Question:
An employee is on a six-week unpaid leave of absence to prepare for an exam. During her leave, the business has undergone several changes and her previous role no longer exists. We do have a different position for her upon her return, but we’re not sure how to address that with her. Are there specific considerations we must keep in mind in explaining the changes or offering her this different position?

Answer from Ophelia, SPHR, GPHR, SHRM-SCP:

While some leaves are protected by law—the Family and Medical Leave Act, for example—there is no law that requires an employer to provide job restoration after a personal leave of absence. However, whether you should provide job restoration will depend on what was communicated to the employee when she took her leave, as well as what your internal policies indicate. If you have a personal leave of absence policy, you should review it—ideally that policy indicates that you have discretion about how to deal with employees upon return. If promises were made to the employee, you’ll want to keep those as best you can.

Be as transparent as you can about the need for the reorganization, and once you’ve presented her with her options (new positions or no position), I recommend giving her a few days to consider whether she’d like to accept the new role.

Ophelia has held HR roles in the financial services, healthcare, IT, real estate, and telecommunications industries. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree with a concentration in Human Resources from Willamette University. A member of SHRM since 2008, Ophelia currently serves as the Director of College Relations for a regional Human Resources Management Association.

Questions?
Vital Signs Insurance Services, Inc.
PO Box 6360
Folsom, CA 95630
Phone: (916) 496-8750
Email: info@vitalsignsinsurance.com
Fax: (916) 496-8754

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