Do I need to offer personal and/or medical leaves as a small business?

Dec 07, 2021
HR support

Are you a small business owner who had someone request a personal or medical leave in the past and you approved it because you didn’t know how to respond? 

Or maybe you are needing to give someone an answer on if they can take a leave now?

Maybe the request was for 3 weeks for them to fly across the country to care for an elderly parent…

Or for 2 months while they take their dream trip around the world…

Or maybe the request was for 5 weeks while they recover from injuries from a car accident.

These types of requests can be a major operational disruptor to small businesses with only a few employees… sometimes so much that it may be hard for the business to function without that person present!

If this is something you are dealing with, you are not alone. Many small businesses struggle with navigating leave requests. Our goal today is to prepare you for these requests so you don’t flail when they catch you off guard.

The very first step is to get a leave policy in place, so you have a guideline on which you can base your decision. This way, when you are faced with the request, you prepared with how to respond.

Now, to be clear, having a policy in place doesn’t mean that you never need to make an exception on occasion… but those exceptions should be few and far between. And we only recommend you make exceptions to the policy with good reasoning. You should build your policy with this in mind. Consistency is key!

So… you may be wondering:

  • What goes into a solid leave policy for a small business?
  • What is a good guideline for how long to allow employees to take a leave under this policy?
  • Should the policy we create be specific to personal versus medical or care-giver leaves?

Let’s break it down:

First - What goes into a solid leave policy for a small business?

Let’s start with the basics. A solid policy as the following key elements:

  • Policy name
  • Purpose
  • Details/description of policy
  • Enforcement (who is in charge of enforcing – Business owner? Managers?)
  • Consequences (for not abiding by the policy)
  • Acknowledgement

Next – What is a good guideline for how long to allow employees to take a leave under this policy?

First, it is important to note - Small businesses under 15 employees likely to do not need to comply under Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), unless you are a federal contractor. Family Medical Leave of Absence (FMLA) would not apply unless you have 50 employees.

I recommend small businesses consider up to 30 days as a reasonable time frame for leaves. This would include any type of leave request – whether it be personal or medical. If someone requests 45 days and it is for a medical reason, you can make the call on a case-by-case basis whether it deems making an exception. Or, consider starting at 45 days as a permissible time. I have found that, in most cases, 30 days is a good baseline for small business leave requests.

Interested in learning more about how to navigate leaves and other HR challenges small businesses face? Our upcoming January 2022 Group HR Jumpstart program may be something you’ll want to consider.

What does the HR Jumpstart entail?

  • 8, 3 hour sessions (over 8 weeks), each week dedicated to one of our signature 8 foundational HR pillars (click here for more information about the 8 HR pillars)
  • 2 Office Hour sessions per week so you can ask questions and receive additional support as you implement from each week’s training
  • 2, 1 hour individual sessions you can use anytime during the 8 weeks to give you an opportunity to speak privately with us about more sensitive HR issues you need support with and/or to receive personalized guidance as you implement from the trainings

Individual HR Jumpstart investment $7,000-$10,000 (depending on company size). Group HR Jumpstart costs $3,997 for all company sizes.

If you are interested in learning more about the next Group HR Jumpstart contact us.*

*Space is limited and those on the waitlist will be given priority in the order they join the waitlist. There must be a minimum of 3 attendees for a Group HR Jumpstart session to be held. There is no commitment to buy if you join the waitlist. You will simply be reserving your place in line for the next open Group HR Jumpstart.

Before you go... if you haven't already, don't forget to check out the November blog - 12 Budget-Friendly Employee Gift Ideas!





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