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The Road to Better Absence Management

Originally posted by United Benefit Advisors (UBA).

Stephen Coffman
Group Practice Leader
The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America
A more meaningful attempt to manage absences can go a long way toward helping ease the staffing and morale challenges of small and midsize businesses that often feel the impact of absences more acutely than larger firms. What’s more, in an environment where government oversight is only intensifying, effective absence management may become more challenging and burdensome for employers unless they have access to a specialist who understands the increasing and ever-changing federal, state and local Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) laws. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also needs to be considered. For example, requirements have expanded in recent years to include reasonable accommodations designed to reduce employee stress. This stress can weaken an employee’s immune system, which can potentially lead to them getting sick and then trigger absences and erode productivity.
Small or midsize employers may not even be aware of all these issues and updates, nor have the staff to appropriately address them, which can leave companies vulnerable to lengthy and costly ligation. Plus, a growing “sandwich generation,” combined with an aging population, means the incidences and complexity of employee absences will only increase. For this and many other reasons, outsourcing absence management or partnering with an expert makes a lot of sense. But what should employers look for when evaluating their outsourcing options? Absence management programs that follow these five best practices, as revealed in the Guardian Absence Management Activity IndexSM and Study, will generate better outcomes for companies:
  • A full return-to-work program, starting with a written policy.
  • Detailed reporting for disability and FMLA usage patterns, costs and more.
  • A process that gives employees referrals to health management programs.
  • A central leave-reporting portal for short term disability and family and medical leaves.
  • Using the same resource for short term disability, family and medical leaves and other benefit programs.

Aside from helping to ensure compliance with FMLA, a more robust program approach to absence management can help shorten the duration and severity of absences and return employees to work sooner, thereby reducing health care costs and improving productivity. It’s a win-win for both employers and their employees.