Duration of Medical Leaves of Absence

(The following was sent to me as an anonymous post from an HR practitioner)

We are looking for input on how to define the duration for medical leaves and how to document what happens after “X” time period.

Currently, we allow an employee to be out of work (with appropriate documentation) for up to 365 days within a rolling 18 month period.  And where appropriate, may consider a request for an extension of leave according to individual circumstances.  We also continue paying the company portion of benefit premiums for up to 6 months.

Can you share what you’re seeing as “typical” guidelines or offer some recommendations on defining the duration?  Any sample policies or language would be helpful. 


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  • I have never worked at a company with such a generous leave policy, so this must be a very large organization with multiple people who can step into roles. We follow FML and short term and long term disability policy guidelines. Additional leaves outside of those policies or after they have expired are reviewed on a case by case basis with discussion with the manager and HR about the leave duration, position and coverage of work during the leave. Not the answer that you are looking for, but I hope that it helps to know that there is no exact time period or specific process at my current or past organizations either!

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    • Scott Warrick
    • Scott Warrick's HR Consulting & Employment Law
    • Scott_Warrick
    • 7 yrs ago
    • Reported - view

    This is one of the hottest topics going ... and too many miss the real issues here.  Actually, last year the DOL put out a General Guidance Letter on this topic because there have been so many violations:  DON'T FORGET THE ADA!  With the new 2011 regulations, and their interpretations by the courts, it is actually difficult to have an employee with a long term injury or illness where the condition is not covered by the ADA.  So, your policy is REALLY generous here.  I agree with Bonita:  You policy is generous for any size company. However, under the ADA, you have to give a "reasonable accommodation," which includes a leave of absence, until it hurts .... A LOT (undue burden).  You are also REQUIRED to sit down an talk about any potential reasonable accommodations before terminating someone's employment (Interactive Process).  If you don't talk about it, you have violated the ADA ... period.  So, even if you have given someone 18 months off from work, you would still need to engage in the Interactive Process (talk about it) and see if extending the leave any further would create an undue burden.  (REMEMBER:  Undue Burden really means a heavy burden on your business operations.)  So ... don't forget the ADA.   

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  • Short term disability: defined as an absence of seven or more consecutive full calendar days due to your own illness, injury or disabling condition that prevents you from performing the usual customary duties of your work; and reduces your earnings to 80% or less of
    adjusted pre-disability earnings. Salary replacement of 80% is based on your regular
    scheduled workweek.

    Long term disability: provides 60% of base earnings after 6 months (26 weeks) of continuous disability.

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