Using Technology to Strengthen Consistency in Absence Management

Posted by Shahlla Karmali on May 7, 2019 12:22:19 PM

Our parent company, Presagia, is once again contributing a column to each 2019 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, focuses 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!

Here is the March column, which is all about how technology supports a consistent absence management strategy! 

A group of employees who requested a leave wearing dark blue jeans stand consistently in a row on top of fallen leaves

A consistent and timely approach is crucial for complying with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA/ADAAA), and countless pieces of state and local leave legislation.

Traditionally, in-house leave management relied on manual tools such as spreadsheets, Outlook, sticky notes, and paper files. While this might work for seasoned absence managers in small companies where one person handles everything, it simply isn’t a scalable or replicable approach as soon as the numbers of cases and case managers increase.

I once worked with a large health system that had multiple locations and leave case managers. Each manager had their own process for granting FMLA leave, with only some requesting medical certifications. They were also using their own correspondence templates for eligibility and designation, which weren’t always sent on time. And they didn’t track deadlines such as return-to-work dates. This resulted in employees receiving different treatment when requesting leave and staying on leave as long as they wanted, presenting a huge compliance risk due to inconsistency and a large cost due to excessive absence.

To prevent inconsistency and reduce compliance risks, many employers turn to technology to standardize their leave and accommodation processes, paying close attention to the following areas.

First, case management systems provide a single fact base and narrative for each case. Documentation is centralized in secure, online case files that are easily searchable and accessible by the entire team. Most systems also offer varying levels of system access, so managers and others can see the leave and accommodation information they need, such as start and end dates, without running afoul of privacy laws.

Next, technology enables employers to standardize processes for consistency. Some laws such as the FMLA have legally required time frames to send notices, receive certification, and more. For example, you must provide the FMLA notice of eligibility within five business days of the leave request, require a medical certification within a minimum 15 calendar days, and deliver a designation notice within five business days of determining whether the leave is FMLA-protected.

For other laws such as the ADA, it’s more important to promote a consistent and equitable process, with steps based on best practices. For instance, when managing the ADA, the system should post reminders to reach out to the employee and their manager, review essential functions, request a breakdown of their current abilities, and more. The FMLA also has processes that the employer can build out, such as how to address appeals and manage return to work.

Regardless of whether it’s a legally required deadline or a best-practice step, technology enables employers to create automated reminders and alerts to keep cases on track by applying a consistent workflow.

Finally, consistency is essential when communicating with employees during leave and accommodation processes. Your organization should utilize the same correspondence across the board and send it in a timely manner. Technology can provide correspondence templates with logic that ensure the right information is delivered to employees at the correct time.

Leveraging technology to guide processes throughout your entire organization ensures that each case is managed equitably and according to best practices, even if different case managers are handling them. This allows you to manage tricky legal mandates with ease and to rest assured that your leave and accommodation programs are meeting requirements for compliance.

Read The Other Blog Posts In This Series: 

A Robust Absence Management System


Topics: Leave Management, Absence Management, HR Tips

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