Managing the leave process has always been complex and it is becoming even more so with recent updates in federal regulations concerning leave and accommodations. In addition to the federal requirements, state and local governments also are enacting laws to further protect an employee’s time away from work.
“Employee absence puts a strain on your organization, and survival in today’s business climate demands high productivity and a lean and efficient staff,” says Edward Mashey, senior director for Absence Management Services at UPMC WorkPartners. “Every hour an employee is out on leave adds costs to your bottom line and what you don’t know can hurt you.
“Compliance concerns, administrative errors, inconsistent tracking, under reporting, lack of accountability, limited knowledge and costs — all are reasons for putting leave administration in the hands of a trusted partner with years of experience administering leaves of all types, including family medical leave, military and employer-sponsored leaves,” he says.
Smart Business spoke with Mashey about what an employer should know when outsourcing leave administration.
What is an employer’s obligation in this area?
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) requires covered employers to provide employees job-protected unpaid leave for certain medical and family reasons, including personal or family illness, military service, family military leave, pregnancy, and the adoption or foster care placement of a child. The law recognizes the growing needs of balancing work with family and medical issues.
What are some reasons employers should consider outsourcing?
Tracking and managing the paperwork associated with all leave requests creates additional administrative burdens for an employer. UPMC WorkPartners’ experience with employers has shown the average time needed to effectively process a leave is three to five hours per leave. For an employer of 1,000 employees averaging 120 leaves per year, this amounts to nine weeks per year of managing just the initial leave requests.
Why is compliance in this area so important?
Compliance with federal, state and local leave requirements is a key component in a successful leave program. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, the average wrongful termination verdict for an FMLA case is $350,000, not including attorney fees. Employers should seek out leave specialists who have ongoing training and education related to federal, state and local regulation changes in order to keep an employer’s program in compliance.
It’s important for employers to know that a supervisor can be individually liable for violating an employee’s FMLA rights based on the FMLA’s statement of who can be liable and its definition of who is an employer. Having a partner that can train and communicate to a staff and effectively interact with them regarding leave and disability issues is extremely important.
What are some other issues that surround leave management?
Intermittent leave time needs to be fully reviewed to ensure the leave meets the requirements of a serious health condition and each increment of time away from work is appropriate and medically necessary. Each absence needs to be reviewed for medical necessity.
Currently, the federal government has proposed changes to the FMLA that include updates to the military exigency and injured service member leaves. An expert outsourced leave administrator’s dedicated staff keeps abreast of all leave law changes whether federal, state or local changes.
And remember, the end of an employee’s leave time is not necessarily the end of the employer’s obligation. Recent court cases have shown employers how important it is that they discuss with the employee their potential ability to return to work after leave time has expired. Working with a partner that has the knowledge and skills to help identify those cases that will need extra attention from an employer is an essential element of an intelligent leave management strategy.
Edward Mashey is senior director, Absence Management Services at UPMC WorkPartners. Reach him at (412) 667-7117 or email@example.com.
SAVE THE DATE Wednesday, Jan. 16 , 11 a.m. to noon, UPMC WorkPartners webinar: Best Practices in Leave Administration. To register, contact Lauren Formato at firstname.lastname@example.org or (412) 454-8838.
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