“Location, location, location.” You think of that as a quote about real estate, but now you can think of it as a quote about when and where to have good communication practices! Before, during, and after — Before you even hire somebody, you have to have proper communication of FMLA rights posted in the workplace. Before you take action, you have communication obligations. During all aspects of an employees absence (upon notice, during leave, upon return), you have communication obligations. After an employee has returned, you have communication obligations. Communication is critical throughout the process. You will sooo appreciate thinking about all three phases. Start with the communication that must happen between your employees and your supervisors. Your front line managers have to know the basics (listen, respond, inquire appropriately, support) when your employees are out of work or may need accommodations to be productive. Yes, you’ll pin up the posters – but a thoughtful discussion with your team about policies, rights and responsibilities will go a long way to heading off confusion and conflict. Once an employee is out of work or has reported a need to do so, you have 5 days to respond – in writing – with a letter acknowledging the absence. That letter is important – it’s got to cover all the bases!
Here’s a longer chat about this communication point.
Also, during that absence, it is not a bad idea to stay in touch (and I don’t mean to ask them if they can just do one little project…that’s a no-no). Finally, the “After” – it can be tough in a few cases to pin down a return date, and the possibility of an accommodation for a productive return maybe be even more important (Remember – we started with A is for Accommodations).
Finally, we all know that front line supervisors have a ton of responsibilities to juggle. Extra attention to coaching and supporting them around absence and accommodations will pay off with less confusion and fewer complaints and escalations.