Intermittent FMLA leave and reporting were the two biggest absence management challenges cited by employers who attended the “Best Practices for Absence Management” session at the 23rd Annual Benefits Forum & Expo this week in Boca Raton, Florida.
Between 4% and 10% of U.S. employees are absent on any given day, said Nazneen Vimadalal, vice president of group markets with Liberty Mutual, while lost time claims can cost organizations more than $19,000 per employee per year.
Vimadalal, along with Joe Wozniak, vice-president of administration with the Disability Management Employer Coalition, offered eight tips for improving absence management programs in the workplace:
1. Assess the scope of absence in your environment. This includes types of absence, the internal culture surrounding absence, variables such as geography, demographics and industry.
2. Generate hard numbers. This includes days/hours by location, unit, job description, hourly and exempt/salaried employees.
3. Get stakeholder buy-in. Support from the C-suite can make absence management a part of corporate strategy and buy-in. "Typically we find one of HR’s biggest challenges is ‘how do we get senior management buy-in for the program?’” said Wozniak. “It generally takes someone who’s going to be a company champion."
4. Engage employees at every stage. Include positive intervention, use the EAP, and include absence management in communications and training. “Communicating the benefit of absence management is going to create cooperation and support from employees, from managers,” said Wozniak.
5. Decide whether you want to administer your absence management in-house or outsource it to a third party. Increased regulatory complexity means it may make sense for some organizations to outsource their absence management. Considerations include cost, competency of administrator, how complicated your absences are and how many you have.
6. Create benchmarks. Benchmark against competitors, organizations with similar makeup of your workforce, geographical distribution, and local, state and federal regulations. “I like to tell people they should track at least five years, preferably 10, of data on claims, claims costs, percentage of payroll,” said Wozniak.
7. Develop tracking mechanisms. This includes how absence is reported and how absence types are coordinated.
8. Adopt, analyze and assess. “You’re in charge,” Wozniak told participants. “You should see the problem, you should already know the cause of the problem and should have some ideas about what you’re going to recommend management [do] to address the problem.”
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