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The Empuls Glossary

Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms

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What is a medical leave of absence?  

A medical leave of absence is a period of unpaid leave granted to an employee who needs time away from work due to a medical condition. This can be for the employee's own serious health issue or to care for a family member with a serious health condition.

How does a medical leave of absence differ from other leaves?  

Medical leave differs from other types of leave in a few key ways:

1. Reason for leave:

  • Medical leave: Focuses specifically on health-related reasons. This can be for an employee's own illness, injury, medical treatment, or recovery. It can also cover situations where an employee needs to care for a sick family member.
  • Other leaves: Can be for various reasons unrelated to health. Examples include vacation leave, personal leave, parental leave, sabbaticals, or bereavement leave.

2. Regulations and protections:

  • Medical Leave: May be covered by federal regulations like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the US, which guarantees job protection for qualified employees taking leave for certain medical reasons.
  • Other leaves: Generally not covered by federal regulations and are subject to company policy or negotiation. There might be some state or local regulations regarding specific types of leave, like parental leave.

3. Pay and benefits:

  • Medical leave: Typically unpaid, although some employers might offer paid sick leave or allow employees to use accrued vacation time. Health insurance benefits may continue during the leave depending on the company's policy.
  • Other leaves: Varies depending on the type of leave. Vacation leave and some parental leave policies may be paid, while personal leave or bereavement leave might be unpaid. Health insurance benefits typically continue during paid leave, but might need to be maintained by the employee during unpaid leave.

4. Notice and approval process:

  • Medical leave: May require documentation from a healthcare provider to support the medical need for leave. Notice periods might be shorter, especially for emergencies, due to the urgency of the situation.
  • Other leaves: Often require advanced notice to allow for workload adjustments and planning. Approval processes can vary depending on the type of leave and company policy.
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How can employers support employees during their medical leave?  

Employers can offer various forms of support to employees going on medical leave, fostering a positive experience and encouraging a smooth return to work.  

Here are some key ways:

1. Communication and empathy:

  • Clear communication: Clearly explain company policies and procedures regarding medical leave. This includes eligibility requirements, application processes, duration of leave, and continuation of benefits.
  • Regular check-ins: Maintain regular, but respectful, communication with the employee during their leave. This could involve periodic check-in emails or calls to see how they're doing and offer support without pressuring them about work.
  • Empathy and understanding: Recognize that medical situations can be stressful and overwhelming. Express empathy and understanding for the employee's situation.

2. Maintaining connection:

  • Stay connected to work: Depending on the employee's situation and preferences, offer options to stay somewhat connected to work. This could involve occasional non-urgent work updates, team meetings (virtually when possible), or access to work resources if appropriate for their condition.
  • Reduced workload for colleagues: Help manage the workload of the employee on leave by distributing tasks among colleagues. This reduces stress on both the absent employee and the team, ensuring a smoother transition upon return.

3. Support upon return:

  • Gradual return-to-work: Consider offering a gradual return-to-work program, allowing the employee to ease back into their full workload over a set period. This can help with the physical or mental adjustment after their leave.
  • Modifications and flexibility: Depending on the employee's medical situation, explore temporary adjustments to their workload or schedule. This could involve reduced hours, modified duties, or flexible work arrangements to support their recovery and reintegration.
  • Continued support: Be available to answer questions and provide ongoing support as the employee adjusts back to work. This demonstrates care and helps with a successful return.

What are medical leave best practices?  

Here are some medical leave best practices for both employers and employees:

For employers:

  • Clear and accessible policy: Develop a clear, written medical leave policy that outlines eligibility requirements, application procedures, leave duration, continuation of benefits, and the return-to-work process. This policy should be easily accessible to all employees.
  • Compliance with regulations: Ensure your medical leave policy complies with all relevant federal, state, and local regulations, including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the US.
  • Open communication: Communicate the medical leave policy effectively to all employees. This can be done through employee handbooks, informational sessions, or the company intranet.
  • Supportive environment: Foster a work environment where employees feel comfortable requesting medical leave without fear of job security or repercussions.
  • Accommodation and flexibility: Be willing to explore reasonable accommodations and flexible work arrangements for employees returning from medical leave, when possible.
  • Confidentiality: Maintain confidentiality of all medical information obtained during the leave request process.
  • Supportive managers: Train managers on handling medical leave requests sensitively and in accordance with company policy.

For employees:

  • Understanding your needs: Before requesting leave, understand the nature of your medical condition and the estimated time for recovery. This helps determine the appropriate leave duration.
  • Review company policy: Carefully review your company's medical leave policy to understand your rights and responsibilities during the leave process.
  • Early communication: Provide your employer with written documentation from your healthcare provider to support your medical leave request as soon as possible. The sooner you initiate the process, the smoother the transition will be.
  • Maintain communication: Maintain open communication with your employer during your leave, especially regarding your anticipated return date.
  • Focus on recovery: Use the leave to prioritize your health and well-being.
  • Prepare for return: Before returning to work, communicate with your employer regarding any work limitations or accommodations you may need.

What is the documentation required for medical leave?  

The documentation required for medical leave can vary depending on a few factors:

  • Company policy: Your employer's specific medical leave policy will outline their requirements for documentation. This is the primary source you should consult to understand exactly what's needed.
  • Leave regulations: In some countries or regions, regulations like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the US might have specific documentation requirements for qualified medical leave.
  • Reason for leave: Whether you're requesting leave for your own illness or to care for a family member can influence the type of documentation needed.

Here's a general idea of the documents typically required for medical leave:

  • Leave request form: Most employers will have a standardized form to initiate a medical leave request. This form often captures basic details about the leave, including the requested start and end dates, and might have a section for you to specify the reason for leave.
  • Medical certification: A document from your healthcare provider is usually required to verify the medical necessity for leave. This typically outlines the medical condition, estimated duration of treatment or recovery, and any limitations you may have that impact your ability to work. Be aware that some employers may have specific forms they require healthcare providers to complete.
  • Family relationship documentation (if applicable): If you're requesting leave to care for a sick family member, you might need to provide documentation proving your relationship to the individual. This could be a birth certificate, marriage certificate, or other legal documentation.

Why do employees take medical leave?  

Employees take medical leave for a variety of reasons related to their physical and mental health, or the health of a family member requiring their care. Here's a breakdown of the common reasons for medical leave:

  • Employee's own illness or injury: This covers a wide range of health issues, from short-term illnesses like the flu or a cold to more serious conditions requiring surgery, hospitalization, or ongoing treatment.
  • Mental health conditions: Mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or burnout can also necessitate medical leave. Employees may need time off to focus on treatment, therapy, or managing their condition.
  • Pregnancy and childbirth: Depending on company policy and individual circumstances, expecting parents may require medical leave before or after childbirth.
  • Serious medical procedures: Planned surgeries, complex medical procedures, or treatments with extended recovery times often warrant medical leave.
  • Chronic health conditions: Employees with chronic health conditions might need leave for flare-ups, ongoing treatment, or managing their condition.
  • Family medical leave: Many employees take medical leave to care for a sick family member, such as a spouse, child, or parent.
  • Disability: In some cases, medical leave may transition into disability leave if an employee's health condition prevents them from returning to work entirely, or necessitates long-term modifications to their work duties.

Additional factors that might influence the need for medical leave include:

  • Complications: Unforeseen complications during illness, injury, or treatment can extend the amount of medical leave needed.
  • Mental health awareness: Increased awareness and reduced stigma surrounding mental health issues encourage employees to seek help and may lead to more medical leave for these reasons.
  • Work-life balance: With a growing emphasis on work-life balance, employees might be more likely to prioritize their health and take medical leave when necessary.

Employee pulse surveys:

These are short surveys that can be sent frequently to check what your employees think about an issue quickly. The survey comprises fewer questions (not more than 10) to get the information quickly. These can be administered at regular intervals (monthly/weekly/quarterly).

One-on-one meetings:

Having periodic, hour-long meetings for an informal chat with every team member is an excellent way to get a true sense of what’s happening with them. Since it is a safe and private conversation, it helps you get better details about an issue.


eNPS (employee Net Promoter score) is one of the simplest yet effective ways to assess your employee's opinion of your company. It includes one intriguing question that gauges loyalty. An example of eNPS questions include: How likely are you to recommend our company to others? Employees respond to the eNPS survey on a scale of 1-10, where 10 denotes they are ‘highly likely’ to recommend the company and 1 signifies they are ‘highly unlikely’ to recommend it.

Based on the responses, employees can be placed in three different categories:

  • Promoters
    Employees who have responded positively or agreed.
  • Detractors
    Employees who have reacted negatively or disagreed.
  • Passives
    Employees who have stayed neutral with their responses.

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