Contacting Employees on Leave
December 20, 2023
What are the rules for contacting employees on leave? When and how should you communicate with them? There are no legal requirements to keep in touch with workers while they’re out on leave. However, there are good business reasons to not let your employees think that you have forgotten about them. To maintain a good relationship with workers on leave, a manager or HR person can keep in touch on a regular basis, but not so often that it seems intrusive.
At a minimum, employers can request updated documentation from their employees on leave, if those requests stick to a reasonable schedule, like monthly emails. They can also reach out about changes that may impact the employee, such as reminders about open enrollment periods for health insurance.
Otherwise, it’s best to keep contact focused on topics other than work. Limit your phone calls to on-leave employees to once a month for five minutes or less and focus on light topics.
It’s also a good idea to reach out as the on-leave employee’s return date draws near. You might send a letter between two weeks and a month before an employee is due to return, confirming their anticipated return date and letting them know you’re excited to have them back.
This kind of pre-reentry letter is also a good place to update employees about any big changes that have happened during their leave.
Any conversation with an employee on leave – including written conversations – should contain no reference to work.
If you end up talking work, at best you may owe the employee wages for time considered work. At worst, your work-related communication may be viewed as interfering with a leave.
Remind managers not to get into work talk when they reach out to on-leave workers. If the employee brings up work, there’s no harm in saying something like, “We miss you here, but we’re hanging in there.” Then you can move on to another topic.
If the employee is on health-related leave, steer clear of personal health discussions. The general rule for employers is to ask only what’s necessary about an employee’s health in order to accommodate their requests.
Occasionally, an employee may specifically ask not to be contacted while they’re out on leave. In those situations, your organization should respect their wishes and not reach out with casual check-ins or non-work-related information.
By Linda Olejniczak, courtesy of SBAM-approved partner, ASE.