How HR can leverage supervisor support for leave management

In 2022, 60% of Human Resource (HR) professionals reported experiencing higher stress levels and burnout, a 20% jump from just two years prior. For employers nationwide, there is no question that this increased pressure on HR teams is directly influenced by the trend toward location-based leave regulations and higher leave usage by employees, significantly expanding the scope of responsibilities related to compliance. One of the most effective ways to maximize leave management efficiency and relieve some of the administrative burden is by leveraging the support of supervisors.

Employers can contribute to a harmonious balance between employee well-being and operational continuity by equipping supervisors with the policy knowledge and tools they need to assist with the leave process. Supervisors bring the added benefits of understanding team dynamics, workload distribution, and having a pulse on employees. When HR administrators and supervisors implement a collaborative approach, employers reduce the time and effort spent on leave management. This article explores strategies for HR to collaborate effectively with supervisors to optimize the leave administration process.

Leveraging supervisor support

While the leave administrator is responsible for the intricacies of managing a leave, there are several essential areas where supervisors can provide an additional layer of support.

Receiving leave requests

Often, an employee will mention the need for time off to a direct supervisor rather than the individual designated to administer leave requests. It’s crucial that supervisors are adequately trained in the leave process since these conversations can be sufficient to notify the employer of the employee’s need for leave. The supervisor is then empowered to take on the key role of pointing the employee in the right direction. Depending on internal policies and procedures, the supervisor may direct the employee to the appropriate leave administrator, a virtual portal to submit their request, or even gather the necessary information to submit the request on behalf of the employee. By streamlining this step in the process, the HR team can count on supervisors to ensure requests are coming down the pipeline consistently and accurately, allowing them to focus on the administrative side of processing each request as it is received.

Identifying triggers for leave

One of the most challenging vulnerabilities related to leave administration is that employers are legally responsible for notifying employees of leave eligibility even if the employee has not requested it. An effective supervisor will operate with a sense of vigilance in their role, seeking to identify triggers that may indicate a need for leave. It’s essential to be aware of scenarios that require HR to communicate eligibility for protected leave. The list below outlines some example scenarios that a supervisor should be mindful of regarding eligibility under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

  • An employee is pregnant.
  • An employee notifies their supervisor that they were absent from work due to migraine headaches.
  • An employee tells their supervisors they are having trouble working a full 8-hour day due to the medical treatments they are currently undergoing.
  • An employee calls their supervisor saying they are “feeling depressed” and need a week off.
  • An employee says, “My son is in the hospital, and I need to work things out.”
  • An employee calls, saying they are “sick and need two weeks off.”
  • An employee tells their supervisor that they need to care for their mother, who is having “medical problems.”
  • The employee is not working due to a worker’s compensation claim.

Receiving and redirecting documentation

When a collaborative effort is in place, it streamlines the documentation aspect of leave management. Supervisors provide support by passing along medical certifications, return-to-work documentation, or any other materials the employee sends to them directly. Ensure manager-level employees understand which types of leave-related documents should go directly to the administrator and the importance of maintaining confidentiality with any medical documentation or information the employee shares.

Monitoring leave usage

How protected leave hours are submitted, tracked, and reviewed varies by employer. Supervisors can act as gatekeepers by submitting leave hours on behalf of the employee or reviewing or confirming submitted hours to ensure accuracy and eliminate extra steps typically taken by the leave administrator. When managers have a pulse on the length of absence and leave balance quotas, they can help to inform HR and the employee with schedule planning and eligibility details.

Preparing for an employee’s return to work

When an employee returns to work after taking a leave of absence, HR and an employee’s supervisor can work together to provide a seamless transition. When supervisors are aware of accommodations or other restrictions in consideration, they can provide support with leave extension scenarios, such as a transition from leave covered by FMLA to an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Contingency planning

Leave administrators should collaborate with supervisors to develop contingency plans for managing workloads during employee absences. Planning may involve redistributing tasks among team members, hiring temporary staff, or leveraging cross-functional teams. Supervisors play a pivotal role in ensuring that work continues smoothly when team members are out on leave by managing and reallocating the employee’s workload.

Distributing knowledge and resources

Informed supervisors facilitate the distribution of company policy and leave resources to the front lines. This includes educating their direct reports and reminding them annually of absence management policies and their responsibility to manage and budget their absences. With periodic reminders in place, employers will drive efficient operations and consistent policy application.

Providing proper leave management guidance to supervisors

For supervisors to make an impact on streamlining the leave management process, they will need guidance from HR.

Establish process knowledge

To kickstart the collaborative effort, HR should ensure that supervisors are well-informed about leave policies, procedures, and the importance of their role in the process. Conduct regular training sessions to update supervisors on legal requirements and the tools available for managing leave. Clear communication channels are crucial to ensure supervisors can confidently address employees’ questions regarding leave policies. Ensure that supervisors understand how to document and submit leave requests on behalf of their team members. Providing a step-by-step guide or an easily accessible manual can empower supervisors to handle routine leave requests efficiently, reducing the administrative burden on HR.

Coach them on the employee perspective

Train managers to have a clear understanding of the employee’s responsibilities during a leave of absence. The more they understand each role in the leave process, the more they can contribute to consistent application of the appropriate procedures. Below is a list of typical responsibilities for an employee when taking a leave of absence under FMLA or state-protected regulation.

  • Work with their medical provider to complete and return the required leave forms.
  • Notify the manager or supervisor of status changes affecting a leave of absence.
  • Communicate return to work dates or updates on leave circumstances.
  • Work with the manager when mapping out a reduced schedule or intermittent leave when possible.

Identify key areas that will need proactive guidance

Depending on roles and responsibilities associated with a company leave policy, there are common scenarios where supervisors will need HR support. Ensure you have procedures in place that provide the necessary guidance to improve efficiency. Below is a list of employee triggers that commonly require proactive HR guidance.

  • When an employee is showing signs of leave abuse.
  • When an employee requests an uncommon leave type or has unique circumstances.
  • When an employee has an unscheduled absence for five or more consecutive workdays.
  • When an employee’s sick leave use has increased over the previous few weeks or months.
  • When an employee leave is nearing exhaustion.

Equipping supervisors with Stiira

Empowering key stakeholders in the leave management process is essential to the Stiira approach. Here is an overview of how Stiira equips supervisors to support administrators in our system.

Role-based functionality for supervisors

Administrators have full role administration capability in Stiira, with configuration options to leverage supervisor support. Depending on how you set up the system for your organization, a supervisor can utilize any of the following:

  • View and pull reports on leave case data for employees they oversee.
  • Submit new requests on behalf of their employees.
  • Submit leave hours on behalf of their employees.
  • Upload documents on behalf of their employees.

Simplified process flow to support leave procedures

With specialized leave management software, supervisors can effectively support their employees with a simplified process every step of the way. Stiira focuses on an intuitive user experience that remains dynamic and responsive to an employer’s evolving needs. Supervisors can direct employees to one place for all leave request needs and reference a knowledge base of informative guides and resources to answer employee questions.

Enhancing the leave management process

HR can significantly enhance the leave administration process by forging a strong partnership with supervisors. Leveraging their understanding of team dynamics and operational needs, supervisors play a crucial role in maintaining productivity and fostering a positive workplace culture during employee absences. Through effective communication, training, and the use of technology, HR can empower supervisors to help manage leave efficiently, ultimately contributing to a more resilient and adaptive organization.