Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms
The military leave policy is a leave of absence from work granted to employees who participate in certain active or inactive duties in the United States military, including the National Guard and Reserve of the Armed Forces. Employees who leave a civilian job for voluntary or involuntary military service are legally guaranteed the right to be reinstated in their former position upon returning from duty. Reinstatement includes a comparable position, compensation, and benefits.
In order to qualify for military leave from work, the employee must offer advanced notice, written or verbal, of the upcoming military service or training. Additionally, the employee’s cumulative military leave cannot exceed five years, and he or she must be discharged honorably from military service.
Military leave from work may be necessary if an employee attends weekend or annual National Guard or Reserves trainings, or if they are called to service or placed on active duty. This leave may range from a few days to weeks to a year or more—again, not to exceed five years in total.
Federal military leave policy does not require employers to pay employees while they are on military leave. Military leave is unpaid. However, employers are required to reserve a position for the employee and to restore payment, benefits, and applicable seniority upon the employee’s return from a military leave of absence. For example, an employee who goes on military leave from work for one year must be reinstated when she returns and offered any pay raises given to peers at a comparable level of seniority while she was gone.
While military leave is unpaid, military leave policy stipulates that if an employee works any part of a week at the civilian employment, he or she qualifies for the salary for the entire week. For example, if an employee works two days in a week and then is called to active duty, the employee will be compensated for the remainder of that week.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) grants military service members the right to take a leave for military service and then to return to their previous jobs. The USERRA was passed as an attempt to remove obstacles to military service and minimize disadvantages servicemembers face after returning from military leave of absence. The law ensures that those who serve their country can seek employment without discrimination for their service, including the right to return to their civilian employment, accrued seniority, and benefits.
When military members return from their approved military leave of absence, they qualify to return to their previous civilian employment if they wish to. When military service members return to work at a previous position, the employer must welcome them home without any discrimination or retaliation based on the military leave of absence. Military leave policy dictates that returning service members are to immediately receive reinstated benefits, including retirement, paid time off, and health insurance.
Their time away must also count toward any promotions, raises, or increases in benefits as if they hadn’t left. If an employee qualified for a change of position, the employer may offer training to help the returning employee prepare to take on the new role.
In order to return to their previous civilian employment, military service members who served fewer than 31 days must begin work on the first workday after their release. For service that lasted between 31 and 180 days, returning employees must contact their employer and reapply for employment within 14 days after completing their military service. If an individual took a military leave of absence longer than 180 days, the employee has 90 days after the service concludes to apply for reinstatement.
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