The Human Resource: Unlimited PTO & RTW practices

There seems to be an endless list of employment practice decisions to make to meet the needs of your organization. This includes considerations for attracting and hiring talent, retention, and a comprehensive benefits program that supports a healthy life-work balance. Leave policies serve several purposes, including improved morale, productivity, and cost savings. There are considerations to make when exploring a migration away from a discretionary limit of paid time off and an unlimited practice.

Included in these considerations must be company culture, accountability, performance management, regulatory obligations, operational needs, and financial liability.

When implementing an unlimited paid time off policy, be certain to account for the following: (1) the impact of Federal or State FMLA leave; (2) the impact of mandatory State leave laws related to sick time, domestic abuse, jury duty, etc.; (3) the impact of Short Term Disability plan design and benefits; (4) the impact on disciplinary or corrective action policies; and (5) the impact on your financial obligations and budget.

You can achieve an effective balance between the risk and the rewards of an unlimited policy if you place maximum limits related to specific workplace events and design a request and approval process that ensures fair and consistent application of the policy. You need to avoid creating a culture of guilt which prohibits use of the policy and diminishes the value, create specific blackout periods for which time may not be taken, and most importantly train and communicate all aspects of the policy to the workforce regularly to reinforce the benefits and expectations for effective use. Ultimately, the success or failure of this policy will depend on the effective management and enforcement of the policy and procedures by your supervisors.

With the ever-changing leave practices and obligations of organizations across the country, it remains critical for your business to manage not only appropriate and compliant employment practices to support workforce absences, but also how these employees return to the workforce. Managing the risk associated with an employee who returns to work as a risk to further injury to themselves or others can be challenging. Exposure to workers’ compensation liability and other risks in the workplace can be avoided by developing and implementing a clear and consistent practice around how an employee is permitted to return to work after an injury or illness that has them out of work for a specific period.

The foundation for a return to work program is your job description and physical demands of the position. This documentation becomes the fundamental information necessary to an attending physician to determine when an employee can return to work without restrictions or accommodations. As an employer, you want to ensure you provide the employee and their attending physician adequate information to make an informed decision. Similarly, you will be well served to establish a policy and procedure describing how to return to work, what the requirements are such as documentation and communication, and who is the primary liaison for the business to facilitate the return. Training and refresher communications are beneficial and effective to inform the workforce and develop a consistent practice. Review your policies and procedures periodically to ensure they remain compliant with current legislation.

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About Warren Cook

Warren S. Cook is a co-founder of SymbianceHR and leads all client-consulting engagements. He is a human capital strategy management subject matter expert with more than 20 years of experience as a strategic business partner, project manager, and people leader across private and public sectors organizations. Warren is responsible for all client-consulting engagements from initial needs assessment and compliance review through delivery of customized complex human capital strategy solutions that meet the client's business goals. He has a proven track record of providing executive coaching and guidance to business leaders and human resource professionals at all levels including the C-Suite of Fortune 100 companies. Warren combines his human capital, project management, and business management experience with a philosophy of solving business challenges through the strategic implementation of policies, processes, and procedures to deliver sustainable solutions that demonstrate ROI, mitigate and manage risk, and empower organizational success. Warren is the author of “Applicant Interview Preparation – Practical Coaching for Today” and holds a bachelor of science degree in human resource management, a master’s of business administration in project management, and a master’s of science degree in industrial and organizational psychology. He is also a SHRM Certified Professional.

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