Managing workplace leave of absence has historically been a challenge for employers, and with the onset of COVID-19 last year, and new federal and state legislation, there is a new layer of complexity.
The latest research from The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, "Absence Management Redefined: During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond," found the pandemic has raised senior leadership's awareness about the importance of effective absence management, particularly during a very difficult time.
While most organizations believed they were reasonably well-prepared for COVID-19 in terms of their disability and/or leave programs or policies, three in four employers changed their unpaid leave policies to paid due to COVID-19, while one in three employers created new and separate COVID-19 leave policies.
The study, which has been tracking trends in absence management since 2012, found many organizations made significant efforts to preserve their business and protect their employees as a result of COVID-19, but it had an impact nonetheless.
At the time the research was conducted, approximately 56% of employers stated their staffing was impacted because of employees taking leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA.) The FFCRA, which expired Dec. 31, 2020, required employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide paid sick leave or expanded medical leave time off for reasons related to COVID-19.
"As of last year, senior leaders have faced unprecedented challenges including shutdowns, managing employee absence and keeping up with new federal and state paid leave laws," said Chris Smith, head of group benefits, Guardian Life. "Our research shows that employers, ranging from 50 to 5,000 employees, are seeking permanent absence management solutions to address workforce challenges as a result of the pandemic."
The findings also showed several leave trends emerged last year, such as revisions to existing leave policies, increased outsourcing of leave administration and greater use of technology to improve the employee experience.
For example, 67% stated they were "very" or "somewhat likely" to outsource Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and 74% want to...