By: Melissa Hajjar on January 12th, 2024

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How Employers Can Support HR Through Leave Management Outsourcing

Leave Administration

Each month, around 1.2 million American workers take illness-related time off from work. That's a staggering number, equivalent to 75% of Walmart's entire U.S. workforce taking sick leave!

Each unexpected absence can create extra work for HR departments. For instance, if someone takes a day off due to illness, your HR team has to investigate further. The nature of the illness will decide whether the employee is entitled to types of leave such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Short-Term Disability (STD), or if they can use Paid Time Off (PTO). 

Download my guide to HR outsourcingThankfully, help is at hand. There are wonderful teams of people (and amazing technology) ready to help your team manage these potentially challenging and ever-evolving cases. 

Leave Management outsourcing could be what the doctor ordered. Leave management consultants can help support your HR team and build a sustainable leave administration process. They can also help you avoid compliance pitfalls while making sure employees are happy. Here are just a few advantages to highlight as you consider an absence management solution.

1. Help you keep up with new leave laws

As in many other areas, leave laws continue to expand at a state and local level, while the federal government continues to push for revised legislation. 

Well-established laws like FMLA regularly see new provisions or updated forms. In 2024, new state leave laws went into force in Colorado, Minnesota, and Illinois that expanded access to sick leave and family leave for most workers in those states. However, each state has adopted its own regulatory framework, which adds to compliance overheads and your administrative burden.

HR professionals have a hard time keeping up with these rules. Often, the HR team has to consult with legal just to make sure they understand the current rules. Leave management outsourcing consultants are 100% focused on keeping up with all relevant legislation, so they can ensure your organization is on the right page.

2. Ensure compliance with leave policy

FMLA leave is not the only thing mandated by law. HR teams also have to consider things like workers' compensation, ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), and Worker's Compensation, as well as any local variations. Many of these laws have strict documentation requirements, with differing times for filing, and they're all subject to audits. There are so many hazards that HR practitioners have lovingly nicknamed this situation the Bermuda Triangle of Employment Law

To make matters worse — HR leaders might be personally responsible if they breach compliance rules. FMLA administration is a high-stakes priority. 

Outsourcing your leave management provides compliance protections on every front. Your people will have a smooth process for requesting leave of absence, which is an essential part of a positive employee experience. Leave management companies can also help follow up on outstanding paperwork and ensure all relevant documentation is appropriately retained. 

3. Provide access to employee leave management technology

Employee leave-related litigation often hinges on the breakdown of internal communication. Paperwork goes missing, phone calls aren't recorded, or aging computer systems crash. Employers are the ones who are obliged to retain adequate records, which means that you'll lose in any action where you can't find the relevant paperwork.

One of the big advantages of working with a leave management outsourcing firm is that you get access to their technology and cloud-based solutions. Cloud-based HRIS tools allow easy, reliable communication without the need to install bulky software. Many vendors offer programs that work on web browsers and cell phones. This makes it easy for employees to file requests and send forms, which are then stored securely online. These tools also help track outstanding tasks and monitor individual leave balances.

Many leave outsourcing companies can customize their tools to suit your needs. Workflows automatically timestamp and record every step of the process, creating a streamlined experience for all. These workflows and recorded data then allow practitioners to create real-time reports and provide broader strategic support. This facility makes things much easier for every HR practitioner's least favorite activity: intermittent leave tracking. 

4. Provide an unbiased perspective

Human beings can become poor communicators in times of distress. This can impact their ability to perform an otherwise simple task such as — for example — submitting a leave request. HR professionals are also human beings, and they sometimes handle cases without properly evaluating all evidence. When things go wrong, it can lead to catastrophe. 

Here's an example. Employee returns their paperwork and is certified under FMLA to take leave for their serious condition. During that leave, that very same employee posts pictures on social media from a beach in Mexico. The knee-jerk reaction might be to fire the employee immediately. That's exactly what the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority did in a recent case that went as high as the Massachusetts Supreme Court. As it turns out, that employee was fully complying with both their doctor's instructions and guidance from their employer. The employee was awarded $2 million in damages

Outsourcing your leave management allows leave administrators to remove their own bias (and knee-jerk reactions) from the situation. Your dedicated team can focus on leave management and can investigate situations thoroughly to minimize risk exposure to your organization. Each leave application is carefully and accurately documented so that decisions always reflect the facts.

5. Help you abide by HR's golden rule

Consistency is a common theme in so many aspects of our lives. Building relationships, teamwork, and even personal goals like losing weight or training for a marathon all depend on our being consistent. 

HR is no different. One of the first lessons deeply ingrained in good HR professionals is to be consistent in every aspect of the practice. It is the core intent of every policy, handbook, and procedure. We dedicate hours upon hours to ensuring this is at the heart of every action. It's the HR golden rule. The response to every question becomes, what did we do before? 

Organizations that focus their efforts on supporting your leave management procedures will help ensure that similarly situated employees get equitable treatment. It creates a system of accountability so that no individual is surprised by the outcome – deadlines were clear, forms were provided. Consistency also helps ensure that you have accurate data for each employee on time used and time remaining, as well as information about PTO allowances and STD.   

Need help with leave management?

Leave is one of the most important employee benefits, and a smooth leave program is a vital part of employee engagement. Whether they're taking a vacation or calling in sick, people want to know that they have confidence in the way your organization handles leave of absence requests.

If you're finding it a challenge, or you just want to ensure compliance, talk to us about leave management outsourcing today. 

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