Flowers, Hay Fever, and Intermittent Absences: What’s a Manager to Do?

sick employee wiping nose

Spring is a time of renewal, and coincidentally, intermittent absences in the workplace. Plenty of people suffer from allergies, which can be a valid excuse for having to call in sick (especially if the Hay Fever gets out of hand or you’re a chronic sufferer). It’s a part of life and nothing that should surprise the average manager.

However, just because it’s “allergy season,” doesn’t necessarily mean everyone in the company is going to get hit by the symptoms—or that their request for work-leave is actually valid.

Let me explain.

Depending on the number of employees you have, it’s important for you to consider whether an employee is entitled to family and medical leave (FMLA) or ADAAA (the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act) accommodations.

Because spring is such a common time for illness-related absences, you want to arm yourself with as much information as possible. This way you can keep an eye out for anyone who might be abusing intermittent absences, but also so you can ensure that those employees who are entitled to FMLA or ADAAA accommodations have access to them.

Not everyone is out to game the system

Remember that for a lot of employees, it’s probably stressful to worry about whether they can afford to take time off of work to manage allergies, or any kind of illness. When they do request time off, it’s best not to assume that they’re simply trying to get out of work.

On the other hand, you have to protect yourself as the employer by asking the right questions. If too many employees abuse your work-leave policies, that can have far-reaching effects in the company for those who play by the rules and those who may not.

Understanding FMLA and work-leave

The Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives employees the right to unpaid work-leave for specific family- or medical-related reasons. The FMLA states that while on leave, “workers’ jobs must be left open and their benefits, such as health insurance coverage, must be continued” for up to 12 weeks. Those who can apply for work-leave under the FMLA include:

  • Parental Leave: For the birth or placement of an adopted or foster child;
  • Personal Medical Leave: When an employee is unable to work due to his or her own serious health condition;
  • Family Care Leave: To care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition;
  • Military Exigency Leave: When an employee’s spouse, parent, son, or daughter (of any age) experiences a qualifying exigency resulting from military service (applies to active service members deployed to a foreign country, National Guard and Reservists); and
  • Military Care Leave: To care for an employee’s spouse, parent, son, daughter (of any age), or next of kin who requires care due to an injury or illness incurred while on active duty or was exacerbated while on active duty. Note: A leave of up to 26 weeks of leave per 12-month period may be taken to care for the injured/ill service member.

If you have more than 50 employees in a 75 mile radius, regardless of whether you’re public sector or a private business, your employees will be covered under both the FMLA and the ADA.

Start an “interactive dialogue” with your employees regarding work-leave

The simplest practice is also the best one: just talk to your employees. If you suspect their allergies flaring up every Friday or Monday to be a tall tale, have a conversation with them before you assume anything. Everyone is different with different needs, so be sure to do your due diligence when it comes to minding any rights or accommodations they may—or may not—be entitled to.

For truly #DramaFreeHR, contact HR Resolutions. We’ll keep you up-to-date on what you need to know to protect you and your employees. We promise we won’t be “out sick” that day.

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