A successful leave of Absence and an easy return

December 11, 2019


Written by Erica Niesse

There might come a time in your career where you will need to request a Leave of Absence from work. Whether the leave is related to Adoption or Birth of a child, or taking care of a sick loved one, it is important to set up your coworkers for success while you’re out on Leave. When we think about a Leave of Absence from work, we are typically considering the reason for the leave, requesting the leave and whether you fall under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or Americas with Disabilities (ADA) guidelines. At HRchitect several of our clients implement the Leave of Absence (LOA) functionality of a workforce management system for tracking the leave of absence and paying the employee appropriately, so we understand the importance of tracking this accurately. This is such an integral part of a Leave of Absence, but you also need to take into consideration the company you work for, the laws, and setting yourself up for a smooth and easy return to work.


Before you start your leave there are some key steps to follow to make this transition not only easy for you, but also your coworkers:


  • Understanding Family Medical Leave Act

In order to qualify for FMLA the employee must have been employed with the company for 12 months and have worked 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of FMLA leave. The employer is also one who employs 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of the worksite. The reasons that are covered under FMLA are:

  • Twelve work weeks of leave in a 12-month period for:
    • the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
    • the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
    • to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
    • a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
    • any qualifying emergency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty;” or
  • Twenty-six work weeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the service member’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).

Source: https://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/


  • Requesting Leave to your Employer

It is extremely helpful to give your employer as much notice as possible of your leave so that they can plan for your projects and secure backup resources. Of course, it is easier to give more notice when the leave is planned, however the leaves where you cannot give much notice, such as an immediate family member falling suddenly ill, are harder to plan for.

You should also provide your employer with your anticipated return dates as this will assist them with planning the appropriate resources for your tasks. You also need to take into consideration the company guidelines when it comes to a leave of absence. Make sure you review the company policy and examine if you need to take PTO or Sick days before depleting from your Leave of Absence.


When you can give advanced notice of your leave of absence these steps will make a much smoother transition when returning to work:

  • Meeting with your Peers/Project Transition prior to Leave – Prior to your leave you should meet with your peers to review any items that are delegated to them and walk them through the steps of how to manage any of your tasks. Your manager will identify who your backup should be while you are on Leave of Absence. It is important that you make sure this backup is set up for success. You should not wait until right before you leave to start meeting with them, you should meet with them as soon as you can. When you meet with them, identify areas that they need some more information or training on in order to prepare them. Based on this discussion, set up additional meetings to walk through the steps on areas that your peer needs more information or training sessions. If you are transitioning a project, you should still meet with your peer early and discuss what phase of the project you will be in at the time of leave. As the project progresses, and you get closer to your leave, you should update your coworker on project status. Once you have transitioned these items to the delegated coworker, you should send them one last email before you leave that details the project status for each of your projects and any open/action items that need to be addressed.


  • How to Guides – If there are any areas of your business that others do not know how to perform it will be helpful if you put together ‘how to guides’ which provide step by step instructions. Some day to day processes that you perform are going to be difficult, or new, for some of your coworkers. For these particular processes you should create a cheat sheet or one page user guide with detailed instructions. For example, if you send a weekly report to a client on open issues, or hours worked, make sure you create a user guide on each step of this process. Each of the user guides should include how often the tasks are performed, detailed instructions for each of the steps (with screenshots), how to triage if there are errors or issues with the process, and a point of escalation contact.


  • Prepare a file for your coworkers – It is key that your peers have access to all the relevant project documents while you are out on leave. Most likely your company will have a SharePoint site where you can share files internally within your organization. The person who is delegated to your tasks will need access to these documents and the best place to put them is in a secure internal network. Place all of your relevant project documents or any documents that your peers might need to utilize on this SharePoint site. Keep in mind that some of the documents you place on your SharePoint site could have protected employee information so be careful to who has access to the files you are placing in this repository.


  • Open items email – One of the last items before you start your leave of absence is to create an Open items email to your peers, people you have delegated your tasks to, and your boss. This email should include a list detailing the items you are currently working on and the steps that still need to be taken for each of your tasks. If you have a task that has not yet been completed, make sure you provide the details surrounding where you are in the project and what items still need to be completed. Since you have already met with your peers on open items and created how to guides, this should not be new to them, but it is important to still provide these details since your boss needs to know where you are in the project. Providing links to project documents that you have placed on your SharePoint site will also be helpful in the email. In addition to open items in the email, you can also create a list of tasks that need to be performed while you’re out. For example, remind your coworker that they need to send a bi-weekly report to a specific client.


  • Out of Office Message – It is important to provide a thorough out of office response so that your email correspondents know exactly who they need to reach out to for particular requests. In the email, state that you are out on leave and the specific date of your return to the office. The details that are important are the contact information, email, and phone number of the contact person to reach out to if they have a question or issue. If there are different contacts for certain projects or tasks, make sure that you detail these items. For example, if someone has an inquiry on invoices, or if they have project related questions, make sure to include those direct contacts.


Whether you are planning on taking a leave of absence for the adoption of a child or for health reasons, these simple steps will make your transition back to work much smoother. A life change is always going to cause some chaos in your life so why not make your return to work much easier and a have smooth transition.

If your organization is looking for guidance with your workforce management software, or any human capital management technology, let our HRchitect team of experts help by scheduling a consultation today!


More about Erica Niesse

Erica Thorn