Over the past year, Michaela has taken 12 weeks of job-protected maternity leave, 2 weeks of personal leave to care for a sick child, and has just requested a leave of absence for herself to undergo wrist surgery. These larger chunks of leave do not include a day or two of sick time here and there, or the need to stay home or leave work early in the event of an emergency or unexpected event. While she has been predominantly able to cover her leaves with accrued vacation and sick leave, Michaela’s continued absences occasionally causes her to fall behind in work, resulting in her coworkers having to pick up the slack.

An issue that negatively impacts small business owners in particular, absent employees (regardless of whether or not the leave is job-protected) has the potential to disrupt business operations and productivity. While there are many situations that are incredibly unfortunate and outside the employee’s control (such as needing to care for a sick child), a balance between taking care of your employees and ensuring business needs are met has to be a top priority.

Flexible Schedules/Telecommuting – Depending on the situation and the industry, many employees can work from home when they are recovering or temporarily disabled (e.g., a reduced/flexible work schedule). For example, a part-time work from home schedule may be an ideal balance to ensure tasks are completed while providing your employee with the opportunity to take care of themselves or a family member.

Sharing Duties and Workload – Talk with your staff and other members of the department and see if they are able to take on some of the duties while your employee is absent. Having a strong, supportive team at work often means they are willing to step up and help when needed.

Reiterate Expectations – In any instance of excessive time off, regardless the need or reason, it is important to communicate and reiterate company policy. Making certain that your employees are aware of what is expected of them helps hold them accountable and ensures that your generosity is not taken advantage of.

Especially in situations when a key or high performing employee is met with a situation that requires them to take a leave of absence (or multiple), working with them and other members of your team can ensure that business operations are maintained and don’t spiral out of control. Employees are often more than happy to reach a happy medium with you, and your commitment to working with them will in turn ensure loyal, long-term relationships.

Follow along the rest of the month as we discuss two other hot-button issues employers are faced with and present mutually beneficial solutions to those problems.

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