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DMEC chief: Paid leave has momentum

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Disability insurers, and corporate disability benefits managers, originally set up absence management programs to oversee ordinary sick leave, disability-related absence and a few types of leave required, or strongly suggested, by the government.

The need to help employers understand government leave programs is growing.

Gov. Jerry Brown has just made headlines by signing A.B. 908, a state bill that will increase the percentage of wages that the California Paid Family Leave program pays eligible workers. Many other states and municipalities have established, or at least considered, setting up their own paid leave benefits programs, or imposing new leave program mandates on employers.

The insurers that want to promote the 2016 Disability Insurance Awareness Month campaign starting May 1 may have to struggle to squeeze in awareness month announcements with all of the leave program guides they have to get out.

The Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC), an organization for the disability benefits management community, has devoted about two-thirds of the sessions at an upcoming compliance conference, which is set to start April 25 in Pittsburgh, on the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and other government leave programs.

One session, for example, has the title “Paid sick leave laws: The new frontier for job protected absences.”

Will all of the new leave program mandates drive harried absence management program managers to take personal stress relief days?

Terri Rhodes, the chief executive officer at DMEC, said in an email interview that employers’ views on leave vary. ”There will be those employers that balk at the cost,” Rhodes said. “Particularly the small employer.”

Meanwhile, larger, more innovative employers are going in the opposite direction, Rhodes said. She sees many of the kinds of employers that are active in DMEC trying to attract and keep the top workers by developing new paid leave benefits.

Measuring employers’ true net leave program costs is difficult, in part because measuring the full effects of a lack of access to paid leave is difficult, Rhodes said.

When sick workers show up at work because of a lack of paid leave, presenteeism may reduce productivity, and contagion may end up increasing health care costs, both for the employer and for society as a whole, Rhodes said.

Rhodes also said she does not see many employers mounting serious challenges to the new leave mandates. 

“It appears that the new laws are very much in response to significant public policy pressures to support those balancing work and family demands,” she said.

See also:

3 DMEC absence management conversation starters

Most employers insource leave management programs


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