Linking family medical leave administration with group disability plan administration can help employers cope with shifts in workplace demographics and evolving family needs.
When an employee gets into a car accident, the employee might file both a Family and Medical Leave Act claim and a short-term disability claim.
When the employee’s elderly parent falls and breaks a hip, the employee might go out on family medical leave–and later file an STD claim, if the stress of caring for the elderly parent takes its toll on the employee.
Handling employee leave in an efficient way that complies with the relevant laws and regulations must be a key objective for an employer that wants to succeed in this changing economy.
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The origins of the FMLA
Congress enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 in an effort to address the needs of the modern family.
The traditional two-parent, one-income family is no longer the norm in the United States. Whether by choice or out of necessity, many households have 2 wage earners. There are more single parent households today, and there are more people, including the majority of baby boomers, who are serving as caregivers for elderly parents. Families also face on-the-job stress along with family matters, ranging from childhood illnesses to teen pregnancy that may require time away from work.
Employees covered by the FMLA can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for a newborn or adopted child, to care for an ailing parent or immediate family member, or to deal with a serious personal or family health condition.
The United Auto Workers Community Action Program reported in 2006 that more than 50 million Americans have taken job-protected leave to bond with a new baby, care for a seriously ill family member, or recuperate from their own serious illness since the law was enacted. The U.S. Postal Service says 18.4% of its 620,688 employees took FMLA leave in 2006.
Increases in utilization are expected to continue as the workforce and general population become more knowledgeable about the FMLA.
Under the FMLA, employers are required to track all affected leaves, and they must ensure that they have explained the program to all employees and are treating all employees consistently and fairly. This can be a difficult proposition for large employers, and it can be especially challenging for any employer with employees in multiple states.
In addition to wanting help with absences related to short-term disability and the FMLA, employers are looking for help with absence resulting from ordinary illnesses and injuries, casual absence, Family Rights Act leave, maternity leave, paternal leave, bereavement leave, sabbatical leave, military leave and jury duty.
Many employers want a single source for administering all leave programs, including STD and FMLA programs.
How to integrate
How well we succeed at integrating leave management with disability claims administration is directly related to one’s commitment to prevention.