How to Answer Paycheck-Related Leave of Absence Questions Without Stressing Out Your Employees

Dawn Burke Benefits Communication, Financial Guidance

Talking about money with employees is always tricky, but things can get even trickier when they’re facing (or already knee-deep in) a leave of absence.

The last thing an employee spending weeks caring for a sick loved one or having a child wants to untangle is how generously they’ll get paid by their employer (and when/how they’ll be paid) when they’re out. The more clearly you lay out what to expect when going on leave, the more relieved and grateful they’ll feel, and the less time you’ll spend repeating or clarifying things that were omitted or lost in translation.

Here are a few ideas to help you get it right the first time:

#1. Create company-specific collateral for every type of leave

Most vendors can’t give employees a personalized overview of how much they’ll be paid during leave because compensation is usually covered by multiple parties: maybe one vendor covers short-term disability, another vendor covers long-term disability, and your company covers paid maternity leave, for example.

While you could share each vendor’s information separately, that information is usually so hard to decipher and general in scope, it’s likely to make things more complicated. A much better option: creating content unique to your company for your most prevalent leave types with the help of internal communications staff or freelance talent. It should reflect your company’s particular policies, offer links to other resources, and be written in plain English instead of insurance gobbledygook.

#2. Explain employees’ payment schedule with a clear visual timeline

Creating helpful graphics to explain all this complicated info at a glance involves a little extra elbow grease and someone with art skills. But hoo boy is it worth it.

In fact, one of the most useful pieces of leave information you can give your employees is a simple visual timeline that shows when various benefits kick in, how long they last, and what percentage of their usual pay an employee can expect to get during their leave.

Here’s how that might look, for an employee at a company we’ll call Placeholder Industries:

You could also go one step further and work with payroll to add exact dates unique to every employee’s leave period to your calendar graphics. That way, employees won’t have to calculate when, say, “Week 4” actually is. They’ll be able to track the progress of their leave based on actual paycheck dates, which leaves less room for mix-ups.

#3. Prep for every conversation, even if you’ve had it a hundred times

Even if the printed or visual content you share is really useful, some employees will still ask to chat with you on the phone or face-to-face. In those cases, do yourself (and the employee) a solid: Before you talk, take at least five minutes to review the employee’s unique situation and jot down some notes in advance. Double-check the accuracy of any information you’re not 100% sure about. I’ve been in HR for twenty years, and unless I have some sort of script to lean on to help explain the process, I turn into a sweaty mess when I wing it. Your employees will trust what you say more than anything else you share, so make sure to bring your A-game.