Human resources professionals and benefits managers from across the country traveled to New Orleans for the Annual Disability Management Employers Coalition (DMEC) Conference. After three days of sessions, there was plenty to learn and put to use. Here are three areas we saw as the big takeaways:
- Mental health. More and more, employers are realizing the importance of offering support for the mental health of their employees. It’s not just the right thing to do for employees, but can be financially better for companies. Mental conditions are among the top three reasons for long-term disability claims and in the top five for short-term disability claims. Plus, these can be some of the longest duration claims. Direct supervisors and managers can have the biggest impact on employees’ acknowledging and seeking support for these issues.
- Integration. When it comes to leave and disability, there are 42 programs for which HR needs expert knowledge — miss one or more and the consequences can be costly. Integrating programs controls the risk of mistakes with an employee leave — and helps maximize a company’s return on investment when it comes to managing these programs.
- Technology. Employers who move from a manual tracking process to a more automated, centralized, tech-based process see a decrease in leave duration. But a few emerging trends are already affecting leave management practices:
- Telemedicine can be more convenient to access and less costly than physically visiting a doctor for a variety of conditions. However, employers must decide if a telemedicine visit will be accepted as a basis to approve an employee’s medical leave of absence. If employers encourage employees to use telemedicine as part of their health benefits, it may be hard to justify not accepting it for the leave.
- Telecommuting poses a few challenges when it comes to managing FMLA:
- When calculating eligibility and taking into account the employee worksite, it is not their home but the office that they report to. This could be a different state than where they are physically located, so multiple state laws may come into effect.
- When requesting a leave, the employer may not be able to physically acknowledge the request in person, and most employees won’t be hanging a Department of Labor poster in their home. So it is important to communicate with the employee the process for requesting.
- Social media. With a majority of adults accessing social media sites at least once a day, it is important for employers to have a clear social media policy and to explain how that can affect leave management. Posting photos can make it easier to find if an employee is vacationing on a leave, and employees should be aware if this can lead to termination. When employers suspect abuse, they should be sure to give employees a chance to explain before enacting consequences.