The landscape of employee leaves continues to grow in scope, complexity, and unpredictability. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and other federal statutes have been joined by state, counties, and city leave laws. At the same time, more large employers look at paid leave as an important recruitment and retention tool.
The results of the 2016 Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) Employer Leave Management Survey, which includes information from over 1,100 employers of various sizes and industries, reveal the top five trends facing employers as they seek to effectively implement and manage leave strategies.
More employers are outsourcing FMLA management, while ADA accommodation outsourcing is still in its infancy. Short-term and long-term disability are increasingly bundled with the same FMLA vendor, and an increasing number of employers are also including employee assistance programs in this integration. Satisfaction with outsourcing is high, as employers believe it improves compliance, customer service, and efficiency.
While employers are increasingly skilled at managing a complex leave landscape, they believe more training is necessary. Mandatory manager training and more online tools are viewed as effective solutions. Respondents also believe training and other resources should be extended to legal staff, consultants, and third-party administrators.
Uniformity and centralization of policies continues to increase, which moves employers towards a more comprehensive absence management approach. Legal resources to achieve uniformity and centralization are provided in-house for large employers, while smaller employers (fewer than 500 employees) are more likely to use external legal counsel. This uniformity and centralization also improves preparedness for U.S. Department of Labor and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission inquiries.
Employer use of automated systems for FMLA management continues to grow. A slowly increasing number of employers are making electronic rather than manual updates to their human resource information system (HRIS), time and attendance, and payroll systems. Respondents believe automation reduces the time and resource burden and provides much needed regulatory expertise. Reports are easier to produce and provide more useful and actionable data.
To remain ahead of the legal and regulatory curve, employers are constructing leave programs more generous than required. They rely on legal counsel to guide them. Thirty-five percent have a separate paid leave policy. The overwhelming majority (78%) has paid leave programs that include parental leave and other family member leave. A similar large majority (77%) applies paid leave to all employees in their organization.
“Employee leave is a workplace trend that continues to grow in scale and scope,” said Terri Rhodes, Chief Executive Officer of DMEC. “Employers increasingly view it as an important way to attract and keep talent, especially in a tightening labor market. They continue to invest in the technology, training, and staff to ensure compliance while also effectively managing costs. Leave is no longer just a legal requirement, but an opportunity to implement internal changes to drive competitive advantage.”
For more information on this survey, or to view the full report, click here.