Manage Leaves of Absence like a Pro

I have a theory: People think using Excel to its full potential means they can run the entire world on this one program.

This is a pretty crappy theory, but people insist on trying it–especially when it comes to small businesses and employee management. When you have two employees, it may make sense to keep track of everything in a spreadsheet, but as you grow, this becomes untenable.

Take, for instance, employee leaves. If you have 50 employees, someone will undoubtedly qualify for a leave of absence under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Easy enough to track, right?

Ha! First, are you using a calendar year or a rolling year? How does this integrate with your own PTO policy? And what (shudder) if the person should need intermittent FMLA, which is quite common for people with chronic conditions or someone receiving ongoing treatment. Tracking this type of leave of absence in a spreadsheet is asking for trouble, both financially and legally.

If you have leaves of absence to track, here’s what you need to think about.

Get your policies in line.

The best time to get your leave policies created is before you’ve hired any employees. The second best time is today. Keep in mind that there are federal, state, and local laws you need to comply with. For instance, if you have 15 or more employees, you’re subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Still, if you live somewhere like Los Angeles (LA), , you have to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee with a disability if you have five or more employees, along with that, the employee may be eligible for the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), LA Paid Sick Leave, COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave and more! Leaves of absence can be considered reasonable accommodations in some situations.

However, if you have employees in multiple states or both the US and Canada, it can almost be impossible to know every rule out there. Fortunately, some solutions can, for instance, check your leave requests against more than 500 U.S. federal, state, and local leave rules and over 150 Canadian rules.

It’s certainly easier than trying to memorize the rules for everywhere you operate.

Get your paperwork ready.

If an employee comes to you and says, “my back hurts, and I can no longer lift boxes,” do you know what to do? What if an employee calls and says, “my son has just been diagnosed with cancer,” do you know what paperwork he needs for the FMLA? If you rely on Google for these documents, you’ll end up in a situation where you’re in over your head. Get a system that generates the forms for you–and make sure it’s compliant with all the relevant laws.

Figure out how you will track this leave of absence.

People are often tempted to track leaves in Excel, but that only works for the most basic leaves. Trying to track intermittent FMLA? Ha! It will be a disaster. Plus, while it’s got amazing features, Excel isn’t designed as permanent storage for data that you may have to produce if you’re ever audited or sued. Or even if your leave manager quits, you want someone else to be able to step right in and not have to figure out the previous manager’s shorthand.


When you have employees, you’ll eventually need to manage leaves of absence. Luckily, I have a special offer for my audience, to help you manage leave like a pro! Simply click this link to sign up for your free trial of Leave Genius Pro today. 

This post is sponsored by Leave Genius Pro

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