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Planning for Military Leave for Employees in the Reserve and National Guard

If you have an employee who is a member of the Reserve or National Guard, at some point in time he or she will take military leave from work for military training, mobilization, or deployment. We strongly recommend creating a company policy regarding military leaves. This type of policy will give managers and employees guidelines within which they may operate. Here are some tips to help you consider how to proceed during this time.

Prior to Military Leave

  • If one does not already exist, create a company policy and procedures manual regarding military leave. See an example of a military leave policy used within a federal agency in one of our handouts, Example of a Military Leave Policy.
  • Understand your rights and responsibilities as they relate to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Check with your Human Resource department, contact the Employers Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR;*) for consultation, or see our Resources section for USERRA training courses.
  • Establish a relationship with the Employers Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). The ESGR has a multitude of resources to help you and your employee navigate mobilizations and deployments successfully.
  • Anticipate potential mobilizations and deployments. It may be easier to create a plan of action in advance for what will occur if your employee is mobilized or deployed. You may want to consider the following in your planning:
  • What tasks is your employee responsible for? Do others know how to complete these tasks in the event of an absence? Does training need to occur for others to be able to fulfill these tasks?
  • How will your employee notify you of an upcoming leave for training, mobilization, or deployment? Do you have a preferred method of contact? Who should they contact?
  • Be realistic about the time frame to expect; your employee may not be given much notice (e.g., mobilization to aid after a natural disaster).
  • Have management and Human Resource professionals meet with employees in the Reserve and National Guard and ask, "How can we support you?" Through discussion with employees, your company may be able to better define policies and procedures for working with members of the Reserve and National Guard.

During Military Leave

  • Keep your Reserve and National Guard employees "in the loop" with what is going on at work. Information to share might include positive changes in the workplace (e.g., new projects or hires) and social information (e.g., a coworker had a baby, a new walking group started). You can do this with monthly letters and occasional e-mails. You will want to wait until an employee returns to work to update him or her on new practices or rules. Keep coworkers up to date by posting emails from Reserve and National Guard employees who report how they are faring during deployment. You may want to ask your employee's permission before sharing correspondence with coworkers.
  • If you choose to engage in other supportive efforts (e.g., letters, care packages), include coworkers.
  • Acknowledge and give recognition to coworkers who have assumed added responsibilities in the absence of the Reserve or National Guard employee.

After Military Leave

  • Have your Reserve or National Guard employee meet with managers or supervisors and Human Resource staff before returning to work.
  • Discuss what the employee can expect (e.g., what tasks have been delegated to others, if he or she will be working in the same or a different role, if and how procedures have changed).
  • Discuss what the employee would like or find helpful in returning to work (e.g., written instructions for new procedures, additional meetings with management to get caught up on what he or she has missed).
  • Discuss how the employee would like to be treated in regard to their deployment (e.g., would they prefer not to discuss it, would they like to share what they did while they were away).
  • Determine what training, re-training, or accommodations need to be put into place.
  • Develop individualized reintegration plans as appropriate.
  • Support a gradual re-entry process or flexible work arrangements if needed.
  • If your employee appears to be having difficulty readjusting to work, consider referring them to your company's EAP for a confidential assessment, support, and outside referral if needed.