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Medical leave and employee privacy

Employee medical leave can be a tricky topic to tackle for small business owners. Add the subject of employee privacy into the mix, and it can turn into a headache if you don’t know the right way to go about it while also following employment laws concerning time off.

Our expert HR advisor, Carol Wood, answered a few important questions about medical leave and employee privacy so you can better understand the ins and outs of how to respond when an employee needs to take time off for personal reasons.

Does HR need to tell a manager the reason for an employee’s medical leave?

No. With medical leaves of absence, I do not disclose the health information to a manager. I will send the manager the dates of the leaves of absence as soon as I am aware. Otherwise, I keep the health information in a separate file.

Do employees need to tell managers the reason for my medical leave?

 No. It is up to the employee if they want to share  private health information directly with their manager.

Who at work needs to know about medical leave?

If an employee need to take a medical leave of absence from work, they should inform the company’s HR department. They can also let them know if they’d like the reason for the leave to remain private. The HR department should then help the employees figure out the next steps.

How do I know if I have to offer medical leave?

Some states require employers to offer some form of medical leave. Start by checking your state’s labor law guide, provided by Homebase. 

When should employees notify managers about medical conditions?

 If an employee needs a special work accommodation because of a disability, most likely, a manager will find out. She’ll be part of the team as the company decides what reasonable accommodations they can make.

 Some accommodations don’t need to involve any managers. For example, a larger computer screen for a vision-impaired employee or more space around a desk for an employee with an anxiety disorder.

Other accommodations do require a manager’s input. If an employee needs to work from home, for example. Or if they need more days off in a year than a time-off policy allows and there isn’t a leave of absence policy. In those situations, your HR representative may need to work with the managers to figure out what to do so no unpaid time off needs to be taken. 

If you need even more help with HR and compliance issues, Homebase offers access to expert HR advisors who can help you craft policies and adhere to them properly. Get started by signing up for Homebase for free!

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