Employees who are members of the military reserves may be called into active duty should the need arise. Nearly all employers are bound by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) to provide reemployment, as well as additional benefits to employees who perform military service as a member of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard, and Public Health Service commissioned corps (including the reserve components of each of these services).
Other details outlined in USERRA include health benefits plus continuation of seniority and benefits such as pensions, which are treated as if there was no break in the continuity of the employment. You are not required to pay an employee while he or she is serving in the military, but such full-time employees who are in the military are entitled to 15 days of military leave annually, with pay, to perform active duty, training, or other responsibilities. More information on USERRA can be found at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel Web site.
It is also to your advantage to create a written policy regarding military leave. This can be either a few pages or a detailed handbook. In either case, such a written policy should outline the rights of the employee and the commitment of your business. Such a written policy not only apprises employees of how military leave will be handled, but also serves as a reminder to department heads and to your personnel director or administrator.
During a time of military leave you will want to inform coworkers and show support for the individual, particularly in times of war. Surveys of companies with employees leaving for military service in recent years have shown that while not required, a significant number of companies have provided employees serving in the military with the difference between their employee pay and their military pay. Additionally, some large corporations are picking up the tab on their medical benefits as well rather than having them pay through COBRA. Of course, smaller businesses are typically not in the financial position to provide such pay and benefits. However, setting up some kind of monetary compensation for the employee and/or his or her family can be a very strong show of support and boost morale within your business. For the employee who is stationed overseas, you might consider encouraging your staff to send cards, letters, or gift items, particularly during the holiday season.
From a practical, day-to-day perspective, job-related tasks should be handled by other employees or temporary help if necessary. Not unlike with an employee on disability, pregnancy, or family leave, the responsibilities of the job need to be dealt with while the person is away from the office with the understanding that he or she will return to their position following their tour of duty.