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Optis Blog: Your Place to Find Our Bright Ideas

If you want to get a clearer idea of what Optis does, or if you're curious about our perspective on absence, risk, and data management, our blog is a great place to start. Feel free to leave comments or share our blog posts with any of your social connections.


 

Sick days happen. And when they do, employees need to be able to have the time they need to care for their health. It is, of course, in your best interest and theirs to allow employees adequate time. You want to ensure that your employees are healthy, happy, and operating at full capacity for the benefit of your company. But you also need to comply with FMLA requirements.

However, when employees take leave in small chunks, these sick days can take a toll on your company. While leave is important and required by the FMLA, you need to be sure that your efficiency and bottom line don’t suffer.

Does your company have the right systems and policies in place to minimize the cost of intermittent leave? The Society for Human Resource Management suggests several ways to curb leave abuse and reduce costly oversight. But implementing these best practices is a lot easier and more likely to be successful when you have an online leave management system to help you. Here are five ways leave management software can help you reduce leave policy abuse:

  1. Tracking intermittent leave

    By accurately tracking your employees’ leave — logging the type of leave, reason, specific times, doctor’s notes, etc. — you can discover any patterns or suspicious behavior. For example, tracking might allow you to realize that a certain employee often takes leave on Fridays, leading you to speak with the employee and figure out why this is happening and if their reasons are legitimate. With an online leave management system, all requests will be automatically logged and available for easy access, so you can quickly review and compare.

  2. Having written requests and responses

    While FMLA guidelines allow for verbal leave requests, the best way to minimize confusion, miscommunication, and dishonesty is to ask employees to submit written requests and obtain written approvals. An automated system with an employee self-service portal makes it easy to complete written leave requests and responses online, capturing and storing all the details you need to make sure your employees and managers are on the same page.

  3. Requiring and collecting medical certifications

    One of the best ways to curb leave abuse is to require medical certifications. By asking doctors for detailed instructions for the employee’s duties and stop and start times, you will be able to determine eligibility and accurately plan for the employee’s time away. Rather than trying to organize all these medical certifications on your own, a leave management software system will effortlessly track and store the certification requirements and receipts in one place for your easy review.

  4. Helping employees return to work successfully

    The last thing you want is an employee returning to work before they’re ready, causing low productivity or extended leave time. The ability to track their return-to-work details with leave management software will allow you to set requirements for fitness-for-duty exams and manage accommodation requests. You’ll be able to know with confidence exactly when and in what capacity your employees will be returning to work.

  5. Combining FMLA and short-term disability forms

    Sometimes FMLA leave and short-term disability payments overlap, and when they do, combining the two forms can save time and money for you and your employee. Rather than having the physician fill out two forms and charge fees for both, provide a single form to increase efficiency. The right leave management system will also be able to integrate with short-term disability claims and keep all needed information relating to leave management readily available.

Disorganized, time-consuming leave management can be a liability for your company and a burden for you, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s time to consider an online leave management system to reduce leave abuse and minimize costs. Optis’ cloud-based leave management system, LeaveXpert®, will help you strengthen your leave management processes, so you can monitor employee leave with accuracy and efficiency.

It’s easier than ever to get a handle on leave management. In addition to the tips above, Optis LeaveXpert and its built-in FMLA software provide the ability to do custom reporting, manage workflow tasks, track employee demographic data, and more. With three different editions, LeaveXpert works to help organizations of all sizes see bottom-line business results through effective leave and absence management. Start your free 30-day trial today!

It happens. No matter how well you think you’ve trained your staff on FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) compliance, or how well you’ve informed employees about their rights, or how closely you think you’ve managed the FMLA process, employees sometimes seek retaliation.

For that simple reason — and despite your company’s best intentions and actions — it’s good to understand:

  1. Why an employee can claim you’ve made an adverse FMLA decision and the damages they can seek
  2. The most common mistakes that lead to a negative employee action
  3. How to reduce the likelihood of a retaliation claim

Retaliation under the FMLA simply means an employee seeks recourse, claiming you’ve adversely affected the terms and conditions of their employment after they exercised their rights under the FMLA. Common examples of “adverse employment decisions” related to the FMLA include:

  • Terminating an employee for requesting FMLA leave
  • Demoting an employee for taking intermittent leave to care for a family member
  • Marking FMLA absences as a negative in performance reviews or project assignments

An employee can seek remedies ranging from reinstatement to monetary punitive damages, such as those awarded in personal injury or libel cases. Other remedies can come in the form of:

  • Back pay: income lost before the case reaches a court decision or is settled
  • Front pay: the employee’s projected future earnings or continued lost income
  • Value of lost benefits: medical expenses and related costs, for example
  • Other monetary losses: needing to hire a caretaker instead of taking leave to care for a family member
  • Interest, court costs, and attorney’s fees

To mitigate the likelihood that an employee will seek recourse after they’ve been granted (or even taken) leave under the FMLA, it’s a good idea to know the most common mistakes employers make that lead to retaliation claims:

  1. A poor notification process (e.g., you don’t request medical certification in writing)
  2. Over-aggressive certification (e.g., a manager asks for more information than the FMLA requires)
  3. Misunderstanding qualifying circumstances (e.g., a manager denies FMLA leave despite an employee’s qualifying serious health condition)
  4. Wrongful termination (e.g., terminating an employee during or after their FMLA leave without a clear and valid reason)
  5. Failure to offer the same or an equivalent job (e.g., shift changes without a good business reason)
  6. Denial of parental leave (e.g., not granting FMLA leave to provide physical or psychological comfort for an employee’s parent)
  7. Poor absentee policy (e.g., not designating FMLA when it should be applied)
  8. Poor communication of FMLA use (e.g., failure to send an employee the required out-of-time notice in a timely manner)

To prevent retaliation claims — and to avoid employee misunderstandings and confusion in general — remember the adage that the best defense is often a good offense. It’s better to go beyond just understanding the law, instead taking steps to actively train managers and communicate to employees.

Start by regularly reviewing your FMLA policies and procedures to ensure they are consistent throughout your organization. Next, train managers and HR staff on how to handle accusations of FMLA abuse or improprieties. Perhaps the strongest move you can make is to automate your entire leave management system. Tracking employee leave in the cloud enables you to access leave data anywhere, anytime, with any device with an internet connection.

To this end, it’s best to look for a leave management system that’s secure and quick to deploy. In an ideal case, you’ll be able to get started with a turnkey solution that works out of the box; however, if you’re looking for a more complex system, your company may need a solution with a base model that can easily be built up or customized.

Finally, you’ll want a leave management system that includes:

  • An intake portal that will allow your employees to have a single, designated location to submit a leave of absence request. The intake portal should then push automatic notifications to your leave managers, creating a streamlined process.
  • Case information and history, to give you the most detailed picture of your employee’s leave of absence. The system should allow for auto-generated letters, attachment upload and storage, email tracking, and a communication history log.
  • Instant references for employee eligibility, so you’re not constantly digging for hire date, hours worked, etc.
  • Automatic updates on federal and state FMLA, military leave, and other regulation changes.
  • A specific area where you can track return-to-work and accommodations actions.
  • The capability to generate reports showing the big picture of your absence state, including a glimpse at areas that need to be adjusted. This reporting will also help you track trends over time so you can make better business decisions and improve your company's absence program.
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Solving the Puzzle of Leave Management

Based on an Optis survey of HR professionals, discover the leave management pieces that could reduce your compliance risk and cost of absences.

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