Defining Administrative Leave and What It Means for You

When you place employees on administrative leave, you’re typically relieving them from their job duties for a certain time period for either disciplinary or voluntary reasons. Administrative leave differs from a leave of absence because a leave of absence is an authorized absence from work for an extended time period and granted due to dispensary reasons. Learn more about what administrative leave is and discover reasons employees may go on administrative leave.


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What is administrative leave?

Administrative leave occurs when an employee must temporarily leave their position and work duties. Most employers allow their employees to keep their pay and benefits, like health insurance, during this absence, but it’s the employer’s decision. Employees can also take this leave of absence without using any of their allotted paid time off. Employees are typically placed on administrative leave due to disciplinary actions or they may volunteer to go on administrative leave. 

Administrative leave can last anywhere from a few days to a few months, depending on the situation. Administrative leave is sometimes referred to as “home assignment,” because the employee is asked to stay in their home or in close proximity to the business during their leave.  

Related: Parental Leave Policies: Do’s and Don’ts for Your Business


Reasons employees may go on administrative leave

There are several reasons organizations place employees on administrative leave. Some common reasons include: 


Protecting employees and sensitive information

If an employee reported misconduct about the company or another employee, they’ll either be placed on administrative leave or they’ll volunteer to undergo administrative leave. This will protect them from any judgments or harassment from other employees during the investigation. You can also place employees on administrative leave if they have knowledge or physical copies of sensitive information. 

For example, if an employee has secret or protected information about an upcoming criminal court case, their employer may put them on administrative leave or they may request it. This will protect the employee and their sensitive information until the court case is resolved and adjourned.


Removing an employee from the workplace

Employees who consistently break company policies may be placed on administrative leave after several warnings from employers or human resources. If you notice an employee behaving disruptively or refusing to follow the rules listed in the employee handbook, administer a warning to the employee and notify human resources. If the employee continuously struggles to follow policies, discuss if putting them on administrative leave is the best option. 

If an employee acts aggressively or violently in the workplace, it’s usually best to immediately put them on administrative leave. This helps you avoid any harm coming to your employees. It also gives you, the human resources team and the employee a few days to respond to and reflect on the situation. 


Conducting misconduct investigations

If an employee or supervisor is accused of misconduct in the workplace, that individual can be placed on administrative leave while the institution or police officers conduct an investigation. The employee is expected to stay in close proximity to the business during the investigation in case they’re called in to provide additional details about the case. 

Since the allegations against the accused employee are not yet proven, most employers allow them to keep their pay and benefits until the leave is over and they’ve arrived at a final decision. 

Related: What is a Sabbatical Leave Policy? Things to Consider


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Frequently asked questions about administrative leave

Is administrative leave a suspension?

No. While some professionals consider administrative leave a form of suspension, administrative leave is not the same as a suspension. One key difference is that administrative leave could be involuntary or voluntary by the employees. Suspension is always involuntary for the employee and is often used as disciplinary action by the organization.

Can you return after administrative leave?

Employees and managers can come back from administrative leave if their investigation concludes that the allegation against them was incorrect. If it was correct, they may be fired or receive a different form of punishment. If the employee took voluntary administrative leave, they’re able to come back on the date they agreed with their manager or human resources staff member.

Can employees collect unemployment while on administrative leave?

Many individuals are ineligible to collect unemployment while on administrative leave because organizations usually grant them full-time pay and benefits during this absence. Be sure to check your state’s regulations as unemployment and administrative leave guidelines vary.

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