“Be Back Soon” – Managing Employee Leaves

“Be Back Soon” – Managing Employee Leaves

By Sally Roach

As much as we try to distinguish them, work and personal life are innately tethered to one another. Things come up at work that will leak into our personal lives, and our personal lives will certainly seep their way into the workplace. To keep the floodgates intact, this sometimes requires employees to take a temporary of leave of absence from their job.

Approving a request for leave can come with some reluctance, especially if the duration is unknown or lasting more than a few days. However, there are instances where approval is a must. This includes:

  • Job-protected leaves offered through employment and labour standards (e.g., compassionate care, maternity leave, parental leave, etc.).
  • Leaves that are being taken for reasons related to protected grounds under human rights laws (e.g., disability, family status, creed, etc.).
  • Other leaves that are promised to employees through company policy and/or their individual employment contracts.

Provinces and territories have their own employment standards and human rights laws, so it might be worthwhile to do some research before approving or declining an employee’s request for leave.

When a leave is approved, employers should seek to remain proactive. Effective and proactive leave management will prove it’s worth when it comes to staffing coverage, employee accountability and facilitating the return-to-work process. Suggestions are provided below to assist with this.

Commencing the Leave

  • Request and gather additional information from the employee to substantiate the leave. Often times, this would involve medical notes or directives from an employee’s healthcare professional.
  • Document the leave request and approval.
  • Create a “working” file to keep track of information and documents related to the leave. Take extra caution when it comes to management and storage of employee medical information. Under most privacy laws, this information should be kept separate from the individual’s personnel file and should only be accessed and viewed by those responsible for managing the leave.
  • Confirm that you have the employee’s current contact information.
  • Schedule check-ins with the employee in advance.
  • Coordinate payroll activities, such as issuing a record of employment, and/or paying wages to the last date worked.
  • If the employee normally receives benefits through work, determine whether these will be continued, and how the employee’s portion will continue to be paid while they are away.
  • Plan for increased workloads; this might involve hiring for casual or temporary positions, or adjusting existing work schedules.
  • Carefully communicate the absence in the workplace. Other employees can be made aware of a co-worker’s absence, but details and reasons why should be kept in confidence.

During the Leave

Engage in periodic contact with the employee to share updates. Ensure that you document all communication, including dates, time, and what was discussed. This information can be kept in the “working” file as suggested above.

Be ready to respond to change; for example, if an employee is on a leave of absence for health or medical reasons, and they expect that they will be returning sooner or later than initially planned, have them obtain an updated note from their healthcare professional.

Determine if/what accommodation the employee will require upon their return to the workplace, and prepare to implement these accommodations before their return-to-work date.

Confirm and prepare for the employee’s return to work date. This may include placing the employee back on payroll, re-adjusting work schedules, and notifying their co-workers.

Embracing proactive management in the workplace is consistently beneficial, yet it is infrequently applied when addressing employee leaves. These scenarios are often approached with a simplistic mindset, overlooking potential impacts and unique complexities. Employers can enhance their approach by implementing organized and diligent measures, ensuring a smoother process for both the leave and return-to-work phases. By being thorough and considerate, employers can navigate employee leaves more effectively and foster a seamless transition for all parties involved.


Sally is an HR Professional having a diverse background in policy review and development, recruitment, performance management, employee relations, and application of employment legislation and HR best practices. Sally brings forward experience in HR consulting services where she has become effective and knowledgeable in developing client-focused HR solutions.

Sally is a graduate from the University of Winnipeg, earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. Sally also holds a Business Administration Diploma from McMaster University and certification as an equitable and Inclusive leader.

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