Employers struggling with absence, disability management
- About 60% of employers earned a grade of C, D or F at managing employee absence and disability in the workplace, according to The Standard's Absence and Disability Readiness Index, which surveyed 501 employers. The index revealed shortcomings, both in employers' approaches to managing absence and disability and in their self-confidence about their practices.
- Employers are experiencing challenges in three key areas, according to the index: program measurement, legal compliance and accommodations support. When it comes to program measurement, only 31% of surveyed employers benchmark their absence management programs and only 33% benchmark their disability programs. Sixty-one percent of employers surveyed said "constantly changing disability laws and guidelines" make it difficult to properly support employees and comply with the law. As far as support for accommodations, more than half of organizations lack formal processes for return-to-work and stay-at-work programs, the index found.
- Only 1 in 4 HR professionals report having successful absence and disability management programs, the report said. However, the index also noted that employers' confidence in their practices helped balance out the actual success those practices, bumping their overall grade to a B-.
Employers might consider a multi-faceted approach to better manage absences and accommodate for worker disabilities, and the index provided a few suggestions. They included using data to benchmark against industry competitors; investing in formal return-to-work and stay-at-work programs to support employee engagement and productivity; adhering to Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) best practices; and building a robust training program to teach managers how to identify conditions and communicate with employees, among other solutions.
Experts in the space agree that HR and managers ought to familiarize themselves with the scenarios that qualify employees for FMLA and learn to recognize FMLA requests when they cross their desks. If an employee doesn't qualify for leave, they may still require special work accommodations. By engaging them in an interactive process to determine their needs, employers comply with the American with Disabilities Act, too.
Many companies, though, have turned to third parties to help them better manage their leave practices. Forty percent of companies with 1,000 or more employees outsource their FMLA management, as do 27% of companies with 50 or more employees, according to recent research. Additionally, the Everest Group has predicted that the global HR outsourcing market will continue at a rate of 6% to 8% growth for at least the next few years, exceeding $5 billion by 2020.
Technology, too, is a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to leave. Employers that still rely on spreadsheets to track leave might consider hiring a leave administrator and/or investing in absence management software, as the Frisco Independent School District in Texas did in recent years.