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Ask Anne: Why Employees Leave

Ask Anne: Why Employees Leave

I’ve received several letters about the challenges you have with intermittent Family Medical Leave Act compliance. According to a recent Society of Human Resource Management study, 35 percent of employers said tracking intermittent FMLA leave was either “difficult” or “extremely difficult.” During my reading on the subject, I ran across a helpful checklist of best practices for dealing with intermittent FMLA by Teresa Burke Wright, an employment attorney with Jackson Lewis LLP:


  1. Dock pay when necessary. When you have a staffer using paid time off during the intermittent FMLA time, make you’re making the correct deductions to their PTO. If they don’t have PTO left, you, the employer, might be able to “dock” the staffer’s pay, even if they’re salaried exempt folks.
  2. Enforce call-in policies. Make them call in. The courts say it’s good to have standard call-in procedures, and it’s OK to make the intermittent FMLA users use them. We need advance notice of absences whenever possible, so make sure to put that in the policy. Be consistent when writing — and especially when enforcing — your call-in policy.
  3. Explore transfer options. It’s OK to change someone to a different job if it works better for their leave, but you shouldn’t do it unless the leave is for purposes of planned medical treatment. Oh, and remember, you cannot do this for intermittent leave that’s not planned. This can be tricky: the duties of the new job can be different, but the pay and benefits of the position must be the same. When the person returns, they must be restored to their original job too, but not until their FMLA benefits run out.
  4. Recertify regularly. Example: Your employee’s doctor estimated your employee would be out about twice every month for two to three days. The absences turned out to be more frequent and longer. Did you know you can recertify on the grounds the absences mark a “significant change in circumstances?” This is great news!
  5. Remember fitness-for-duty certifications. If you have genuine concerns about a staffer’s ability to safely do their job after returning to work, you may want to require a fitness of duty certification. Of course, you can only require this if you feel the staffer’s safety is at risk specifically because of the condition that required the FMLA. While this can’t be done after each absence, it can be done regularly, about every 30 days or so.




I’m the HR director of a mid-size company that has terrible turnover. During the summer, the work entails manual labor in the heat, and we have trouble retaining new hires — some quit before they’ve even been with us two weeks! The pay is just average, but everyone gets 40-plus hours a week. What can we do to keep people from leaving?


Retention is an ongoing challenge in all types of industries, not just yours.  You do have a few obstacles, like the heat and overtime, that others don’t have to overcome, but let’s look at this through a broader scope.

The Harvard Business Review recently conducted a survey addressing the following: What’s the one factor that most affects how engaged, satisfied, and committed employees are?

The results confirmed what I’ve mentioned before in this column: the biggest factor is the workers’ immediate supervisor. It went on to say that there’s a strong correlation between an effective manager and engaged employees. In other words, the best leaders have committed, happy, and engaged staff members, which helps keep retention high.

But people will leave! And it’s not always for money. Consider these top 10 reasons people abandon jobs:


  • Lack of recognition
  • Lack of respect from supervisor
  • Lack of training
  • Money
  • Bad work hours
  • Favoritism by supervisor
  • Lack of leadership from supervisor
  • Bad employee relations by supervisor
  • Unavoidable reasons
  • Limited career opportunities

Managers play a crucial role in the success or failure of their staff. I think it’s our job as leaders to guide and train our supervisors to give our ROBS (recognition, opportunity, belonging, and security) to our employees, no matter what the temperature is. Good luck!


Anne Williams is not an attorney. All content in this column is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality and is not to be construed as legal advice.



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