Disability leave is planned or unplanned time off from work for employees to cope with an illness, injury, or impairment that inhibits at least one of their essential life activities.

The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) mandates that employers accommodate employees eligible for disability by affording them the necessary benefits and work adjustments. The FMLA also enables eligible employees to take medical leave for a disability. Depending on the case, employees could benefit from both the ADA and the FMLA. Personnel can receive disability insurance, or if injured at work, workers’ compensation

U.K law obligates employers to make “reasonable adjustments” that accommodate employees with disabilities. The U.K. also enacted the Equality Act 2010 to protect disabled employees from discrimination.

Why should HR leaders care about disability leave?

Disability leave encourages fair treatment of disabled employees. HR leaders are pivotal players in ensuring that employees receive disability leave and workplace accommodation and accessibility. By adhering to disability laws, HR professionals can: 

  • Support employee wellbeing
  • Maintain an empathetic relationship with personnel
  • Boost engagement, loyalty, retention, morale
  • Avoid lawsuits

What can HR leaders do to implement a beneficial disability leave?

To promote effective implementation of disability leave, HR leaders can:

  • Collaborate with disability managers. To avoid letting disabled employees fall through the cracks, HR professionals and disability managers can join forces to provide a full-proof, comprehensive support system for disabled employees. 
  • Prepare by learning the laws. Disability law is complex to navigate through. HR professionals can familiarize themselves with the relevant information such as the ADA’s employer guide or the CIPD’s summary of disability practices for U.K. employers.
  • Include a disability protocol in the employee handbook. Outline the procedure for short and long-term disability, pay eligibility, leave requests, medical authorization, and waiting period. Include the correct forms and updated information. If a situation is unclear, enlist the help of an employment lawyer so the company follows the laws. 
  • Keep track of absences and injuries. High levels of absenteeism rate reflect poor morale and add to company costs. Find out if the employee had a workplace injury, how it happened, and how to prevent future injuries. Perhaps with the necessary adjustments, the employee can continue working instead of taking leave. Stay on top of paperwork related to absences and leaves, such as doctors’ notes and ADA paperwork, to ensure that every step of the way has documentation. 
  • Prioritize wellbeing. According to the CDC, one in four Americans has a disability. To support those with disabilities while minimizing the risk of others becoming disabled, HR professionals must comply with workplace safety and integrate a user-friendly system for employees to report unsafe practices and threats to employee wellbeing. 

How can the implementation of disability leave improve company culture?

Disability leave can provide the assistance that employees need under pressing circumstances. Accommodating disabled employees exhibits a company’s goodwill to its most valuable assets: its people. In turn, reasonable disability leave policies can infuse empathy and humanity into the workplace, nurturing a supportive, accommodating, and appealing culture.