Increasingly, employers prioritize absence management via broad benefit offerings, centralization, and focus on the employee experience.
Managing leave and reducing absenteeism is a priority for employers, according to a new study on the value of leave management integration. The results show that the proliferation of new and proposed paid family and medical leave laws has focused employers’ attention on compliance and policies, and they are boosting their efforts to manage absences.
Compared with the same study from 2014, almost twice as many companies in 2019 say their senior leadership prioritizes managing leave and reducing absenteeism. They also are more mindful of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as statutory disability and workers’ compensation and leave laws. Employers are putting greater efforts into ensuring these laws are addressed in their company’s absence plans and policies. More complex state leave laws, particularly, are contributing to employers’ efforts to adopt new practices to better manage absenteeism and improve compliance.
Small employers (those with fewer than 500 workers) say they are centralizing their FMLA and short-term disability compliance efforts; this is up 35% since 2016, particularly among companies with 50-99 employees. Nearly half (43%) of small employers are considered to be “highly advanced” in their leave management practices. This number has doubled since 2014. At the same time, companies with fewer than 1,000 employees also are strengthening their documentation and return-to-work policies and striving for organization-wide consistency.
The study found that more employers than ever are integrating benefits such as Short-Term Disability (STD) and FMLA with long-term disability and health management programs such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), health-risk appraisals, and disease management initiatives. Companies with a higher level of benefits integration report a better employee experience, improved productivity, and reduced time off. Employers with the highest level of integration report an 80% increase in productivity, compared to 65% of organizations with a low integration level.
Despite the increased focus, most employers have work to do on leave management. Another recent study shows that about 60% of employers get a grade of C, D, or even F for their employee absence management and disability efforts. These low grades, the survey suggests, are the result of employers’ shortcomings when it comes to their approaches to managing absence and disability, as well as their lack of confidence about their practices and policies.