Employers aim to surpass absence management requirements

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As cities and states pass their own paid family leave policies and the Trump administration considers changing federal paid maternity leave laws, employers say they will not only comply but will surpass those requirements to remain competitive.

Nearly one-third of companies said they are making a “major” effort to improve their absence management practices, according to a 2017 absence management study from Guardian Life, based on a survey of 1,000 employees. This figure is up from 22%, in a survey conducted two years ago.

“One of the main things we’ve seen over the past few years is paid parental leave,” says Jesse Reach, director of absence management at Guardian Life Insurance. “It’s a tool for attracting and retaining employees.”

Employers within the finance and insurance, education, professional and technical, and healthcare industries have made considerable progress since 2015 to improve absence management activity, according to the study. Those companies also are more likely to have highly educated or professional employees and operate in five or more states, according to the study.

While large companies with 1,000 or more employees have continued to be more advanced in their absence management activities, the study found that medium-sized firms experienced the most significant improvement (23%) compared to two years ago.

See also: Women miss promotions for maternity leave: study

Overall, more employers are implementing five best practices in 2016 — full return to work programs (71%), reporting capability (60%), health management referrals (54%), same resources for short-term disability and FMLA (40%) and centralized intake (32%) — than they did in 2014, Guardian Life says.

In particular, seven in 10 employers are focusing on ways to actively return employees to work when they are out on disability.

To assist with the administrative work, one in three employers now outsource both their short-term disability and Family and Medical Leave Act — twice as many as two years ago, according to Guardian.

“Outsourcing has become more prominent with the smaller employers,” says Reach.

Carriers have begun servicing smaller firms with a minimum of 50 employees in order to meet a client group that was often overlooked despite being covered by the FMLA. The services can include call centers or online services portals to help employers with claim intakes and certification forms, as well as provide employees with different reporting tools, Reach says.

Other employers use a co-sourced model, which helps employers understand regulations.

“The client is still doing admin themselves, but they’re leasing a software program for absence management,” Reach says.

He also suggests employers of all sizes take advantage of resources available through the Department of Labor, conferences and trade groups.

“Employers are doing a great job and putting a lot of time and effort,” he says. “There is still so much room for improvement.”

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