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EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

10 tips to manage employee leave

The environment for leave management has become increasingly complex. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and employee awareness of rights under these laws and others have made managing leave while remaining in legal and regulatory compliance more difficult than even.

Terri Rhodes, executive director of the Disability Management Employers Coalition (DMEC) and Karen English, partner at Spring Consulting Group, LLC, recently offered the following tips at the RIMS conference, an annual event of the risk management society™, an organization dedicated to advancing the practice of risk management.

1. Training is critical. Managers must understand the leave process and their responsibilities under it and the law and uniformly administer leave policies.

2. HR and other staff must be qualified. Appropriate managers need to be up to date on all absence management programs and prepared to answer employee questions about leave.

3. Collaboration across business units is key. Leave programs involve HR, disability, legal, and other departments. Removing barriers between disciplines creates efficiencies and limits liability.

4. Implement clear and consistent processes and policies. This includes correspondence, tracking, management, decision-making, and communication.

5. Centralize administration of the leave function. Employees should have one source for questions and answers.

6. Evaluate your program. If an organization has internal system to manage or track its leave program, it should be regularly evaluated for effectiveness.

7. Outsource if necessary. If regular evaluation is not cost-effective, a company should consider outsourcing leave management. There are more options than ever, and the list continues to grow.

8. Evaluate your vendor. Just because a company outsources leave management, it does not mean it outsources its legal responsibilities. Even with outsourcing, an organization must establish a process to update its leave programs to meet its changing business and staff needs.

9. Measurement, tracking, and reporting should be actionable. Key metrics like lost time, costs, return-to-work rates, abuse, and productivity are useful to the degree they enable managers to change leave programs to better meet the needs of employees and the organization.

10. Create a culture of continual improvement. While legal and regulatory compliance is essential, it is not enough to ensure a leave program helps advance strategic business goals. That requires that managers—and executives—view leave programs as an arena for new investment and training to catalyze change to maximize returns.


Related reading:

Some good explanations on the tough spots offices encounter with the FMLA


5 HR issues to review and keep on your radar


Medical leave gets formal for 50 employees and up


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