In this week’s edition of the HR Base Camp roundup, our HR experts answer your questions about how long employers are required to keep extending a medical leave of absence, how to determine pay ranges for different positions, and whether or not you as an employer are required to provide bereavement leave. Read on for the answers!
- How long do I have to keep extending a medical leave of absence?
- How should I determine the pay range for different positions?
- Am I required to provide bereavement leave?
How long do I have to keep extending a medical leave of absence?
This question came to us through our HR Base Camp Facebook group. Unfortunately, it’s not something we can easily answer for non-CEDR members as there are too many variables involved. However, we wanted to include it in the Roundup this week so we could explain why you need to speak to an HR expert directly for guidance and what you need to consider if you find yourself in this situation.
It’s critical that employers have a written Leave of Absence policy that includes the process for requesting a leave, what happens with benefits during a leave, and how many weeks of leave can be requested. This policy also must be compliant with any state laws around this subject, and every year more and more states pass those types of laws. The laws may include providing job protection during the leave, different types of leave rights for employers of different sizes, giving employees the right to take leave for particular reasons, and rules around reinstating the employee after the leave.
So to answer the question about how long you need to extend a leave, we first need to ensure that all of the above was properly documented in your policies and with the employee and that the employee has actually exhausted any leave entitlement under the law.
But just because they may have exhausted their leave doesn’t mean you can deny an extension. If an employee has medical issues preventing their “timely” return, and some additional time off may enable an employee to return to work, then it is commonly considered a reasonable accommodation to extend the leave for another short period of time. This falls under a number of laws to include the ADA and the FMLA.
This does not mean that your employee can keep extending their leave with no foreseeable end in sight. Generally the employee should be providing information from their healthcare provider regarding their inability to return to work, and an expected return date. Once they are seeking to extend beyond 30 days, the law stops swinging as far in favor of the employee as it did initially. As an employer you need to be able to operate your business.
How should I determine the pay range for different positions?
As the hiring landscape has evolved over the last couple of years, so has determining pay. More than ever, candidates are looking (and asking) for pay rates higher than what employers have seen before. So how can you best determine what an employee should be paid?
Our first tip is to set a range, not a rate. Opening up the range instead of picking a specific number increases the number of people who will look at your posting and apply for the job. Plus, it gives you flexibility when making an offer. Someone may love your business and want to work there but be looking for $25 an hour. Or you might find a candidate that you think would be a good fit and are willing to train, but their experience warrants a lower pay rate. If your listing says “$22-$25” instead of “$23,” you have the opportunity to move either of these candidates forward.
The real key to finding the right pay range is to do your research. Talk to others in your industry about what they’re offering. You can even look at pay ranges outside of your industry for similar positions. If you take your search online, the DOL and job search sites like jobing.com have wage information that can help you find out what other employers are paying. You may also find useful information in places you wouldn’t expect.
Am I required to provide bereavement leave?
There’s no federal requirement for this, but most employers offer at least a couple of days of time off for bereavement purposes. While most bereavement leave policies say the time can be used to attend a funeral, many times employees will ask to use bereavement leave for a reason that’s not exactly listed in the handbook.
For example, they may ask to attend a celebration of life, or if someone is terminally ill they may use bereavement to say their goodbyes rather than attend an official service. During the height of COVID we saw cases where there was no physical gathering but the person needed time off to mourn. Allowing employees to apply bereavement leave in these instances would still be considered an appropriate use of the policy.
A frequent question from employees is whether this time is paid or unpaid. Because there’s no federal bereavement leave law, this is ultimately up to you. Many employers that offer unpaid time still allow employees to apply accrued vacation or PTO time to cover the absence.
We do want to note that while there’s no federal requirement, several states do have unique bereavement leave laws. Some of these laws require employers to provide employees with a specific amount of time off. Others require you to allow employees to take bereavement leave for reasons that aren’t directly death related, such as a failed adoption match. Some states that offer paid sick leave require employers to allow employees to use their accrued time for bereavement leave purposes.
Because of this, we strongly advise that you double check state law and talk to an HR expert before denying a request for bereavement leave. You should also make sure that your bereavement leave policy is clearly stated in your employee handbook, particularly if there is a state specific requirement.
At CEDR, we help employers protect their businesses and build stronger teams. Because stronger teams build better workplaces, and better workplaces make better lives.
Have an HR question you need to talk through with an HR expert? Reach out to the Solution Center for expert guidance, or get your questions answered in our private, professional Facebook Group, HR Base Camp.