What’s the key to FMLA compliance at any organization? Consistent and equitable administration of the law, backed by clear and accurate documentation.
That may sound like a tall order. Between different leave programs, processes, and systems at your organization, optimizing compliance can be a colossal undertaking. That’s why we’ve put together a few tips to help you out!
1. Standardize processes and correspondence.
Your team is decentralized! One key, for example, is to make sure that all teamWhether you have one leave case manager or an entire team, everyone needs to follow the same processes and use the same documentation at all times - even if members use the same language in their communications with employees (ex. with standard correspondence templates).
Remember: being inconsistent increases the risk that employees will feel unfairly treated and turn to litigation. And it limits your ability to prove in court that you were equitable and made your best efforts to manage the leave!
2. Integrate programs and systems.
Employers often manage leave, Short-Term Disability and Workers’ Compensation separately. But it’s important to remember that any program dealing with the consequences of a serious health condition needs to also be considered under the FMLA. Integrating your programs and consolidating your reporting requirements can help trigger when programs need to run concurrently. One of the best ways to support this integration is with a centralized intake approach.
Integrating systems also helps the leave team make accurate applicability, eligibility and entitlement determinations. Information like date of hire and hours worked can usually be found in a mix of Human Resources, Payroll and Time & Attendance systems.
However, it’s crucial to recognize these systems’ limitations: they alone cannot provide the information necessary for a compliant leave program.
A successful leave system leverages the information in these systems to enhance and manage compliance and decision support, ensuring that the leave team has access to all necessary data in a timely way!
3. Educate the front lines.
Supervisors are on the front lines with employees, so it’s important to provide them with tools to help guide employees through the process. This may be a software tool that enables them to request leave on behalf of an employee or a centralized knowledge base with company policies and processes (ex. how to report an absence).
On the front lines, technology can also help you:
- Provide supervisors with ongoing reports of employees with pending and approved leaves so that they can make better staffing decisions
- Steer supervisors and managers towards having the right conversations with employees (ex. if they need an accommodation)
- Capture the outcomes of those conversations for later review
4. Maintain transparent and open communication.
It goes without saying that employers must ensure the right leave information is communicated to employees at the right time. But a successful leave management program will go beyond the mandatory correspondence to promote better employee engagement in the leave process.
For instance, some employers send employees who are on leave regular letters explaining key details of their entitlement draw and ensuring that the employee does not feel forgotten.
This is a great tool to stay in touch with employees and recognize potential problems before they become contentious!
5. Review, evaluate and maintain your strategy.
Developing a good compliance strategy is just the first step! Don’t forget to regularly review and test your measures to ensure their effectiveness. One key tool is operational reporting, which helps you ensure that employees are following your standardized processes.
For example, summary case reports allow you to quickly review pending,
approved and denied leaves, and to slice this data by department, geography or other elements. You can also run reports on the leave team’s tasks to double check that no one is falling behind and missing deadlines.
If you already have a program in place but aren’t sure how it’s performing, consult with legal counsel and your HR staff to evaluate your current company policies for employee participation, compliance and efficiency. Just be sure to clearly communicate any changes you make to employee rights and responsibilities in advance of the changes!
Founded in 1987, Presagia has a long history of helping organizations solve complex business problems with easy-to-use solutions. Today, this means providing cloud-based absence management solutions that enable organizations to be more efficient, control lost time and risk, and strengthen compliance with federal, state and municipal leave and accommodation laws.