This year our parent company, Presagia, is once again contributing a column to each issue of @Work Magazine, a publication by the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC). If you haven't had a chance to check out this excellent resource, we highly recommend that you do! DMEC provides best practice resources for our complex industry and @Work is one of many excellent resources that we always stay on top of!
This year's column, Technology and Absence Management, will focus on the technology that can help support a strong leave and accommodation management strategy. In celebration, we've created a blog series that will showcase each of the columns! To kick things off, here is January's column.
Many key technologies are impacting the world of absence management today, with even more on the horizon. As the 2017 DMEC Employer Leave Management Survey noted, “Companies with the bandwidth to manage leave internally are increasingly leveraging technology to assist them.”
At the core of employers’ leave management programs is the leave case management system. Such systems are primarily cloud-based and provide a centralized place to manage all leave case data, from an employee’s initial request through to their return to work. They include rules for federal and state leave laws and can usually incorporate employers’ leave policies. They have templates to auto-generate leave correspondence, workflow automation with alerts for when items such as medical certifications are due, and reporting to analyze the vast amount of leave data.
While these are the system of record for leave management, they are often complemented by other systems and resources, such as:
- Duration guidelines provide case managers with evidence-based research about recovery times for disabilities, injuries, and illnesses, and are available as online resources. They present the research in a simple format, enabling case managers to determine how long they can expect employees to be away from work and identify when a case might be at risk of falling outside the guidelines.
- A human resources information system (HRIS) ties together an employer’s HR, benefits, payroll, and other workforce management data. Most leave management systems will receive a demographics or census file feed from here to auto-update employee information, reducing redundant data entry.
- Time and attendance (or payroll) systems capture attendance data needed to determine things such as an employee’s average workweek for Family and Medical Leave Act calculations. Many employers also enter absences taken into this system, which supports calculation of leave entitlement. Most leave management systems accept a feed from these systems to auto-update information.
- Functional and job analysis tools can help identify a job’s essential functions. Some can produce reports and calculate job demands based on data collected by a practitioner, while others are limited to filling out and storing paper forms. Leave managers may leverage objective analyses of job functions to project the need for leave in high-risk positions, which can be used to reduce preventable absences. Job analyses may also be shared with healthcare providers as an accurate account of strain caused by an employee’s duties to support return-to-work planning.
- Leave law guides provide online summaries of leave laws to help leave managers with questions about specific laws. Some leave law guides have logic built in so leave managers can enter information such as work site and type of leave to determine all applicable laws in that jurisdiction.
- Employee leave planning systems have an “employee-facing” design to help employees plan for an upcoming leave of absence. They provide broad information about the leaves available, benefits coverage, and any benefits costs employees might incur while on leave.
Supervisors need to review this information, too. Most major leave case management systems offer self-service features for them, and some provide automated emails to notify supervisors of key events so they don’t have to log into the system to stay current.
While many technologies touch upon absence management, those above are the most important in a leave manager’s work day. In 2019, look for markets to provide more employee-facing tools to better engage employees and help them request, review, and plan for leaves. Also, look for stronger integration between the many systems involved in the leave life cycle as technology vendors work to make integration more seamless.