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As organizations continue to navigate the evolving landscape of remote work, the anticipated increases in employee leave requests have become a prominent topic of discussion. During these unprecedented times, companies struggle to strike a balance that leaves them financially in the black while meeting their employees’ needs.

The surge in work-from-home and hybrid work schedules, driven by the recent global pandemic, has led to a significant shift in workplace dynamics. This could be a source of frustration for employers who assumed that their standard operating procedures would revert back to normal when the pandemic ended. Many companies are unsure how far they need to alter their regular practices to remain current with the changing times.

Based on the 2023 Employee Leave of Absence Forecast Survey by leading leave and accommodation management platform AbsenceSoft, human resource leaders have recently seen substantial increases in employee leave requests. In 2022, they jumped between 20 and 40% and are expected to increase again by up to 60% in 2023.

Why Is This an Issue?

According to researchers, even with the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), the U.S. is unfortunately among the few countries that do not guarantee paid sick leave or family and medical leave for employees. Although FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year, that leaves many workers and their families unprotected in their most significant times of need.

To further exacerbate the problem, many employers are exempt from FMLA due to the size of their business and the number of full-time workers they employ.

Since states can make their own medical leave rules, many are adopting far more generous regulations than the federal requirements given by FMLA. In fact, a number of states have created leave programs that guarantee paid time off to family caregivers and working parents.

However, this still leaves access to PTO at the employers’ discretion for most employees.

Reasons for Increases to Employee Leave Requests 

As businesses seek to predict and accommodate these scheduling changes, it is helpful to understand what is driving them. The three main contributors to these leave request increases are related to the following:

  • Personal illness
  • Mental health concerns and burnout
  • Care for family members

Although flexibility with work schedules was initially seen as a necessary accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become an essential employee benefit.

Why This Trend Is Likely to Continue

The ability to successfully navigate a balance between their workalike and home life has become a greater priority for many employees. In fact, it can significantly influence how long someone will remain with the company. The more they feel their individual needs are being met by their employers, the more likely they will experience a sense of loyalty to the company.

Therefore, it’s no wonder that many companies are introducing more paid time off in their 2023 benefits packages. This not only helps to retain current employees, but it also goes a long way to attracting potential new hires.

Navigating the Future

Over the past two years, retaining staff and recruiting new talent remains an ongoing issue for many companies, but managing staff time off has been by far one of the most difficult aspects of running a business. Calculating employee eligibility and ensuring compliance with a variety of laws, as well as company policies are two of the primary difficulties, making employee leave management one of the most challenging tasks for businesses. 

Plus, many corporate leaders have found it hard to effectively manage their employees’ absences. Some are still relying on outdated methods, like spreadsheets, calendar reminders, and sticky notes. This archaic approach has proven to be inefficient leaving 44% of HR professionals stating that their organization is only marginally or not at all effective at the task.

Unfortunately, many businesses are unprepared to counter the potential legal action that may result as a consequence of mismanaging employee leaves. Adopting administrative software that performs the duties related to managing employee leave can simplify the process while ensuring accuracy and compliance. Thereby, relieving the associated tension between HR leaders and employees.

In Conclusion…

As employee leave requests from concerns such as burnout, illness, mental health issues, and caregiving responsibilities increase, organizations must continue to address them. They can do this by promoting employee well-being, providing flexible policies, and fostering open communication to mitigate the impact of increased leave use. 

By recognizing and addressing these unique stressors, organizations can more effectively support their employees and maintain a healthy work-life balance in the remote work environment.

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