Well, summer is barely visible in our rear view mirrors
and we're already flying through September. The pace
of business has increased and my small business
clients continue to be challenged daily with the
minutiae of running a company.
On March 19, 2003 America went to war with Iraq.
Much as we all hoped that it would soon
be over, most of us knew it would not and began to
plan accordingly. It affected so many of our
businesses, as men and women began to leave their
jobs to serve their country. Eighteen months and
many questions from clients later, it seemed an
opportune time to review the requirements when your
employees take "military leave."
And don't forget to do something for yourself this
month. SBANE's Dialog (see below) is a gift to
yourself that keeps
on giving every month for a year. For the savvy,
sophisticated CEO, Dialog is a "must have" on the
Marijo McCarthy, Esq.
President, Widett and McCarthy, P.C.
|What To Do When Our Employees Go To War
When our employees began to serve our country by
active duty in Iraq 18 months ago, many of my clients
experienced a new challenge — the loss of a
man or women from their small businesses to
extended military service. Naturally, for a
small company, the loss of one employee can make a
Many of you of course had questions that needed
answers back then. As we sit here months later
however, with many employees still overseas, I
continue to receive questions and "what ifs" on a
regular basis. With that in mind, I thought we might
all benefit from a refresher course on the "do-s and
don't-s" of having your employees answer to a "higher
State law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
allows any employee who is a member of a military
reserve unit to request leave to fulfill military training
that does not exceed 17 days in any one calendar
year. That employee is entitled to unpaid
leave that cannot affect his or her employment status,
seniority, pay, bonuses, vacation and sick leave,
entitlements, or other conditions of employment.
Federal law requires all employers —
regardless of size — to allow a leave of
absence to any employee who performs a military
service obligation in the uniformed armed services and
to reemploy that employee upon completion of his or
her service. Under Federal law, the extent of the
employer's obligation and the benefits to the employee
differ depending upon the length of the employee's
In general however, the following will apply:
- An employee may elect to use any
paid vacation while on leave but cannot be required to
- An employee on military leave is entitled
receive, and is obligated to pay for, any rights or
benefits that an employer provides to employees on
leaves of absence or furlough.
- An employee is entitled to reemployment
the conclusion of the leave if the employee gives
advance notice of the need for the leave to the
employer and if the employee follows the
reemployment application procedures, which differ
depending upon the length of the leave.
- An employee is not entitled to
reemployment if the absence from work because of
military service, combined with absences due to any
other periods of military service, cumulatively exceed
OK, those are the rules, but what does it mean for the
time-constrained small business employer? Here
are my thoughts and recommendations:
Review and understand the law and create a
written policy in your company for all employee
leaves which are regulated by law.
Don't try to re-invent the wheel. There are
"sample" leave policies for almost every kind of
employee leave. Contact your advisors and work with
Be consistent. Apply your employee policies
consistently and fairly. It's hard to get in trouble when
you follow the rules and treat all employees equitably.
Close the pay gap if you can. Although
military leaves may be "paid" by your employee's new
temporary boss, the U.S. military, the pay is rarely
equivalent to what that employee has been paid in the
private sector. And since unlike many other leaves
(maternity for example), military leave is not the
employee's choice, he or she may be
leaving behind a spouse and family who are
particularly vulnerable to less pay and the loss of their
In the long run, you'll be
your business (and country) a service by closing the
pay gap to whatever extent you are financially able
(it probably can't go on indefinitely, and you
consider that when you adopt your policy).
Remember those who stay behind. The loss
of an employee to military leave (again, unlike to
maternity leave which is joyful and celebratory) leaves
the remaining employees concerned and morale can
Talk to the remaining
about covering that employee's duties temporarily and
reward them in some small way for doing their bit.
One of my clients in this situation gave his employees
a "Brigham's sundae party" once a month and invited
the employee's family to join them, just to keep
everyone in touch.
Military leave is a challenging time for all concerned.
With proper planning and careful execution however,
you have the opportunity to make the best of a
|Things We Like. . .
For more than 30 years, the Smaller Business
Association of New England (SBANE) has offered
member-CEOs a confidential, peer-to-peer, facilitated
forum to meet and exchange views with other business
It's called the SBANE Dialog
Program and is based upon the premise that,
"it's lonely at the top." No one
understands the challenges facing small business CEOs
better than other small business CEOs.
SBANE's Dialog will enhance your company's
- Testing new business ideas and concepts
- Exploring how your marketing plan could
- Developing new ways to manage key
- Maximizing business opportunities by
other ideas and perspectives
- Gaining an impartial and objective
- Giving you access to the expertise of
with different skills and experiences
Visit www.SBANE.org (Upcoming
Events) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and sign up
today! But act now — registration ends
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