HR Learner in Development

Posts Tagged ‘Emergency

A recent issue of Parents Magazine published an article about maternity leaves and the importance of knowing your rights under the Family Medical Leave Act, or as most would call FMLA. As both a mother recently returned from my maternity leave and the point person for Leave Management for my Division, I could not agree with the need for this type of reminder more. So I hope you don’t mind me piggy-backing to spend a little time discussing leave management.

My role leave management role withing the Division sounds simple.  Track people’s leaves.  Mark leaves accurately in time sheets.  Process any actions related to pay changes in our HR Information System.  Where it gets complicated is when people don’t follow policy, don’t know that they can take leaves, or don’t know that they actually have to let us when when they return.

For just a little bit of information on FMLA, it protects an individual’s job from being taken away if he or she needs to take some time away from the office to tend to a medical condition, for self or for a family member.  Every company with at least 50 employees working within a 75 mile radius (the specifications get more granular than this but I don’t want to bore you) must grant 12 weeks of unpaid protected time to any employee who has worked at least 12 months and1,250 hours within the last 12 months before the leave.  This protects individuals who are out for a continuous amount of time (surgery and recovery, including delivery of a child), as well as intermittent time (regularly occurring symptoms & scheduled doctors visits to treat).  While every company falling under the guidelines must give this time by law, some go above and beyond to allow some, all, or even more than this time to be paid time.

Other laws, like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protect disability leaves, and require organizations to provide reasonable accommodations to those with disabilities, including extending potential leave time.

In HR, we need an accurate picture of who is out and when so that we can have each individual paid correctly, as well as to potentially provide support to any department in need of additional assistance.  In all honesty, we do not need to know why an individual is out, and sometimes it is better if we don’t know, but we do need to know how it affects the work that the individual does on a daily basis.  Therefore, it is important that we receive doctors notes, not to police, but out of concern for the healing individual.  We want to see proof that the individual is ready to return and able to do the job they were assigned, and if there are any tasks that an individual can still not do as a result of their recovery or continued impairment, we need to not take any retaliatory actions against the employee for not doing what they used to be capable of doing.  No, we don’t want to get sued, but we also really want the employee to be healthy and well, too.

Not all leaves are created equal, but tracking them all is very important


It is also true, however, that people can take advantage of company leave policies.  It then becomes important to know when an individual was out, whether it was protected or unprotected time, and whether they followed the procedure for requesting and notifying the proper people at the right times in order to determine whether coaching conversations or disciplinary actions need to take place.

Ultimately, the organizations that respect individuals leaves will see a better uptick in loyalty from those people who took leaves.  The more generous a leave policy is, though, does not translate to greater and greater loyalty.  There must be a line where employees know they can not take advantage of the organizations generosity.  Organizations benefit from healthy workers.  But unhealthy workers can benefit from being under the wing of a healthy organization.

Take some time to review the leave policies in your department, organization, state, and federal area.  What you find may give you peace of mind, or may show you where you can help illuminate a potential growth area.  Stay healthy! But if you can’t, know your rights.

Forecasting snow creates a little more than meets the eye for a business.

A good part of the western coast, and then some, has gotten a taste this winter of the joys and perils of the snow day.  States that rarely see a snowflake in a lifetime have been under inches of snow, and others have seen a bit more than is usual.  Schools close, businesses shut down, and some not all at once.

I know nothing of a corporations take on such a day because my experience is based solely at a university.  I can only relay information that I have seen and heard with my own eyes and ears, and to me, when there is a blizzard, for the most part, people don’t come to work, or they leave early.

This tends to provide conflict. It is important that Human Resources staff and company leadership are keeping eachother in the loop.  By extension, the role of Human Resources during these situations is to keep employees informed, especially if the company is service oriented. 

In doing so, it is important for the Human Resources Professional to understand what the needs of the clients (both employees and non-employees) are.   Of course, a big part of considerations is insuring the safety of your employees.  Travel concerns may delay both incoming and exiting commutes, so extra time may be required to prepare for the day.   Are services provided for the company needed by the outside public during a storm?  If so, are all staff members needed?  Can the services be provided by an essential staff skeleton crew? 

Other needs have a broader scope.  Snow can cause schools to shut down which requires parents to take extra measures to have proper care available for their children and other dependents.   

All in all, employees, and clients, need to know what is to be done as soon as possible so that they can make arrangements, and HR’s role is to facilitate that communication.   

One danger lies in that fact that most people begin to speculate.  Some rumors may start up and most will be shrugged off.  Some may stick.  Human Resources must take each of these speculations in turn.  If they hear that someone ‘heard’ that a decision had been made, it is their job to communicate otherwise,hopefully as far as that rumor ran.  It is HR’s next step then to find where the person got that false intel, who else was around when they heard, when it happened, and what the exact message entailed.

As soon as a decision has been made, whether business will stop or it will operate as usual, the Human Resources Professional should set communication in motion, however that person sees fit.  This should reach all employees, not just managers or department heads.  There is always a danger that a silo of information exists and not all employees get the message.  Human Resources should try to the best of their ability to make sure that silo does not exist.

It is important to work quickly on this or people may begin to get upset and think that the company is withholding information to their detriment.  Therefore, again, it is essential that steps are taken as soon as there is concrete information.

When the announcement goes out, this question remains – how will people be paid?

Whenever possible, it is a good idea to have this question answered before an announcement goes out.  Even before that.  This question should be answered before the emergency event presents itself, in this case detrimental snow.  Two main situations arise – those who work partial days, and those who don’t work.

Partial: How should your non-exempt, hourly employees be compensated?  Will they be paid out for an entire days work if they worked the morning only to be sent home in the afternoon?  If an employee remains as a part of an essential services skeleton crew, will he or she be compensated straight time, or over time?

Absence: Are snow days considered holidays?  Will people be paid full days?  Will they need to use a vacation or personal day in order to be paid, if available?  If an employee is supposed to work the afternoons and does not show up for his or her shift, will they be eligible to be paid, when others did work?

After the event occurs, depending on your payroll processes, a lot of time may then be required to go back and edit time.  This can be very time consuming, but it is necessary that people are all taking the events into account in their timesheets/logs.  Inaccuracies and inconsistancies are not acceptable.  As always, Human Resources should make no exceptions, and they should take the time to see that they are keeping to their word. 

Like all other emergency scenarios, actions and answers should be in place before situations and questions arise.  The problem with emergencies is that they always bring questions before answers are divulged.  The best actions you can take are to have all possible information ready, even if that means saying “Please be patient.  We will get back to you when we know more.”