Do You Have to Pay Employees for Military Leave?
If an employee of your company is part of the military, you should be proud of their bravery and patriotism.
At the same time, if this person is taking military leave, you must understand your legal rights as a small business owner and be sure to follow any laws that are set in place for your military employee.
The most important thing you can do is become familiar with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
As far as pay goes, public employers are required to pay military personnel while on duty. Or, at the very least, the difference between military pay and public employment pay.
While not required by law, many private employers choose to pay employees out of respect for their decision to serve and protect their country.
According to the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, the USERRA is designed to protect people who serve or have served in the Armed Forces, Reserve, National Guard, or other uniformed Services in three ways:
- Ensure they are not disadvantaged in their career because of their service
- Ensure they are promptly reemployed in their civilian job upon returning from duty
- Ensure they are not discriminated against based on past, current, or future military service
In addition to the USERRA, employers and employees should consult their state government for guidelines that apply to military pay and employment.
Help for Employers
It’s not uncommon for your company to go through a transition period after losing an employee, such as to military leave. Fortunately, the federal government recognizes the potential impact of a military deployment on small businesses, which is why it has created a loan program to bridge the gap.
Here’s some additional information from the U.S. Small Business Administration:
“The purpose of the Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (MREIDL) is to provide funds to eligible small businesses to meet its ordinary and necessary operating expenses that it could have met, but is unable to meet, because an essential employee was "called-up" to active duty in their role as a military reservist.”
The Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan program isn’t the right solution for every small business, but it’s worth your consideration if you lose an employee (or employees) to military leave.
If your company is facing this situation, learn more about your legal rights as an employer and the laws governing military leave. This allows you to do what’s best for you and your employee.
Another great resource is this article from SHRM about military leave and military family leave.