senior members, i.e. faculty member, if the employee is a Faculty Assistant, you would like to notify, with their permission. Note that the employee has the right to choose to share nothing about their leave with co-workers. You might ask:
    • Have you told, or do you plan to tell, co-workers or others about the situation?
    • Would you like me to / may I tell your co-workers?
  • Discuss the employee’s accessibility during the STD Leave. Encourage him or her to be realistic about the likelihood of remaining connected to work during the leave, but not working. Be clear about your understanding that the employee will be on leave, not working from home or an off-site location, and that as the STD Leave proceeds, his or her accessibility may vary from what is anticipated.

Make a plan for managing the employee’s job responsibilities

  • Prioritize the employee’s current and upcoming projects, and consider what may be postponed until his or her return.
  • Think about other staff members who may take over some or all of the employee’s responsibilities. If possible, consider the employee’s own recommendations. This may be a development opportunity for current employees, whose skill sets may be increased by taking on the additional responsibilities.
  • Think about how you want to recognize and rewards others on the team who may be picking up additional work due to the employee’s STD Leave. Your HR Consultant can provide advice in this area.
  • Consider taking on some of the employee’s responsibilities yourself.
  • Consult your HR Consultant for ideas of other employees who might be interested and qualified to take on some of the responsibilities requiring coverage.
  • Consider whether you will need to hire a temporary employee.

Maintain oversight during the employee's FMLA Leave

  • Contact the employee from time to time or according to an agreed-upon status report schedule, to confirm his or her return date.  If these contacts are oral, prepare written documentation of any changes to the employee's return date.
  • Check in regularly with the staff who are filling in for the employee.  Be sure to express your appreciation, and consider providing some token of appreciation, such as those suggested here.  Keep track of progress relating to the employee's projects.  If the employee prepared a Work Responsibilities Coverage Form, look at it periodically and fill in status updates as changes occur.

Know when to call HR

  • Disciplining an employee is challenging at any time, but particularly so in the context of an FMLA Leave.  If there are issues with the employee's performance, contact your HR Consultant before taking any action.
  • If you suspect misuse or abuse of an intermittent or reduced-schedule FMLA Leave, contact your HR Consultant.  For example, if an employee's medical certification indicates that he might need to take off up to four days per month due to migraines, but the actual time taken off exceeds that expectation, this may indicate the need for a revised certification, disciplinary action, or some other action.  Your HR Consultant can help you decide.
  • In some circumstances, the FMLA allows for transferring an employee to another, comparable position, during an intermittent or reduced schedule leave, or upon return from an FMLA Leave.  If you are considering a transfer, contact your HR Consultant before discussing this with your employee.
  • Your check-ins with the employee or the status reports you receive may indicate changes that will require action.  Contact your HR Consultant if:

    • The employee indicates, or you suspect, that he or she will not return to work at the end of the FMLA Leave; or

    • You believe that upon his or her return, the employee may be entitled to some reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (for example, if the employee has told you that his or her condition necessitates frequent rest breaks or a flexible work schedule).

Prepare for the employee's transition back to work

  • Schedule a call prior to the employee's scheduled return to work date.  During that call:
    • Confirm the return to work date, and discuss any restrictions on his or her work activities; and
    • Invite the employee to participate in calls and/or meetings prior to his or her return, with the understanding that this is entirely discretionary on the employee's part.
  • When making staffing decisions for future projects, consider assignments for the employee.
  • If the FMLA Leave has been a long one, consider a "Welcome Back" event such as a luncheon, or leave a handwritten card at the employee's work station.
  • Check in with the employee during the first week back, to see if he or she needs assistance transitioning back to work.