1993 proved to be a monumental year for the rights of American employees nationwide with Bill Clinton’s signing of the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The Act brought awareness to the well-being of employees, making 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for certain family or medical reasons the norm.
The FMLA also paved the way for new legislation, including state family medical leaves, paid sick leave laws and advanced pregnancy leave coverage. Leave and absence management also became a strong focus for human resources departments nationwide.
Even after integrating absence management into their corporate structure, employers still scramble to find an efficient process to manage leave while remaining compliant. Every case is different due to an array of variables, and employers must remain on top of the ever-growing list of leave regulations at the federal, state and local levels.
Though there have been many technological breakthroughs in absence management software and applications, it’s important to have a basic understanding of some simple steps you can take to improve internal processes so that an organization doesn’t open itself up to potential litigation and productivity losses.
So, how can YOU strengthen your FMLA compliance?
1. Standardize processes and leave correspondence
Standardization is an essential element to a well-oiled machine. Think about if you were a car manufacturer, wanting to ensure that your vehicles and their parts remained in uniform quality to be sold to consumers. How would you ensure this? Of course, you would keep your methodology, operations, and production identical.
The same logic can be applied to managing leaves. Although leaves vary in terms of applicability, eligibility, and entitlement, the process does not drastically change between cases. Your team should apply the same consistent process when responding to and managing leave requests. This includes extends to using standard leave correspondence templates and making sure you send them at the right times.
In having a standardized process, inconsistencies are rarer, and employees are less likely to feel mistreated or dissatisfied and turn to litigation. Make sure you take pride in your leave management system and look to keep employee satisfaction at an all-time high.
2. Encourage a dialogue
In the words of famed architect, Jeff Daly, “two monologues do not make a dialogue.”
Active, two-way communication is absolutely essential to leave managment. If your organization is moving in one direction, and your employees the other, eventually the organization’s path will diverge. This in turn can build resentment, and have detrimental long-term side effects on the company culture.
So how do you prevent this fork in the road? Go above and beyond.
Maintain open lines of communication; not just the mandatory correspondence that is regulated under the FMLA. Taking a leave of absence can be a difficult time for your employees. They most likely do not fully understand their rights and obligations, so provide them with transparency and communication. This additional effort won’t go unnoticed and will promote employee engagement throughout the leave.
3. Stay in the know
As we all know, leave management continues to increase in complexity as states, counties, and even municipalities begin adopting their own customized absence management policies.
Although there are web applications out there that can help you strengthen compliance, it’s always smart to stay on top of the latest leave law news for the states in which your business operates. Staying up to date when it comes to best practices (or subscribe to our blog to have them delivered to you) allows you to understand the intricacies of leave management so that you can be prepared for most situations.
Furthermore, be sure to understand shifts in leave management as it is continuously evolving across the United States. It’s better to be proactive than reactive, especially when we’re talking about leave management!
Policies continue to evolve, and there's always something to learn when it comes to managing leave. Take holiday leave for example. Know your employees' entitlement by reading more here.
4. Review, evaluate & rework if necessary
Remember, what’s working for your process today, won’t necessarily work tomorrow. It’s absolutely essential to review and evaluate your strategies, adding corrections if need be to ensure effectiveness and efficiency.
Still using spreadsheets and Outlook reminders to keep track of leaves? It might be time for an upgrade.
With all that said and done, we had a few questions for you:
- Have you implemented any of these tips? If so, we’d love to hear from you!
- How did it go? What were some of the advantages or pain points you faced?
Leave Genius is your go-to web app for leave laws, going beyond just FMLA. Built by Presagia, a solution trusted by the nation’s largest organizations, Leave Genius is a simple and effective web app developed to give small and medium-sized employers confidence in leave compliance.