Absence management can save time, trouble, and even legal woes.
Only 1 in 4 HR professionals report having effective absence management programs, according to data from The Standard’s Absence and Disability Readiness Index. Managing absences while ensuring compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is an ongoing challenge for HR. However, understanding the facts and taking a few steps to safeguard absence tracking and compliance can help protect your organization and its employees.
Not effectively tracking absences can cause serious problems. Currently, for instance, one employer is involved in a court case because it dismissed a worker for missing two weeks of work. The leave was initially approved as FMLA eligible; but the company eventually realized that the person hadn’t worked enough hours to earn this leave. In another case, the court determined that employees must provide enough information for an employer to determine whether FMLA may apply to a leave request. These are perfect examples of why you need a FMLA point person or team to track FMLA leave for all employees, including dates and reasons for absences.
These and other recent court rulings stress the need for employers to have detailed attendance policies that include disciplinary action for unexcused or excessive absences. You can’t read employees’ minds or guess why they are absent. However, when a person requests time off, this can be enough to flag the absence and trigger an interaction.
Specifically, you can take a few steps to protect everyone:
1. Enforce rules consistently. Start with a policy that requires employees to notify you or their supervisor if they will be late or absent. Apply these policies the same way for every employee and all forms of absences. You also may want to consider mandating the use of specific absence forms to promote compliance.
2. Seek outside help (as necessary). External providers/vendors may be able to offer compliance and absence management support or software. Have a strong idea of what specific support or assistance you need before making inquiries.
3. Educate managers. Training on employment law basics and how to best manage absences can help supervisors be more effective and comfortable with tracking absences and addressing problems.
4. Educate employees about procedures. Provide everyone with written guidelines to follow when they will be absent or late, including a list of approved absences and required documentation, when/how disciplinary action is taken for unexcused or excessive absences, and the procedures for requesting time off. A self-service online portal that enables employees to track their vacation and sick days and other time can help ensure compliance as well.
5. Track each request for accommodation. Have employees ask for accommodations in writing and keep documentation of all of these requests.
The U.S. Department of Labor has more information about FMLA. Check it out here.