Complex leave mandates drive continued outsourcing, survey finds
- Employers are subject to an increasingly complex array of leave-related requirements, according to the 2018 Employer Leave Management Survey of 820 U.S. employers conducted by the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC). Guidance related to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is frequently updated, and paid family leave at the state and local level continues to expand, the report noted.
- While most employers continue to manage their leave programs internally, outsourcing is on the rise, DMEC said. About half of large employers and about one-third of small employers outsource their FMLA management, according to the report. Both of these figures have increased since 2014, DMEC said, but the increase is more pronounced in the telecommunications and utilities industries. Additionally, more than 80% of respondents consider their programs to be co-sourced — up from 48% last year, the report said.
- Intermittent leaves continue to vex employers, according to the report. Time constraints, high turnover and lack of mandatory training are common challenges for employers, DMEC said. ADA administration, however, is a bright spot. Most respondents are confident in their ADA administration because they've involved legal resources, established an internal team, outsourced or provided education and training.
DMEC's report notes that, for HR, day-to-day leave administration poses less of a challenge than the overall complexity of the leave landscape and the necessity of managing multiple aspects concurrently. Ineptitude at managing leave can result in lawsuits and turnover, but as DMEC points out, employers can prevent those issues by training managers on ADA and FMLA best practices.
During formal FMLA training for managers. HR can emphasize the differences between FMLA and sick leave, especially in light of recent guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on the subject. In an opinion letter, DOL said employees and employers cannot use vacation days or other types of leave in lieu of FMLA leave if the employee's circumstances qualify for the law's protections. Managers should be well-versed in their organization's policies for handling requests with consistency and confidentiality, experts have said. Educating them on the types of situations that qualify workers for FMLA leave is a solid place for HR to begin its training.
ADA training also can protect employers from legal fallout. The law requires accommodations for employees having trouble at work because of a disability. Teaching managers to recognize such situations and engage workers in an interactive process from the first mention of a problem can both protect the employer and allow it to better accommodate employees. Employer flexibility and employee handbook policies instructing employees to come to HR when they need accommodations can smooth the process further, according to experts.