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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



Tips for Small Businesses

Leave Policy Tips

  • Explain the circumstances under which leave is available, the eligibility requirements for leave, the procedures for requesting leave and the respective responsibilities of the business and the employee during and after the leave period.
  • Clarify that you will provide leave to employees who need it for medical or religious reasons, as required by law.
    • You may be required to provide medical or religious leave even if you do not have a leave policy, the employee requesting leave has not earned enough leave, or the employee has exhausted her leave:
      • You are required to provide employees with leave for medical reasons related to a disability (to attend a doctor's appointment or to recover from surgery, for example) unless it would be significantly difficult or expensive for your business.
      • You are required to provide employees with leave for religious reasons (to attend religious services or to observe a religious holiday, for example) unless it would require more than minimal cost or burden for your business.
  • Consider recommending that a manager meet with the employee requesting leave and the employee's manager if necessary to clarify the leave request or to solicit other relevant information.
    • For example, it may be helpful to discuss the employee's current workload, upcoming deadlines and temporary transfer of responsibilities.
  • Require managers to respond promptly to leave requests.
    • If a prompt response is not possible, consider periodically updating the employee on the status of his request.
  • To prevent misunderstandings, consider recommending that decisions to modify or deny leave requests be explained to the employee.
  • Require that managers keep genetic information or medical information received as a result of a leave request confidential and in a separate medical file.

These tips are based on federal employment discrimination laws. Other laws, such as workers' compensation laws and family and medical leave laws, may also apply to your business. Federal, state and local government websites may have information about these laws.

See also:

I need to deny or propose an alternative to an employee's leave request

Example - Alternatives to Granting Leave

Example - Denying a Leave Request

What should I do if an applicant or employee asks for breaks, leave or other changes to a work situation because of his medical condition or his religious beliefs?

General Non-Discrimination Policy Tips

Harassment Policy Tips

Reasonable Accommodation Policy Tips