How to Manage Leave of Absence Abuse

Many employers feel like leave of absence (LOA) abuse is difficult to stop because there are so many laws that protect employee rights. Typically, when employees request leave for family, medical, bereavement or other reasons, their requests are legitimate. However, on occasion some employees may try to take advantage of leave benefits. Fortunately for employers, there are several tools available to combat LOA abuse.

Here are some strategies to help you prevent leave abuse. 

Require that employees complete a written leave request form for all absences.

  • Although an employer cannot deny an employee leave of absence, by requiring them to complete a written leave request form and return it back to Human Resources tends to deter them from gaming the system. 1 We’ve learned that putting things in writing is always a good plan of action!

Keep your lines of communication open.

  • Even if you don’t have a formal call-in policy, it’s important to maintain contact with employees on leave. An effective strategy could be something as simple as having supervisors call staffers that are out on leave once a week. Employers are often amazed at the results maintaining contact with absent employees can have when it comes to reducing leave of absence abuse.

Certify and keep re-certifying.

  • The best way to keep employees honest? Require them to certify their absence and seek recertification when circumstances change (like an employee needs an extra day a week of intermittent leave). Remember, once you inform an employee of the need to obtain a certification you must give the employee 15 days to get the certification and return it to you — unless it’s not practicable under the circumstances and the employee is making a good faith effort to return it to you. 1

Prepare a list of probative questions you ask all employees when they request time off.

  • Employers, you have the right to know why your employee can’t come to work! So, prepare a list of questions that you ask your employees when they call in an absence. Here are some questions worth asking employees every time someone calls in absent1:
    • What is the reason for the absence?
    • What part of the job can’t you perform?
    • Will you see a doctor?
    • Have you been absent for this condition before? If so, when?
    • When did you first learn of your need to be absent?
    • When do you expect to return to work?

 Look for patterns of absences.

  • If you notice an employee taking off certain days of the week— for example only Monday’s or Fridays— or perhaps extended time during the holidays, these can indicate leave of absence abuse. Looking at patterns of absences and their written reasons for leave will help you determine if they are abusing the system.

Conduct a comprehensive audit of your leave of absence practices.

  • Work with your employment team to ensure that your LOA policy and forms are up to date, that you are employing the best strategies to combat LOA abuse and that your leave administration is well-trained and ready to go at all times.

While most employees use LOA legitimately and without abuse, it is important for employers to have an effective LOA management system in place to deal with the few employees who may abuse the system.2

If you have more questions on leave of absence abuse, give us a call or visit our website to learn more.


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