How to talk to your employer about getting surgery

talk to my boss about time off for surgery

Taking weeks off for surgery is not quite the same as missing a couple hours of work for a doctor’s appointment. Even when your employer offers surgery through Carrum Health as a benefit, talking to them about taking time off for surgery is not always easy. Keep reading to learn tips on maintaining a healthy relationship with your boss and co-workers, know your rights when it comes to taking medical leave, and make coming back to work after recovery an easy transition.

How do I talk to my boss about taking time off work for surgery?

Whether you are taking time off for a non-elective procedure like cardiac surgery or an elective procedure like weight loss surgery, keeping an open line of communication with your boss is crucial to a successful transition. Here are some tips for talking to your boss about taking time off for surgery:

  • Have a conversation with your boss as soon as possible — waiting until the last minute will not go over well. Advance notice will give your employer time to find someone to take care of your responsibilities while you are gone and will help keep you in good standing when it is time to come back.
  • Follow the chain of command — When you know that you will need time off work to have surgery, you will want to talk to your immediate supervisor first. After they know about your upcoming surgery, you can talk to your HR manager or benefits team. Only after all of the people above you know should you start telling your co-workers.
  • Discuss expectations before you take medical leave — Your boss may not have a choice in whether you take leave or not but that does not mean you should leave them hanging. Do your best to work with your employer to make the transition easier for everyone. Talk openly about when you expect to come back to work and whether you will need special accommodations upon your return. You can also ask your employer if they would like your help training the person who will take over your duties while you are gone. The more helpful you are, the more willing your employer will be to work with you.
  • Ask what your options are — Some companies may offer a work-from-home option to employees who need time off for medical reasons. Other companies may be willing to give you a flexible or part-time schedule as you transition back to work after recovering from surgery. Be sure to ask; your employer may not offer the option unless you bring it up first.
  • Talk to your co-workers about your medical leave (on your terms) — It is likely that your co-workers will be sharing some of your responsibilities while you are away and will be there when you get back. It will be important to keep a good relationship with them. You can do this by letting them know how long you will be gone and where they can reach you if they need anything. You should also ask what you can do to make the transition easier for them. You can, of course, tell them why you are taking a leave of absence from work but you do not have to. You should only tell them as much as you feel comfortable with.

What are my rights for taking medical leave for surgery?

If your employer offers Carrum Health as a benefit to you, it is likely that they will be supportive when you need to take time off for surgery. Still, it is a good idea to know your rights as an employee. The U.S. Department of Labor created the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) — a federal law that “provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave.” The qualifications for the FMLA, as defined by the U.S. Department of Labor, are:

  • Your employer is covered by the FMLA
  • You have worked for your employer for at least 12 months
  • You have worked for your employer for at least 1250 hours in the last 12 months
  • Your employer has 50 or more employees within 75 miles of your job site
  • You have a serious health condition (thankfully, nearly all surgeries are eligible for the FMLA)

Still not sure if you are covered under the FMLA? Talk to your benefits team or HR manager. They can give you specific answers about your employer’s eligibility and your own. It is important to remember that even if you do qualify for the FMLA, the leave will be unpaid. However, if you have short-term disability insurance, you could get paid up to 60% of your base salary but only if you have coverage before your medical leave starts. Your Carrum Health Concierge can help you understand what your rights are for taking medical leave, as well as help you explore your financial options.

How can I make going back to work after surgery easier? 

When you go back to work after surgery depends on several factors, including how well your surgery goes, how quickly you recover, and the type of job you have. Your surgeon and care team will give you specific recovery instructions and let you know when you can head back to work. The process of returning to work after surgery should start before it is time to go back into the office or to your work site. Here are some tips to help make your transition from post-op recovery to employee as pain-free as possible:

  • Talk to your boss and co-workers about what you need — Let them know if you need flexible work hours for the first few weeks so you can go to follow up doctor’s appointments. If you need a special kind of chair after hip surgery, let your boss know that, too.
  • Make sure you are fully recovered from surgery — You may be getting restless from being at home recovering but you should not go back to work before your surgeon gives you permission. Returning to work too soon after surgery can cause health problems, as well as cause issues with your employer.
  • Do not expect things to be how they were before you left — When you have been away from work for weeks recovering from surgery, you cannot return and expect everything to be the same. New processes may have been put in place. Responsibilities shifted. It is important to go back to work with an open mind and remember that just because things may have changed, does not mean you are not an important asset to your employer.
  • Be patient with yourself and everyone else — Recovering from surgery is challenging. So is returning to work after surgery. While you are figuring out how to adjust to your new reality, your coworkers and boss are trying to learn, too. Be patient with yourself and everyone else. There will be a learning curve as you get re-adjusted to being back at work. The more patient you are, the easier it will be.
  • Talk to your Carrum Concierge when you need help — Your Carrum Concierge is a key part of your recovery from surgery. They are here to help you at every step of the way. If you are unsure how to handle a situation at work (or at home), if you need help understanding your employee rights, or if you have any other questions, be sure to reach out.

Whether you are getting bariatric surgery, cardiac, orthopedic, or spinal surgery, you are going to want to plan ahead. How long will you need to take off work? What kind of accommodations will you need? How can you maintain a good relationship with your boss and co-workers? What are your rights? Figuring all of this out is not always easy but with this guide and with the support of your Carrum Concierge, recovering from surgery and returning to work will be seamless.