According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 70% of civilian workers have access to paid leave benefits of some sort. With millions of employees in the workforce, managing time off requests can easily become overwhelming if you don’t have effective processes in place to help you handle it.
With paid sick leave laws changing every day, it’s more important now than ever for employers to understand how to manage requests for time off in a more efficient and compliant manner. Not only does this help put employees at ease, but it also keeps your organization out of harm’s way.
Paid Leave Laws You Should Be Aware Of
It’s important for all employees to realize that there are no federal laws requiring private-sector employers to provide paid leave for any reason. There is, however, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain employees to care for themselves or an immediate family member. It requires employers to maintain an employee’s group health benefits while they’re on leave.
The law also permits employees to elect to use accrued paid vacation, sick, or family leave to get paid while out on FMLA. In some cases, employers are allowed to require employees to use that accrued leave.
Requirements for States
Still, employers must understand that just because there are no federal laws requiring paid sick leave doesn’t mean the company gets off the hook. If you live in a state that requires paid sick leave for your organization, HR professionals must provide this benefit to all eligible employees. If the business you work with has locations in multiple states, all locations must be in compliance with local paid sick leave laws.
In recent years, the following 17 states and Washington D.C. have enacted mandatory paid sick leave laws or are in the process of doing so:
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
- New York
- Washington, DC
- New Mexico
Even if you don’t have to comply with a statewide law, make sure to check and comply with any local laws that may be in place. Currently, 17 cities and four counties have enacted paid sick leave legislation. These laws are meant to protect the well-being of employees, which can ultimately help your organization increase productivity and reduce turnover in the long run.
Family Leave Insurance
Some states have enacted laws that provide for short-term wage replacement benefits to eligible employees on leave from their employer. The following states have mandatory paid family leave insurance programs:
- Delaware (contributions begin January 1, 2025 and claims can be submitted beginning January 1, 2026)
- District of Columbia
- Maine (contributions begin January 1, 2025 and claims can be submitted beginning May 1, 2026)
- Maryland (contributions begin October 2024 and claims can be submitted beginning January 1, 2026)
- Minnesota (benefits start January 1, 2026)
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
Additionally, some states have enacted laws that allow employers to voluntarily purchase paid family leave insurance benefits on behalf of their employees through an insurance carrier that provides for short-term disability plans. The following states have voluntary paid family leave insurance benefit programs:
- New Hampshire
Employers in these states have the option to acquire coverage for their employees from their insurance carrier, typically as part of a short-term disability policy, either including it as a rider on that policy, or offering it as a standalone policy.
Please note that some states, such as New York, not only provide for short-term, partial income replacement as part of the paid family leave benefit program, but also require covered employers to provide job-protected leave to the eligible employee.
3 Ways to Effectively Manage a Leave Request
It’s critical for HR professionals to learn how to effectively manage leave requests. In addition to helping you maintain trust and professionalism with employees, a clear leave request policy assists you in complying with all applicable employment and compensation laws.
Furthermore, a sound leave request policy helps departments more effectively plan for employee absences. Here are a few tips for those unsure of where to begin when it comes to creating a solid plan and policy for managing leave requests.
1. Establish a Clear Policy
Before you can effectively manage a leave request, you need a leave policy. This policy should tell employees how they obtain leave time, such as through accrual or frontloading. It should also inform them of what types of leave are available, what reasons are appropriate for requesting time off, and the official process for making a request. Remember, too, that all policies must comply with federal, state, and local laws. However, find peace of mind knowing VirgilHR makes this process quick and effortless, ensuring you always remain HR compliant.
2. Create a Standardized System
If some employees are asking for time off via email while others are submitting texts, written letters, or notes, it will be easy for you to lose track of requests. Whether you choose to have employees submit a paper form or use software to request time off, it’s important that you use the same system for all employees. This way, you won’t miss anything, and you can ensure compliance every step of the way.
3. Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Leave requests don’t just affect the employee requesting the leave. They also impact the team’s ability to remain productive. Make sure you have a way to notify managers when a member of their team makes a leave request so that everyone has enough notice to plan accordingly.
How VirgilHR Helps HR Managers With Leave Requests
When it comes to leave requests, using automation ensures you effectively manage requests while staying in compliance. VirgilHR’s robust HR compliance software platform helps you automatically identify what benefits employees are entitled to based on their status and location.
When you have questions, you can ask VirgilHR and receive answers in real time. This helps you maintain productivity and efficiency across the board.
Furthermore, VirgilHR provides you with policy templates, forms and charts to help you craft a fair and compliant leave policy for your employees. It also offers legal update notifications to help you stay informed when changes happen. If you’re ready to transform the way your organization handles leave requests, VirgilHR is ready to help you make it happen.