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A Complete Guide to Leave Administration for HR Professionals

In an ideal world, your employees would stick to a consistent work schedule from week to week, and you’d never have to worry about unplanned absences or extended leave of absence requests. But that’s not how leave administration works. Employees may need to take time off for vacation, for medical reasons, or for their mental health.

A standardized leave administration process ensures that your employees are treated fairly and consistently, that you comply with all relevant leave laws, and that you can anticipate employee absences before they have an impact on your organization.

Here’s how to develop a leave of absence policy and how you can use automation to streamline leave administration for your HR team.

What Is Leave Administration?

Leave administration, or leave management, is your company’s process for handling employee absences and formal leave of absence requests. It covers everything from approving or denying leave requests, to tracking leave balances and submitting the appropriate documentation for family and medical leave.

Some of the types of leave you may need to manage include:

For a small team, leave administration may be as simple as having a shared scheduling tool and leaving time-off decisions up to the discretion of individual managers. But the larger the business, the more important it is to have systems and software that can handle the leave administration needs of a large workforce.

Why Effective Leave Administration Matters

Effective leave administration benefits both employers and employees. For employers, it allows your HR team to plan ahead and minimize the impact of employee absences on your business operations. For employees, it provides clarity and predictability around their available leave benefits and their eligibility to take time off work.

Here are three ways effective leave administration can benefit your team.

1. Compliance

Employers who don’t honor their employees’ leave entitlements can face strict penalties under state and federal leave laws. But knowing which laws apply to each situation, or even to full-time vs. part-time employees, can be a challenge.

For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave to eligible employees who experience a serious health condition or have an ill or injured family member. Although FMLA leave is unpaid, some states may also provide paid sick leave or paid time off to qualifying employees.

Having a standardized leave administration process can improve HR compliance and help you keep track of changes in the law.

2. Standardized Policies

Leave administration isn’t just about complying with leave laws. You’ll also want to apply your own leave policies fairly and consistently. Approving some leave requests but not others can lead to charges of favoritism and unfair treatment in the workplace.

By developing a standardized leave policy, you’ll reassure employees that they’ll have access to leave when they need it, and give them the tools to request it properly. You can also choose to offer more generous paid leave programs than you’re required to under the law, helping you attract top talent and improve employee retention.

3. Improved Scheduling and Attendance

Unexpected absences can wreak havoc on your company calendar, but by tracking leave balances and reviewing requests in a timely manner, you can plan ahead and better account for upcoming absences.

You can finalize your holiday schedule well in advance or increase staffing levels as needed. Or, if an employee is on FMLA leave, you can develop an intermittent leave schedule or reduced work schedule that meets both your needs.

By making it easier to take leave, you’ll improve overall attendance, since employees will be less likely to be burned out and request time off at the last minute.

5 Steps to Effective Leave Administration

Leave administration: woman talking to a receptionist

Although every time off request needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, develop your leave administration policies well in advance to avoid any confusion. Here are five key steps to implementing a new leave administration process at your company.

1. Research State and Federal Leave Laws

First, know which laws and regulations you need to abide by. The state you operate in, the size of your business, and how long your employees have worked for you all have an impact on which laws apply and how much leave employees are entitled to.

For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act applies to most private employers with at least 50 employees, while the Americans with Disabilities Act ( has a lower threshold of just 15 employees. Additionally, employees only become eligible for FMLA after 12 months of employment — not on their first day of work.

Train your managers on the specifics of each leave law, or use a leave management system like Pulpstream that can keep track of the rules for you.

2. Develop a Company Leave Policy

Next, create a company leave policy that outlines your leave administration guidelines. Although some details are fixed by law — such as the number of workweeks of leave available per year under FMLA — others may be up to your discretion.

How is paid time off calculated? Do you offer compensatory time instead of overtime? Can employees roll over unused leave entitlements to the next calendar year?

Describe your policies clearly and in writing so employees know what to expect when they submit a leave request, and to avoid misunderstandings.

3. Approve or Deny Leave Requests

Simple leave requests may be straightforward, but more complex cases may require additional paperwork such as a medical certification from a health care provider. Your human resources department will need to assess each request to determine if the employee is eligible for leave and how much leave they’re entitled to.

With leave management software like Pulpstream, employees can submit their own documentation using a secure, self-service portal, allowing you to digitize the leave management process and speed up approvals.

4. Track Employee Leave Balances

Nearly every type of leave — whether it’s medical leave or a sabbatical — has a time limit. Employees may accrue additional paid time off for every hour they work, or the amount of leave might be determined by law or your company's leave policy.

In some cases, you may need to track leave in surprisingly small increments, such as 15 minutes, in order to comply with FMLA regulations.

The only way to ensure that employees use leave accurately — and don’t exceed their leave entitlement — is to track their leave balance. Use a leave management tool like Pulpstream to be proactive about tracking and categorizing leave accurately.

5. Maintain a Return to Work Program

Every leave of absence comes to an end, but returning to work after an illness or injury isn’t always a simple process. Your return to work program should be as detailed and transparent as your leave of absence request process.

Employees who are recovering from a work injury may need to provide your team with a fitness-for-duty certificate or be assigned to transitional or light-duty work. You may also need to navigate the ADA interactive process or the workers’ compensation process to meet your obligations and your employee’s return-to-work needs.

Streamline Leave Administration With HR Automation

Entrepreneur using a tablet

Employee leave administration encompasses everything from the occasional sick day to an extended leave of absence request. By understanding which leave laws apply to you and creating a company leave policy in advance, you can streamline the most challenging parts of leave administration.

But from tracking the number of work days an employee has been absent, to proactively identifying FMLA leave requests, your HR team still has a lot to handle. Use Pulpstream to simplify leave administration with our cloud-based leave management system.

Our no-code tool allows you to assess eligibility using a custom rules engine, set up a self-service portal for employees to engage with, and automate key parts of the leave management process. Request a free demo today to see how it works!