Get an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). These programs provide your employees with a toll free number to call–often available 24 hours a day. This number can connect them with counselors or even legal advice (needed surprisingly often in crises). The programs can be surprisingly inexpensive. The advantage is that you don’t have to be an expert in helping your employee through a crisis, and if the crisis is personal, your employee doesn’t even have to tell you. EAPs generally report back that one of your employees called, but they don’t say who nor what the problem was.

Ask what they need. Everyone has different needs. Employees A and B may have the same thing happen to them, but while Employee A needs to take a week off to pull things together, Employee B may only need to take a long lunch so she can go for a walk to clear her head and to leave early on Thursday. This doesn’t mean Employee B is a better employee; it just means she’s handling this particular crisis in a different way than Employee A.

Comply with all laws. You probably know that when you hit 50 employees you’re subject to the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires that you give time off to someone with a medical need or who is acting as a caregiver for a family member. However, many states have lower thresholds and some cities have additional requirements. Find out now what you are required to do by law. But, don’t get in the trap of saying, “I only have 45 employees, so I’m not going to give you any time off to deal with your cancer diagnosis!” The law is a minimum guideline, not the example of what a decent human being should do.