By: Melissa Hajjar on August 12th, 2021
How Employers Can Support HR Through Leave Management Outsourcing
Each year, U.S. employees are absent from work for a combined total of 500 million days. To put that number into perspective, imagine each missed day as a single second. Half a billion seconds would still add up to more than 15 years!
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).
Thankfully, 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 federal, state, and local level. President Biden has been very vocal about ambitious federal policy initiatives that include support for those with medical conditions or who need to care for an eligible dependent.
Well-established laws like FMLA regularly see new provisions or updated forms, such as those coming in 2023. More states are considering their own regional policies, with New Hampshire the latest to join the club. Other states have proposals on the docket for 2021 and 2022.
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
At the 2018 SHRM Annual Conference, an employment attorney said that 75% of their clients make significant mistakes when implementing FMLA rules.
And FMLA is just one of many leave laws. HR teams also have to consider things like workers' compensation, ADA, HIPAA, and FLS, plus 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.
Outsourcing your leave management provides compliance protections on every front. Your employees will have a dedicated team to help ensure a smooth process that fits within the guidelines and scope of any applicable laws and policies. Leave management companies can also help follow up on outstanding paperwork and ensure all relevant documentation is appropriately retained.
3. Provide access to leave management technology
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 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, and all of this is 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. >He was awarded $1.3 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, 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.
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 absence requests. If you're finding it a challenge, or you just want to ensure compliance, think about talking to a leave management outsourcing company today.