May 1, 2017

Leave Management Tools and Best Practices

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Tags: HR

Leave management can be a minefield of personal, legal, and regulatory problems. The U.S. government regulates this process to clarify common and edge cases and to ensure that companies protect employee rights. While these regulations can complicate the leave process, compliance will ensure smooth transitions between leave and work for your entire team. 

ALSO READ: The 2017 State of Employee Satisfaction and Loyalty

We all want to provide our employees with a safe, healthy, and happy work environment, but even the healthiest employees may require leave at some point to care for family members or unexpected personal issues. HR professionals and supervisors need carefully planned policies and access to regulatory requirements to make sure employees who request leave are treated fairly.

Leave management: Current FMLA poster

“Employers are required to display and keep displayed a poster prepared by the Department of Labor summarizing the major provisions of The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and telling employees how to file a complaint.”

Failure to take Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requests seriously could result in complicated and expensive legal troubles for both the company and the individual supervisors. In 2011, the EEOC estimated the cost of a successful wrongful termination lawsuit payout could cost a company anywhere from $87,500 to $450,000, and those damages have probably increased in the intervening years.

Thankfully, HR software has kept pace with regulatory changes and the increasing need for information privacy. A combination of internal policy and carefully implemented software support can set your company up for leave management success.

Leave Management Best Practices

1. Document: Every interaction, email, phone call, and meeting should be documented to ensure compliance and reduce the risk of legal intervention. For privacy reasons, your documentation should remain secure and private, beyond the reach of unauthorized parties. If you can centralize your HR, time and attendance, and compliance management to a single system with access controls, even better.

2. Make a policy and stick to it: All management should be briefed on your leave management policy and follow it to the letter. Consider:

  • Notification requirements (including 30-day notice and as soon as practically possible notice)
  • Request official or certified documentation. If the employee doesn’t provide certified documentation (from a doctor or medical provider) within the 15-day window, the request can be denied. Ask for second and third opinions to settle disputes.
  • Careful tracking of intermittent leave days, reasons, and call outs (use tracking software to do this)
  • Centralization. While supervisors and managers should be involved in the process, have a single source of truth for all decisions and one centralized group who advises on leave-related matters.

3. Regulations and Compliance: HIPAA and FMLA can change, putting your company and individual employees in danger of lawsuits or audits. Stay up to date and make sure this information is readily available to all responsible parties. Use your company’s policy to define privacy standards based on current industry regulations. 

4. Measure: Setting a policy isn’t the end of the line. Measure the policy’s effectiveness through setting goals and KPIs, measuring the return-to-work rate, and compliance. Monitor the effectiveness of the policy, and update requirements as needed.

HR Software Features that Support Leave Management

Time and attendance tools or integrations: These tools will give your employees freedom to request time off at their leisure, and gives exact tracking of requests, approvals, and denials. Use this information later for efficiency and compliance analytics.

Compliance tracking: The best tools let you set your policies and include the ability to log conversations. You shouldn’t have to use an outside database or spreadsheet in addition to your secure HR platform. Document every interaction with employees during their requests and leave periods to keep yourself covered. Regulatory integrations make these even more useful.

Security/Privacy: Leave management brings with it serious privacy issues regarding what you can ask an employee and what can be shared with other employees. Granular user permissions and access management bring tighter security to the private data you store.

Tools that Support Leave Management

MitreFinch: This UK-based company specializes in time and attendance management with HR components. Set up leave requirements in the absence management system that match your own leave policy.

TrackSmart: This time and attendance tool lets you access centralized employee data privately alongside their leave management tool. Use the reporting features to monitor your progress toward leave-related KPIs.

Zenefits: Zenefits offers a full-service HR software platform that integrates time, benefits, compliance, and payroll. Use the attendance tracker and compliance tools to program your leave policy and track your progress towards goals.

Leave management example: Zenefits

Bindle: This leave management tool gives your team a centralized location to request time off. Use the audit tools to document requests, approvals, and denials, and the calendar to ensure you fully staff for planned absences.

Zoho People: Zoho makes a wide variety of business-related products, and People is their branded HR system containing time and attendance, leave management, and HR processing. The leave management tools contain analytics reports and mobile self-service features.

eFMLA: This online workspace gives employers access to all required forms, and includes tracking features to document all interactions. As a dedicated FMLA tool, this subscription software does not include other HR features like time and attendance tracking.

To browse and compare more time/attendance tracking and HR solutions, use our Product Selection Tool. Have questions? Call one of our Technology Advisors for a free, unbiased consultation. 

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