What Office Managers Should Know About Family Leave & Sick Leave Policies

Daniel Spielberger

Part of being an office manager is preparing for the unexpected. One of these unexpected scenarios is when one of your colleagues needs to take some time off work due to unexpected family or medical emergencies.

To help ensure these unexpected incidents don’t create additional stress for your employees and others in your workplace, it’s important to have a protocol that everyone is familiar with and prepared for. Generally, there are four reasons for leave: maternity, paternity, bereavement, and sickness.

In this article, we’ll outline these different types of leave and how your workplace can be at the forefront in promoting and implementing fair medical and family leave policies that are inclusive to all employees.

Medical Leave

During the onboarding process, you should inform your new employees about the circumstances and rules of medical leave at your workplace. Though there are federal requirements, a lot of workplaces have their own unique systems. In addition, many parts of the country have their own regulations.  

These are a few things you should know about medical leave:

1. It’s Federal Law

In 1993, the United States congress passed the Family Medical Leave Act that guarantees 12-week leaves within a 12 month period for specific circumstances. However, the leave is unpaid.

2. There Are Various Circumstances That FMLA Applies To

According to the FMLA, unpaid family leave applies to the following circumstances:

  • When an employee has a newborn child
  • When an employee has to take care of a family member or spouse who is critically ill
  • If the employee gets an injury or illness that prohibits them from working
  • When an employee needs to place their child up for adoption/foster care
  • Complications that arise from a pregnancy

3. Paid Parental Leave Is An Option

Paid parental leave varies across states. For example, California has Paid Family Leave (PFL)—a state program which gives 6 weeks (per 12 months) of paid leave (60 to 70 percent) to millions of employees that qualify. In San Francisco, employees that receive California PDL, work (at least) eight hours in San Francisco, have been working for the employer for a minimum of 180 days are required to get up to six weeks of supplemental income from their employer.

A 2017 Pew Research Center study found that in the general population, only 14% of Americans had paid parental leave. Here is a breakdown of a few industries that do better than average:

  • 37% of employees in the finance and tech industry.
  • 33% of employees in the information industry.
  • 27% of employees in science and technical industries
  • 19% of employees in education and health industries.

Bereavement Leave

When someone close to you passes away, working can feel impossible. To help employees during their grieving process, many workplaces offer bereavement leave. Since organizing a funeral can be time-consuming, this policy is also occasionally known as funeral leave. Here’s what you should know about bereavement leave.

1. Only Oregon Requires It

Unlike medical leave, there’s no federal law requiring bereavement leave. Oregon mandates that companies with more than 25 workers give their employees time off to grieve. According to the law, employees are guaranteed up to two weeks off.

This law is only applicable within 60 days of the employee learning that someone close to them has died. In addition, employees have had to work at least 25 hours per week for 180 days prior to the incident to qualify. However, this time off doesn’t have to be paid.

2. Illinois Has A More Specific Version Of This Law

Illinois has a Child Bereavement Leave Act which mandates that companies with more than 50 workers have to give 10 unpaid work days off to an employee who lost their child.

3. Most Employers Offer It

Though it’s not required by federal law, 88% of companies have a paid bereavement policy for full-time employees. According to a study conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management, the average period of bereavement leave is four days.

Benefits of Having Paid Medical and Family Leave Policies

Plenty of research has shown that paid family leave leads to various benefits for parents, children, and their employers. Here are a few benefits of these policies:

1. It’s Good For Employees’ Children

Regardless if it’s paid or unpaid, studies show that children benefit from family leave policies. Children of parents who took time off are healthier, weigh more, taken care of, and are more likely to breastfeed.

2. Businesses Aren’t Negatively Impacted

Multiple studies have found that businesses aren’t negatively impacted by these policies. According to a study looking into how these policies affected New Jersey businesses, a majority experienced neither negative or positive consequences.

3. These Policies Are Remarkably Popular

One survey found that “89% of respondents indicated it was important for employers to provide paid paternity or paid parental leave” with 60% stating that these policies are “extremely important.” Another survey found that 84% of adults support the idea of a paid family leave policy with supporting coming from across the political spectrum.

4. Paid Sick Leave Can Help The American Economy Save Money

Presenteeism — when workers go to their jobs sick and subsequently spread their illness— is quite costly. While presenteeism is costing the American economy $200 billion, paid sick leave has a cost of “23 cents per employee hour.”

How To Implement a Medical and Family Leave Policy

As an office manager or HR manager, you will likely be responsible for developing and/or overseeing the medical and family leave policies in your workplace. Here are some tips for administering these policies effectively:

1. Know The Laws

As mentioned in this article, the law regarding these policies varies between states. You should familiarize with the laws and ensure that your company is abiding by them.

2. Explain During Onboarding

It’s best to explain to employees the intricacies of your company’s policies during the onboarding process. This way, when an employee requests time off due to family or medical emergency, everyone is aware of the protocol.

3. Check In With Employees

After the employee returns from their leave, ask for constructive feedback. Their feedback might offer new insights into how you can continue to improve your family and medical leave policies.

Better Policies Attract Better Talent

If you want to attract the best talent, you should have the best benefits. Having paid family leave is likely a deal-maker for many prospective employees who envision themselves becoming parents or who want assurance that in the event of an unexpected family or medical emergency, they won’t become financially strained.  

When implementing or creating your medical and family leave policies, it’s important to prioritize the needs of your employees and consider what’s realistic for your workplace.

Are you interested in making your workplace more efficient? Check out what Eden’s Workplace Management Platform can do for your office.

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