Leave administration professionals focus a lot of their energy on ensuring an exemplary process for approving paid and unpaid leave and assisting employees returning from leave to reintegrate effectively. An essential element to delivering consistent and effective administration for each employee leave is incorporating support and communication every step of the way.
Here are some best practices for communicating with employees on leave, providing timely updates, and clarifying their responsibilities during their absence.
Establish communication channels
As part of your leave administration process, set up precise and reliable communication channels between employees on leave and your company. It would be best if you had multiple options, such as email, text, phone, video, and depending on the circumstances, occasional in-person meetings. When an employee is going out on leave, establish their preferred method of communication and ensure you have their most up-to-date contact information. As a best practice, an employee should not be contacted on their work email or phone while on leave to set a boundary of no work activity while the employee is out.
Provide regular updates
Employees on medical leave will submit updates on their progress, but communication should go beyond this. Set up a schedule for regular check-ins to discuss how the leave is going and to answer any questions they may have. That said, be careful not to overwhelm employees with too much information or frequent updates. Find a balance between staying connected and respecting the employee’s space during a challenging time. Consider a check-in schedule that can be applied consistently, such as the halfway point, 2-weeks before return, and the week leading up to the established end date.
Set clear expectations for communication
The leave process can be disruptive for both the company and the employee; to avoid unnecessary confusion, ensure the employee is clear about expectations and requirements during their leave. Provide documentation detailing the terms and conditions of the leave, including the expected duration, medical certifications or documentation needed, and their responsibilities during their absence. Outline the steps to follow when they are ready to return to work. Discuss this document with the employee before the commencement of the leave and continue to talk about it during check-ins.
Establish a single point of contact
Each employee out on leave should have one specific contact within your HR department who can assist the employee during their leave. This HR professional will be able to provide accurate information and guidance and be versed in the specifics of the employee’s case. Having a single point of contact will help the employee feel comfortable about the leave process and secure about their eventual return.
Share resources and offer support
Employees on leave often need additional resources like counseling services and employee assistance programs during their time away from the workplace. Provide them with this information and relevant materials on the company’s health care plan. Stress that their well-being comes first and that dialogue during the leave should be candid and open. This is another reason why a single point of contact is best. Demonstrating support for their needs reinforces trust and showcases your commitment to a supportive work environment.
Respect confidentiality and privacy
Most leaves of absence will revolve around sensitive medical or familial issues. Maintain confidentiality and respect the employee’s privacy throughout their leave. Be sure that personal and medical information are secure and that only authorized individuals can access it. Be mindful of sharing too many details about the leave with the employee’s colleagues. Their interest may be well-intended, but the discussion could violate the employee’s confidentiality.
Communicating with employees on leave is crucial to maintaining a positive and supportive workplace. By establishing clear lines of communication and offering resources, your HR team can alleviate concerns and ensure a smooth transition for employees commencing and returning from a leave of absence.