Slideshow 6 tips for designing effective leave policies

Published
  • January 19 2016, 2:15pm EST

Regardless of the leave programs you decide to offer, here are six tips that can help you design and implement effective leave policies from Mary Tavarozzi, group benefit practices leader at Willis Towers Watson.

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1. Review your current leave policies.

This is especially important for large employers with multiple locations or business units. Review usage statistics – how many employees take advantage of your leave policies at what cost to the organization. If you can, conduct an employee survey about their attitudes towards your leave policies and their perception of gaps in the current policies.

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2. Know the laws that apply.

Make sure you understand the current federal, state, and local laws surrounding employee leaves; these laws are a moving target. Some provisions of certain types of leaves that used to be up to the company’s discretion now must be provided by either federal or state law. Seek guidance from your consultant or legal adviser, especially if you have employees in many different locations around the country.

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3. Consider leaves in the context of your total rewards strategy.

Think about how time away from work fits into your total compensation and benefits strategy and your organizational goals. Are you considering leave policies aimed at employee engagement or recruiting and retention? And keep in mind: in offering these programs, you are giving employees time away from work when they need it; not encouragement to miss work.

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4. Don’t let “perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Keep this saying in mind when designing your leave policies. For example, if you cannot afford to offer full-paid leaves, consider offering partial paid leaves. While some employees won’t be able to take advantage of them, others will.

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5. Communicate your leave policies clearly and frequently to employees and supervisors.

If you have a number of leave options for your employees, they should know generally what they are. Train supervisors on the specifics of your leave policies and how to talk about them with employees. Consider twice-yearly communications that inform employees about types of leaves they might not be aware of, for example, time off after adopting a child. On the flip side, avoid making grand announcements about programs that just a tiny portion of your employee population is eligible for. This could have negative repercussions down the line.

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6. Think long term.

Keep in mind that your leave policies should not change frequently, unless in response to a change in the law. Try to anticipate what your population and demographic will look like in five to 10 years from now, and design leaves that are relevant today and down the road.

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