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Articles and resources covering leave management, employee time and attendance, absence management and more.


The Return to Work After Parental Leave

Depending on how generous parental leave is at your company, the employee who used it may have been away from work for at least several weeks or months. This employee’s life has changed dramatically while being away. Coming back to work, in most cases, is going to be emotionally and mentally challenging for the returning employee. But there are lots of different things that can be done to facilitate a smoother transition back into company life for any employee returning to work after parental leave.


A Sympathetic Approach to Those Returning from Parental Leave

Anyone who has had to navigate the return to work after parental leave already knows how difficult a transition it can be. If you’re tasked with HR functions and duties in your company and have not experienced this transition, it can be difficult to understand what those returning from parental leave are going through. 


You’ve probably heard it said that becoming a parent changes everything. Well, it’s true. Nothing feels the same. Your priorities shift dramatically. You form an instant and profound bond with your child. The depth of sheer love you feel for this new addition to your family is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. This is all in and of itself both wonderful and overwhelming. And then you have to go back to work? You’re going to just walk away from your child for hours and hours of each weekday? It literally defies everything you feel as a new parent. And yet the realities of modern life demand it if you can’t afford to be a stay-at-home parent. This is why reentry can also include a surprising amount of guilt. On top of all this you can layer in a general lack of sleep that typically accompanies having a new child, which further heightens all the emotions. What I’ve described here doesn’t even come close to representing the full reality of an employee on parental leave who is coming back to work. But it hopefully gives you at least a glimpse into what they are probably experiencing.


The best approach to take from an HR perspective is a sympathetic one if an empathetic understanding is beyond your reach because you haven’t experienced this particular kind of transition yourself. And yes, there will have to be some limits on just how understanding you can be within the confines of a company that needs each of its employees to perform to the best of their abilities for the sake of company success. Reasonable compassion is another way to think of it.


Easing Reentry After Parental Leave

Below are some helpful ideas and tips to share with an employee who is returning to work after parental leave:


  • Encourage returning employees to be gentle with themselves. They’re feeling all kinds of overwhelming emotions. Remind them that this wave of emotions is just that – the wave will crest and then it will recede. The way they’re feeling as they’re transitioning back to work is not the way they will continue feeling. Let them know that you understand they’re going through an emotional transition and are there to support them in their reentry.
  • Scheduling considerations. If there is a degree of flexibility that can be allowed, it might be a good idea to ease the returning employee back into working life somewhat gradually. When they first come back, maybe they only work the equivalent of two full days per week. After a couple or few weeks of that, up it to three and another couple of weeks later up it to full time. The returning employee will see how they have to make the most of those part-time hours to really get things done and they will be more productive as a result of this welcome period of flexibility.
  • Family logistics. When you’re in touch with the employee about their return, encourage them to figure out their new family logistics well ahead of their reentry. What you want to avoid is having their first day back also be the first time they’re dropping their child off at daycare or leaving them with a nanny or sitter. That’s an invitation to disaster. They need to experience what this new set of morning routines will be like so they’re not surprised when it needs to happen for real. These can even be “dry runs” just to get a feel for how it’s going to happen. They can even make the full commute to work and then just turn around and go back.
  • Meeting with their boss. Make sure at some point (but not the first day) soon after returning the work that employee has a one-on-one with their direct boss to just talk about the realities of their new live as it relates to their job. The returning employee should acknowledge that they may be a little “all over the place” emotionally but that they’re fully committed to their job and the company. Being proactive in this way, including what special projects or work trips they’re up for will help. 
  • Communicating with colleagues. Also encourage the returning employee to be open about their schedule and expectations with colleagues. If not, those colleagues will make their own assumptions about your commitment. They should make sure everyone knows their hours and when you need to leave on a regular basis so people know not to expect them to respond to something in the last few minutes of their day. And as things change with their schedule over time, continue to keep colleagues informed.
  • Be supportive. In line with taking a sympathetic approach to employees returning from parental leave, it’s a good idea to be generally supportive. And encourage the employee to seek out sources of support on their own as well, such as a parents group or online network of new parents. If your company has resources available to new parents, make sure the employee knows about them.


Make no mistake, any employee returning from parental leave is undergoing a huge shift emotionally and in their priorities as well. Their lives will necessarily be different, and that includes their working life as well. If you want to retain these valuable employees, take a sympathetic approach and be as flexible as possible while still being firm about basic expectations regarding performance. Following the tips and strategies outline above will go a long way towards ensuring it all works out well for the employee and the company.

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The Time Off Crisis in America

There’s no easy way to say this, so here it is: Americans suck at taking time off from work. Somewhere along the way our strong work ethic has been twisted into a truly unhealthy inability to take time off. US workers already start off with less paid vacation than most countries, and an inexplicable percentage of Americans don’t take all their paid vacation time in any given year. This is not something to proud of. The benefits of vacation time to individuals and the companies that employ them is well documented. How can this deplorable situation be fixed?


Time Off by the Numbers

Take a look a Wikipedia’s page with a list of minimum annual leave by country. You’ll see three columns, one for paid vacation days per year, paid holidays per year, and the grand total of paid leave days per year. You will no doubt be envious of the dozens and dozens of countries where workers get between 20-30 days or more of paid leave every year, including Germany (30 days), India (27 days), France (36 days) and the United Kingdom (28 days). 


While you’re looking at the United Kingdom, you might notice the United States on the next row the table, where there is a big fat 0 in all three columns. What’s up with that? People do get paid time off in the US, right? But here’s the thing about this Wikipedia list: This is a list of paid time off guaranteed by law. And there’s the rub. There is no legal requirement in the US forcing private companies to give any set amount of paid vacation or holidays. None. Zero. Zip. Nil. So we’re already starting off from a disadvantage in the US, where we’re all made to feel like we only get any paid vacation or time off by the grace and generosity of our employers. 


The average American worker is granted about 10 days of paid vacation per year. So much for the generosity of employers. And that’s an average, which means while some get more, plenty of others get less. In fact, one in four (yes that’s 25%) American workers get no paid time off at all.


But now to add insult to injury, here’s the kicker: According to the US Travel Association, for those American workers who have the gift of paid time off so generously bestowed upon them, fully 52% of them don’t use all of it! In fact, the collective American workforce left 705 million unused vacation days on the table in 2017. To make matters worse, there’s the relatively new concept of a “workcation” where people take a vacation but keep working while they’re away. All of this begs the question: What in the world is wrong with us?


Whether the concept of a workcation strikes you as the dumbest idea ever or appeals to you on some level depends on a variety of factors. The US Travel Association’s latest study dealt with the workcation idea, which they view with a very skeptical eye since the group’s mission is to encourage people to take a healthy amount of time off from work. The study surveyed 4,349 American workers at least 18 years old who were working more than 35 hours per week and received at least some paid time off from their employer. Of those surveyed, only 29% found the idea of a workcation appealing, 70% called the concept unappealing, and only 10% had actually taken a workcation. It’s also interesting to look at the generational angle in the data. Among Millennials, 39% find the idea appealing, whereas only 28% of Gen Xers and a mere 18% of Boomers thought the idea was appealing. The report concludes, “Workcations may have value, but they are not a substitute for actual vacations.”


Media Reaction to the Workcation Concept

As you might imagine, opinions are divided about whether or not the workcation is a good idea or a bad idea. Here’s how some media outlets and individuals have weighed in:


  • CNN Business: This 2014 CNN article noted that when approached as a flexible concept, it can be quite useful. One example was a Glassdoor.com employee who took a five-day trip where he worked during the Wednesday travel day on the plane, worked a full day on Thursday in his destination, then didn’t work at all the rest of the trip from Friday-Monday. So, he enjoyed a wonderful 5-day trip and only used two days of paid vacation. 


  • Wall Street Journal: The WSJ’s 2015 article seemed to be encouraging people to give the concept a try. 


  • Vanity Fair: Also in 2015, Tina Nguyen wrote that while she could see the value in some situations, she thought the name was really dumb (just call it working remotely) and was somewhat horrified at the idea of a parent missing out on key moments with family during a trip where they kept working a full schedule. 


  • The Muse: Erin Greenwald extolled the virtues of the workcation when handled properly and not taken in lieu of real vacations. If you can work remotely and enjoy a great change of scenery, why not? She also gives a bunch of tips for how to successfully set one up for yourself.


  • FastCompany: This 2017 article by Stephanie Vozza is full of tips and strategies for taking a power workcation where the change in location allows you to hyper-focus in on plowing through one or several specific projects while still giving yourself opportunities to enjoy your destination.  


But the fact that we’re even discussing the possible merits of a workcation show how broken our relationship is to time off from work. 


Is the US a Nation of Workaholics?

The short answer to this question is clearly YES, but why? For those willing to experiment with the idea of workcation, some report that they fear how taking “real” time off will make them look more replaceable to their employers. Others say they have such a stressful workload that they simply can’t take a real vacation, but they could at least do some of their work in a more relaxing, less anxiety-ridden environment. Yet others are convinced that everything would totally fall apart while they were away from work for a real vacation. Whatever the reasons and rationales, we are definitely a nation of workaholics, which is a very dangerous place to be. Why? Because it pushes people towards workplace burnout.


The World Health Organization (WHO) recently brought new attention to the problem of workplace burnout. In the recently-released 11th revision to the International Classification of Diseases, burnout is more clearly defined than in the previous version. It’s not a medical condition or disease, but could become a contributing factor to both. Here’s how it’s described: 


Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • Reduced professional efficacy.

Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.


People need real time off from work, not workcations, to experience the full benefits of vacation. They need to truly disconnect from work, rest, relax, recharge, and come back with new energy and focus. Companies that want to keep their workers fully engaged and motivated need to take steps that encourage or even require them to take all of the paid leave to which they are entitled, and not for workcations. 

Whatever kind of time off your company offers, you could be streamlining leave management with CaptureLeave, a cloud-based app accessible through any web browser that allows you to ditch the spreadsheets and paper forms and automate more of your HR workflow related to managing time off. Try it out during a 60-day free trial to find out how it can make your life easier, then enjoy affordable monthly pricing after that based on the number of users.

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Avoid the Summer Vacation Request Blues

The average American worker who has been with the same employer for five years gets around 14 days of paid vacation beyond the usual array of holidays. Unsurprisingly, because summer has traditionally been seen as the time for vacations, your company’s HR staff person in charge of approving leave time has probably (or hopefully) already handled most of the season’s summer vacation requests. This means they are probably still suffering from the summer vacation request blues. But there are ways to avoid many if not all of the hassles and headaches next time around, so bookmark this one for future reference!


Why are Summer Vacations so Popular?

Many people might wonder why in the world most everyone is anxious to take paid vacation time during the summer. The obvious answer is because that’s when school is out for families with children, so summertime is when the whole family can go on a trip together. But it wasn’t always this way. 


When agriculture was the predominant family concern for most households in the 18th and 19th centuries before the Industrial Revolution, kids were typically in school from December through March, then took an extended break, and were then in school again from May through August. Seems like an odd schedule, right? But it’s not when you consider that farming households needed all the help they could at two key points of the growing season: planting time in the spring and harvesting time in the fall. 


Once the Industrial Revolution took hold and cities became places with lots of factory work, the situation was far different still. Children basically attended school 11 months of the year. Parents who were factory workers needed their kids to be in a safe place while they worked, and school was the best option. 


For better or for worse, summer has become the traditional time when families seek to go on a vacation together, leading to lots of summer vacation requests throughout the workforce.


Handling Summer Vacation Requests Like a Pro

How can you handle summer vacation requests like a pro? Follow these tips and strategies:


Clear Policies and Procedures: If you have a clearly defined policy and procedures about how employees are to request paid leave such as summer vacation requests, it’s understandable why you might be frustrated when people don’t follow them. But ask yourself this: How much do you communicate in an ongoing way with employees about leave requests? It’s nice to think that the employee manual or handbook that you handed each new employee over the years is their constant companion and that they would open it up and review the company policies and procedures around leave requests before making one. Get real! That boring, dry handbook was shoved in a drawer never to be seen again. It’s up to YOU to communicate regularly with employees about these sorts of things. A simple email in late May or early June reminding people to put in their summer vacation requests as early as possible, along with a summary of the procedures for how they make requests could go a long way towards lessening the stress you experience at this time of year.


Rules of the Road: It’s also worth reviewing the rules you’ve created around summer vacation requests and changing them if they’re not working well. Your rules should cover how employees file their requests – and I sincerely hope it doesn’t involve filling out a paper form, because this is the digital era of the 21st century and there are simple, affordable leave management apps available to help you streamline all of this! You should also include when time off requests can be made, such as X number of weeks before the leave or blackout times when you know the company’s got an all-hands-on-deck event or situation coming up. If July happens to be the peak business month for your company, just make it clear that July is off-limits for summer vacation requests. And again, the responsibility for communicating all of this to the company workforce is yours, not a staff handbook sitting on a shelf.


Overlapping Requests: How do you handle overlapping summer vacation requests? Obviously you can’t have everyone deserting the office for the same two weeks of the summer. Every company has to develop its own way of dealing with this. Common options include first-come-served, a seniority-based system, a combination of both, input of the employee’s direct supervisor, employee flexibility around changing dates, and so on. But avoid using only seniority as the deciding factor because then the same people will always magically have their requests approved, creating resentment in others. They key is to communicate with the parties concerned, explaining your decision and what it was based on. If you don’t communicate and show the rationale for decisions made (i.e., explaining why you’re denying someone’s summer vacation request), employees will end up feeling resentment. The most important aspect in all of this is to make sure there is no appearance whatsoever of “playing favorites,” which only creates ill-will. 


Maintaining Productivity: It’s always important to check in with a department manager or team leader around leave requests in order to make sure the needs of the business are met. Most departments and teams can address their own needs for a one or two week vacation by redistributing essential tasks, but if a temporary worker needs to be brought in, be ready to help make that happen. 


Communication: If you hadn’t already picked up on this, the key to handling all kinds of leave, including summer vacation requests, is to communicate early and often. Anticipate summertime leave requests and remind people of the rules of the road. Explain very clearly any vacation denials to close the loop and avoid creating disgruntled employees.


In the five points listed above, I only mentioned using a good leave management app once, so now it’s time to more clearly make that point in closing. If you are still dealing with paper forms and spreadsheets to manage leave time and summer vacation requests, now is the time to discover how much time (and money) you can save with the right technological tool. You could be leveraging the power of cloud computing to make your life so much easier. Check out CaptureLeave, a surprisingly simple yet powerful software-as-a-service solution designed to streamline many aspects of leave management, including time off requests. And don’t you deserve to have the right tools to make your job as efficient as possible? You can try CaptureLeave for free during a 60-day trial, after which you’ll enjoy affordable pricing as a monthly subscription based on the number of users. CaptureLeave will ensure you never have to experience the summer vacation request blues again!

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New White Collar Overtime Eligibility Rules

When it comes to tracking employee time, one of the most important aspects is first accurately determining overtime eligibility for each worker. Who has to be paid overtime and who doesn’t have to be paid overtime has been relatively straightforward for a long time. This is because the rules around overtime eligibility haven’t changed much in a long time. But a big adjustment is in the works every business should know about. This article explains the change, what led up to it, a bit of history around overtime, and why it matters.


Overtime Eligibility Rules Date Back to the 1930s

With the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, conditions for factory workers were often pretty horrible. And it took a long time for the federal government to do anything about it. It wasn’t until 1938 that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In addition to abolishing most child labor and establishing a minimum wage, it also required time-and-a-half overtime pay for some types of workers who put in more than 40 hours in a week.  


Keep in mind the spirit of the law was geared towards people involved in manufacturing kind of work, which is why a lot of employees are “exempt” from the regulation and don’t have to be paid overtime. The kinds of positions exempt from overtime include some administrative, professional and executive employees (and all the kinds of workers who are not employees, like independent contractors, outside salespeople, and many others) if they include the right mix of duties and are paid above a certain salary threshold. In other words, overtime laws were meant to protect blue collar workers, not white collar workers.


The white collar exemptions are tested three ways: If you are 1) paid a salary (not an hourly wage) and 2) are a white collar worker and 3) are paid above a weekly minimum salary, then you are considered exempt from the overtime regulations and your employer does not have to pay you overtime.


The Devilish Details of the Minimum Salary Test

The reason there is a minimum salary test is to protect low-income workers who have white collar jobs. The rule that’s in effect right now says any white collar workers who are paid a salary of less than $455/week ($23,660/year) have to be paid overtime for any hours worked beyond 40 in a given week. This particular minimum salary cutoff was enacted in 2004. Note that any white collar worker being paid a mere $24,000 could be required by their employer to work more than 40 hours/week with no overtime pay.


But here’s the thing most people don’t understand. Before the 2004 update of the rule, when was the last time the salary cutoff was adjusted? 1975! In fact, since the FLSA was passed in 1938, the salary threshold has only been updated a grand total of eight times in 75 years. And the adjustments are not tied to inflation, so increases are arbitrary and often fall short of what a fully-adjusted-for-inflation increase would be. The 2004 rule of $455/week, which is still in effect today, is less than the poverty threshold for a family of four! This overtime rule, for lack of keeping up with inflation, is playing a significant role in widening the gap between the rich and the poor in the United States. Back in 1975, nearly 63% of all full-time workers were eligible for overtime. The lack of updates to the rule has seen that number fall to less than 7% as of 2016. In other words, a whole lot of people who don’t make much money and who would really benefit from time-and-a-half overtime pay don’t get it because this rule’s salary threshold hasn’t been changed frequently enough and hasn’t been tied to inflation.


The Attempt to Update Overtime Eligibility 2016-2019

Towards the end of the Obama administration in May 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a rule to finally make a decent update to the rule that would have slightly more than doubled the salary threshold for while collar exemption to $913/week or $47,476/year. The percentage of full-time workers who would be eligible for overtime under the 2016 proposed rule would be 33% which is still a far cry from the 63% who were eligible after the 1975 update.


But the 2016 rule never took effect. It was challenged in the courts and declared invalid, which is really just another way of saying the business community didn’t want to pay fairer wages to their workers and rose up in opposition to the update, saying its hike was too high. Now, in 2019, another DOL rule update has been published for review, again attempting to increase the salary threshold, but not as high. The new cutoff would be $679/week or $35,308. If it is finalized, hard-working people in every state will benefit, but not as many or by as much as should be the case. The rule was proposed in March 2019. The required 60-day public comment period ended on May 21. If the rule is approved, it could still face court challenges similar to what happened in 2016. The DOL estimates the new rule will become effective in January 2020.  


Keep in mind that each state is free to pass its own overtime laws that are more generous than the federal law. When faced with different state and federal overtime laws, employers have to abide by whichever one results in more pay to the worker.


Other Considerations

Overtime eligibility through the FLSA law and DOL regulations are difficult to skirt. The regulations apply to all businesses engaged in any kind of “interstate commerce.” This covers virtually all businesses these days because most businesses can’t prove everything they do is contained within the state where they are headquartered. The rule covers anything bought from vendors, as well as banking relationships. It’s safest to assume your company will have to abide by the overtime laws and regulations at either the federal or state level.


Private sector employers also need to know they cannot just substitute “comp time” to avoid paying overtime. If a non-exempt employee works more than 40 hours in a given week, they must be paid time-and-a-half for the overtime. If an overtime-eligible employee works 56 hours in one week, you can’t give them two days off the next week to “even it out” and not pay overtime. You have to pay them 16 hours of overtime pay for the week where they worked 56 hours on their next regular payday. Comp time can only work within the span of a week. Note that some states specific eight-hour workdays as well, such that overtime has to be paid for more than eight hours in a day, regardless of the weekly total. Some states do allow private employers to make comp time arrangements with employees. Finally, public sector local, state or federal government entities are allowed to make comp time arrangements with employees in lieu of paying overtime, but there are strict rules governing this, and the comp time has to be “paid” at the time-and-a-half overtime rate.


Regardless of your opinion about the proposed overtime eligibility rule update, you still have to accurately track time worked and leave time for your employees. If your business is still trying to get by with paper forms and spreadsheets, we invite you to take a closer look at CaptureLeave. This cloud-based application is super-easy to use and yet offers robust functionality that can grow with your business. Give it a try before you buy with a 60-day free trial, and then enjoy affordable monthly pricing after that!

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7 Ways to Deal with Habitually Late Workers

If you’re a conscientious worker who always arrives to the office on-time, those who are habitually late workers probably drive you more than a little crazy – especially if you’re a manager or the person tasked with tracking and monitoring employee time. Part of the problem is how quickly late arrivals add up. If one employee arrives three minutes late twice week over the course of 48 weeks, that adds up to 4 hours and 48 minutes over the course of a work year or more than half a day! And if others notice that late arrivals are not dealt with, imagine how much time your company is missing out on if you’ve got a dozen employees doing the same. Here are 7 ways to deal with habitually late workers:


  1. Document Habitually Late Workers

Enlist the help of managers and supervisors in documenting late arrivals (or consider the use of some kind of time-clock app or even attendance beacons). Many employees simply don’t realize how often they are arriving late, and how much it adds up over time. While it may not be serious enough to warrant disciplinary action, you would at least have the data you need to include it in the employee’s performance review so they know it’s being noticed and a course-correction is in order. Having the data also helps when an employee pushes back about being late.


  1. Meet Privately with the Worker to Discuss

There’s no need to wait until an official performance review to let the worker that habitual lateness is both noticed and not acceptable – especially if your company only does performance reviews on an annual basis. In fact, you don’t want to let chronic tardiness go on for very long because the last thing you want to do is blow up at the employee. Have a low-key, private meeting with the employee to give them a chance to explain themselves because there could be very personal reasons for the lateness. No need for any public shaming here by calling them out in a meeting or anything like that. But this also doesn’t mean you have to just live with it. You’d be surprised how often people simply don’t realize how their lateness affects their co-workers or the company as a whole. Express your disappointment in the employee. If they like and respect you, they’ll feel bad about disappointing you and hopefully want to do better.


  1. Set Clear Expectations and Enforce Them

Getting to work on time is the most basic of company policies and expectations everyone has to follow or things can really start falling apart. This is why the ones who become the habitually late workers are so frustrating. You have to make it clear the tardiness is both unacceptable and will result in disciplinary consequences sooner than later if things don’t change. If that sounds like being “hard-nosed,” it’s not. Expecting workers to arrive on time is both reasonable and necessary to the success of your company. You might be surprised how many employees show up late simply because they can. It’s up to you and your managers to set clear expectations.


  1. Be Consistent with Expectations and Enforcement

Above all, you have to show everyone that your on-time arrival expectations apply to all workers and not just the ones that tend to get under your skin. Employees are highly attuned to fairness in the workplace. If some workers get away with being chronically late while others don’t, you’re going cause more problems than you fix. Some habitually late workers always make up their time by staying a little later, so you need to decide if that’s acceptable or not, and be prepared to answer questions about it when other people bring it up, which they will if they feel like they’re being singled out.


  1. Create an Improvement Plan

Put most of the onus on the employee to figure out what they need to do or change in their daily routines to get to work on time. If the problem is fairly serious, add in an accountability measure such as emailing you or the manager as soon as they arrive and sit down to get started with their work. Be as flexible as you can within reason to accommodate solutions. If changing the employee’s start time by 30 minutes (say because their daycare isn’t open early enough) doesn’t impact company operations, then go for it. That’s a win-win for everyone.


  1. Scale Disciplinary Action to Fit

You want to avoid taking disciplinary action if at all possible because it can create messy relationships and resentment, but you also need to be willing to do it if necessary, and make sure people know how that will work by outlining it to them. Start with something very light and scale it up if the employee fails to improve over time. You could begin with a verbal warning, and after that a written warning. From there, start docking their pay. One reasonable approach would be to dock their pay by the value of their late-time each quarter. Why quarterly? If taken out of each pay period, it might be too small to have much impact, but to see a larger chunk of money missing at the end of three months will be noticed and hopefully motivate change.


  1. Reward Improvement

If the employee corrects their tardiness issue, mention it from time-to-time. You should not reward improvement in this case with anything other than expressing your appreciation. After all, you’re already paying them to be here on time, so it’s a basic expectation they should be meeting and not something you should have to incentivize at all. Just thank them here and there for being on-time being willing to work on it.


As you can see, these are pretty standard approaches for dealing with habitually late workers. There’s nothing earth-shattering or creative here – the tried-and-true approaches are best in this situation. I did read about a psychologist who proposed a system where the employee with the most late-minutes in a given period would be required to tell a joke in a company meeting. I guess the idea is that this would be terrifying enough for most people to spur them to be on-time. Needless to say, I don’t think this is a good approach. Such a public calling-out could really traumatize some people. For others it might not be a punishment at all but an opportunity to perfect their stand-up act. But anyone would feel the pain of having their pay docked.


If your company is ready to ditch the paper forms and spreadsheets you’ve been using for time off requests and leave management, sign up for a 60-day free trial to see what CaptureLeave can do to automate and streamline your HR work!

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Handling Unpaid Leave Requests

There are times when an employee is going to want more time off than they have available to them through your company’s regular paid leave policies. Maybe the employee has applied for and won some kind of fellowship. Maybe they need to take some extra time to spend with family during a difficult time. Or maybe they want to embark on some kind of grand travel day. These kinds of situations can prompt an employee to file an unpaid leave request. Whether or not your company has an official policy covering this type of time off, handling unpaid leave requests can be tricky. This article provides some guidance on how to do it.


Pay Attention to How Employees Make Unpaid Leave Requests

Because most companies don’t have a specific policy around handling unpaid leave requests, a smart employee will go about this process delicately since they’re attempting to navigate largely unchartered waters. Managers and HR staff should keep an open mind to unpaid leave requests rather than just immediately rejecting them out of hand because they fall outside the company’s written benefits and leave policies. But savvy employees do negotiate unpaid leave. The ones who are successful approach it in thoughtful and creative ways.


The employee who asks for a substantial unpaid leave should be one who knows they bring a lot of value to the company and have a sense that you want to keep them on board. But this should also come through with a healthy dose of humility, not arrogance or cockiness. The desire to retain the employee also has to be balanced out with your desire to keep them close and engaged. If the employee is smart, they will have thought through any long-term goals they have with the company and address how those will be affected and maintained in light of an extended leave of absence. In other words, you want to see that they employee has thought through all the implications of this kind of leave and doesn’t approach it with a kind of cavalier attitude.


Is There Purpose to the Time Off Request?

Smart employees making unpaid leave requests will provide details on what it is they hope to accomplish during their time away and how it will benefit their work at your company. It might be developing a new skillset or making sure they don’t approach burnout. If they take the time to frame their request as something developmentally beneficial that will bring added value to the job, those efforts should be viewed favorably.


It also helps if they’ve put some effort into finding out the historical precedents of unpaid leave requests in your company, or even examples that they’ve learned of at other companies in your industry. In short, if an employee can present a compelling case for the purpose the time off, it should make a difference in how you respond. This would also include how well they’ve thought through potential objections, such as how their essential duties will be covered during an extended absence. If the employee has a solid plan for minimizing the impact of an absence (such as timing it to occur during a typically slow time for the business), that can go a long way towards easing understandable concerns your company may have.


Also assess the risks involved in your response. If this is a star performer you don’t want to lose, finding a way to work it out and grant the request could make a big difference to the employee’s long-term loyalty and tenure at the company. If denying the request might result in the employee quitting, are you willing to take on the cost of finding and hiring a replacement? Also, consider how willing the employee is to adjust their idea in order to make it happen, such as flexibility in timing of the leave, maybe doing it in several chunks if possible rather than all at once, and so forth. Be willing to work with the employee to figure it out in a way that is mutually acceptable to everyone involved.


As you can see, handling unpaid leave requests is a surprisingly complex negotiation process with many factors to consider. Both sides need to keep and open mind, be flexible, and plan carefully in order to find a mutually acceptable response that can provide benefits to both the employee and the company.


Whether it’s unpaid leave requests or regular paid time off, keeping accurate records of leave time is essential for your company to gain actionable insights into managing its workforce more effectively. If it’s time to ditch the paper forms and spreadsheets for a software solution that automates and streamlines many leave management tasks, take a look at what CaptureLeave offers your company. As a web-based, software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, its robust features and ease of use are available to you 24/7/365 with nothing to download, install or maintain. Check it out for yourself with a 60-day free trial, after which you’ll love its affordable monthly pricing. Staying up-to-date on topics and developments related to leave management, employee time and attendance, absence management and more is easy when you bookmark the CaptureLeave Blog page and visit every week for the latest article and news you can use!

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