Managing Unscheduled Leave:

Can we get to the bottom line first?

OK. The bottom line is that we serve patients not employees and our people must be on duty when we need them. Those needs are determined by our patients. Managers must use all necessary tools to ensure that adequate staff are on duty and are fit for duty so that the patient needs are met. The rest of this document describes the tools available for leave management. At the end of the document there is a link to an exam so that you can get credit for the exercise.

Unscheduled leave has been identified as the number one opportunity to improve attendance at MCL. One might think that this is a lost cause—after all what can you do if people call in? Well, you can do something about it.


But first two ideas:

Good idea: Follow all of the rules and use all of the tools all of the time for everybody.



Bad Idea: Try to apply the some of the rules or some of tools only in special cases.M


Rules for calling in:

Employee's must call in and must speak to their supervisor in order to get approval for unscheduled leave. We can't accept a third party call and we can't accept messages. If they can't talk to you personally, they'd better be able to prove that they were physically unable to speak to you or get to a phone. If your unit has a fixed 8hr schedule they also must call in within 30 minutes of the start of the shift. If they call in, but beyond 30 minutes they are too late and the request is to be denied. If your unit is operational for more than 8 hrs— like most patient care units are 24/7— they must phone in two hours before the shift is to start. They must also call back and talk to you. This is when you have an opportunity to ask questions, review the leave history and indicate the conditions under which you might approve leave. You specify what documentation will be required and you can coach the employee on how to minimize the leave usage. You might approve a half-day to handle an emergency and require the employee to report later in the day.

The rules here are pretty clear, the employee calls, on -time and they must speak to you. If they call too late or don't speak to you... it's tool time.

Management tools:

The first tool here is a simple one. If they don't follow the call-in rules the leave is denied and the absence is recorded as "unauthorized leave without pay". That means they don't get paid and the incident is subject to disciplinary action.

 Do you approve?

Even if they followed the call in procedure, the policy says that approval is up to your discretion, which means that it's up to you. You need to consider the reason for the request. Is it a good reason? Can the reason be documented?

What's proof?

Your car is broke down? Can you bring the mechanic's bill?

Your child is sick? Can you bring a note from the pediatrician?

The fact is that you don't have to approve but you may approve. Get it? If you do approve, the absence must be covered by annual or compensatory time. If you deny approval, you enter the leave as unauthorized leave without pay.


Rules & tools for weekends and holidays:

In addition to the rules described above, there are extra rules for weekends and holidays. If the employee does not receive your approval for absence on a weekend or holiday they will get unauthorized leave without pay and they are subject to disciplinary action. They may be required to make up the time on the next or future weekend or holiday. So if a person is unapproved and absent, on say Labor Day, not only do they get docked, but you may also schedule them to make up the absence on either Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years. This is another tool.

Annual leave and compensatory leave approval: Did you know that the time and attendance policy specifically allows denial of requests for annual leave and compensatory leave based on the employee's leave record, job performance and seniority? This means that if the employee has a bad attendance record you should deny approval of annual and compensatory leave. Sounds like a great management tool.

Check out the standards here!


Managing Sick Leave: Sick leave is to be used when an employee is ill and they can't perform their usual duties or when an employee has a doctor, dental or optical appointment. A manager may request a physician's note before approval of leave in any circumstance, but notes are absolutely required in the following circumstances:

 When three or more consecutive days are requested Not only is a note required but there are other rules in this instance. The employee must phone in and discuss the estimated date of return with the supervisor. Then, if the employee does not return by the estimated date, a new doctor's note and new estimated date must be provided.
For medical appointments of more than four hours If an employee asks for six hours off for a dental appointment you must require a note to document the special need.
For illness on days for which leave had been requested and denied. This is how the game works: Someone wants a day off, but the schedule won't allow it and you deny the leave. Then, when the employee calls in sick, you tell them to bring a doctor's note. Simple!
For requests either before or after any scheduled day off — weekend, leave day or holiday. For these instances there is a two-event limit per rolling year. That means, if it happens once in December and happens again in March, the employee has to bring a note on all future events through the next December. Click here to find out how to check out your employees.
For requests which exceed the quantity of sick leave earned during the calendar year. If an employee earns twelve days per year but uses twelve days between January and September, they have to bring a note for all requests for the remainder of the year.


When is the physician note due?

It is due immediately on return to duty. No note ... no sick leave approval. Charge them with unauthorized leave without pay and check the rules on disciplinary action.

& Click here for the disciplinary action rules.

Is the physician's note valid?

A note's validity may be checked by the manager by direct contact with the physician to verify that the information is correct. If you find any discrepancies, consult with Human Resources (HR) for help. Work through your unit's personnel expert.

( Call us! The hospital may require that the employee is seen by a physician of the Hospital's choice in order to get a second opinion. Again you should partner with HR with these instances. Work through your unit's personnel expert.

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Family medical leave is intended to cover serious illness or illness in a spouse, parent or child. There is a twelve-week limit on family medical leave. The employee must have earned leave, in order to use the leave. Employees that don't have leave or who are not eligible for FMLA leave may request leave or leave without pay as allowed by policy. Again, work through your unit's personnel experts.

Maternity Leave:

For a normal delivery employees may request up to six weeks of sick (if they have sick leave). If they don't have enough sick leave, they may be granted authorized leave without pay. The law allows for up to four months of leave in cases of pregnancy or delivery with complications.

How much is too much leave?

Leave may be granted up to the standards detailed below and your employee's records are just a few clicks away in the Transaction Processing System (TPS) (click here for more information). The TPS has built in reports that will let you review leave history for calendar year or rolling year. Use the reports to check your employee's usage before you approve annual leave.


Beyond those limits, leave is to be denied unless the supervisor or manager can document extraordinary circumstances. Decisions to grant more leave than allowed by the guidelines must be documented in writing and placed in the employee's personnel file at the department level.

Can you approved leave to exceed the standard? Click here to find out.

Years of Service

Total days earned per year (sick + annual)

Absenteeism Standard

(Annual +Sick + O

+suspensions without pay)



















Over 15





It is worth repeating:

The bottom line is that we serve patients not employees and our people must be on duty when we need them. The needs are determined by our patients. Managers must use all necessary tools to ensure that adequate staff are on duty and are fit for duty so that the patient needs are met.

You have the tools, now use them.


Back to the regular guy home page.

Now take the test here.