Absence management programs appear to have become an indelible part of the employer services market.
When Hewitt Associates Inc., Lincolnshire, Ill., polled about 600 large employers a few months ago, it found that 19% already have absence management programs and 56% plan to add absence management programs in the next three to five years.
Group disability insurers have been using their expertise at managing disability-related leave to go after a piece of the action.
The Standard Insurance Company unit of StanCorp Financial Group Inc., Portland, Ore., started an absence management services unit for employers about a year ago.
The group insurance arm of Prudential Financial Inc., Newark, N.J., opened an office in Scottsdale, Ariz., and hired about 50 people there to accommodate growth in its disability and absence management services business.
Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Hartford, announced in March that it is offering a single, integrated program that can manage absences from workers compensation claims along with those for short-term illness, disability, and leave programs.
Other disability insurers and DI service firms that have entered the absence management market since 2008 include American International Group Inc., New York; Custom Disability Solutions, South Portland, Maine, a unit of Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company, Philadelphia; Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York; and UnitedHealth Group Inc., Minnetonka, Minn.
The Disability Management Employer Coalition, San Diego, reflects the growing interest in the absence management market within the agenda for its upcoming annual conference in San Diego. The conference is set to cover such topics as disability and absence management basics, managing intermittent leaves and absence and disability management in “unprecedented times.”
Absence management is hot because “employers are looking for a partner,” says Kimberly Mashburn, a vice president of strategic partnerships in Prudential’s group insurance business.
For years, employers have had to deal with vacation time, sick days, short-term disability leave, and leaves resulting from on-the-job injuries, jury duty and bereavement. Now, because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, employers also are seeing greater and more extended use of federal and state military leave laws. They also are seeing states adopt new leave mandates covering residents.