How (and When) to Contact Employees on Leave

3 Questions to Ask Before Contacting Employees on Leave

Employees take leave for a variety of reasons and durations. Whether to welcome a new family member or to care for a sick relative, employee leave is a valued (and often legally required) benefit to offer. It’s also fairly common, especially given the landscape of the pandemic.

No matter the situation surrounding their extended period of time off, knowing how to communicate with employees on leave is crucial. How often should you reach out? Should you bring up work? What if they don’t want any type of communication during their absence?

If you have an employee on leave and are wondering if you should reach out (and how), use the following questions to map out the appropriate protocol.


Why Is the Employee on Leave?

Why is your employee on leave? Knowing the type of leave of absence they’ve taken can help you know if it’s appropriate to reach out or not.

For example, if an employee has taken a bereavement leave, they’re dealing with the passing of someone close, often an immediate family member. Because they’re likely managing funeral arrangements, informing relatives, and tackling the miscellaneous paperwork and tasks that come with a close loss, a phone call might be inappropriate. Instead, send a card or flowers expressing condolences without mentioning work.

On the other hand, an employee on a passion-inspired sabbatical, a fringe benefit offered by about 20 percent of employers, might welcome the occasional check-in or update from their employer.

An employee on maternity or paternity leave will likely appreciate well wishes but is unlikely to welcome routine check-ins as they deal with hectic feeding schedules and sleepless nights.

An employee on medical leave, either for themselves or an immediate family member, should be allowed to focus on their new health routine without unnecessary interruptions, though an occasional check-in to boost their spirits may be well received.


Are Nerves the Motivation Behind Contact?

Is the employee on leave one of your top performers? Are you worried they won’t return after their leave has expired? If you’re reaching out solely due to nerves, keep these tips in mind.

  • Keep phone calls short and light-hearted. If appropriate, reach out to employees once every few weeks. Discuss casual subjects and avoid talking about work. Let them know you’re thinking of them, wishing them well, and looking forward to seeing them in the office again one day.
  • Respectfully confirm their return date. As an employee’s leave approaches the end, send a letter confirming their anticipated return date. This is the best way to get confirmation while also updating the employee on any changes, like new business processes, that may help make their transition back into the office easier.
  • Never harass an employee. While employees love to feel appreciated, being interrogated about their intent to return to work may be off-putting and could in fact push them further away rather than provide you peace of mind.


Is Communication Legally Required?

There’s no rule saying you must stay in touch with an employee on leave. In some situations, an employee may prefer not to be contacted at all. If this is the case, it’s recommended to respect their wishes and wait until they return to catch-up or inform them of any policy changes.

However, there are a few situations that would require you to send information by law. These include:

  • Open enrollment
  • Needing updated driver’s license or identification information
  • I-9 employment eligibility verification forms

Protocol Varies When Contacting Employees on Leave

Before reaching out to employees on leave, make sure you:

  • Know why they’re on leave as different scenarios require different approaches
  • Avoid expressing concerns about their return, especially when their leave is protected by law
  • Ensure any legally required communication is properly executed

By taking time to learn about an employee’s leave and reaching out only as preferred or legally required, you can ensure that communication expectations for both parties will be met. This will provide for a smoother and happier reunion when the time comes.


If you do not have an HR partner, Tandem HR is happy to help.
Give us a call today at 630-928-0510.