COVID-19 Exhibits Employers Want Assist Managing Employee Absences, Guardian Life Says – InsuranceNewsNet

NEW YORK, NY, January 26, 2021 – Managing vacation at work has historically been a challenge for employers. With the onset of COVID-19 last year and the new federal and state legislation, there is a new level of complexity.

The Guardian Life’s latest research – “Absence Management Redefined: During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond” – found that the pandemic has raised executive awareness of the importance of effective absence management (77 percent), particularly in a very difficult time. While most organizations felt they were reasonably well prepared for COVID-19 regarding their disability and / or their vacation programs or policies, three out of four employers changed their unpaid vacation policies to paid payments due to COVID-19 while every third employer created new and separate COVID-19 vacation guidelines.

The study, which has been tracking trends in absence management since 2012, found that many companies have made significant efforts to maintain their business and protect their employees due to COVID-19. However, this had an impact. At the time the research was conducted, approximately 56 percent of employers said their staffing levels were compromised due to employee vacation under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The FFCRA, which expired on December 31, 2020, urged employers with fewer than 500 employees to grant paid sick leave or extended medical leave for reasons related to COVID-19.

“For the past year, executives have faced unprecedented challenges including shutdowns, managing employee absenteeism, and complying with new federal and state laws on paid vacation,” said Chris Smith, director of group benefits, Guardian Life. “Our research shows that employers between 50 and 5,000 employees are looking for permanent absence management solutions to deal with workforce challenges as a result of the pandemic.”

The results also showed that several vacation trends had emerged over the past year, such as: B. Revisions to existing vacation policies, increased outsourcing of vacation management, and increased use of technology to improve the employee experience. For example, 67 percent said they would “very” or “somewhat likely” to outsource the Family and Sick Leave Act (FMLA), and 74 percent would like the Americans with Disability (ADA) service with FMLA and STD (Short- Centralize term disability).


Keeping pace with the growing number of government-paid vacation laws and local laws

One of the biggest challenges for employers, especially in highly regulated states, is keeping up with the numerous changes to federal and state vacation laws over the past two years and coordinating different types of absences. For example, 87 percent of companies with employees in four or more highly regulated countries said keeping up with changes in the law was the biggest challenge. As a result, more and more companies are creating their own vacation policies in order to meet or exceed legal requirements and standardize services within their company.

When implementing paid vacation laws, employers face a choice – either postponing a government-paid family and sick leave plan or opting for a private plan, if available. Guardian Life’s study found that half of employers in states with paid family and sick leave laws expect to opt for a private plan. In addition to government leave regulations, employers subject to community-specific laws must address these additional complexities and reassess their leave policies. Around half of these employers manage them with internal resources, while around a third work with an external resource or software.

Results-based absence management programs on the rise

Guardian Life research shows US employers have made further progress and improved their absence management programs over the past two years.

The Guardian’s five best practices, such as Return to Work Programs and Centralized Home / Leave Reporting Portal, have been greatly enhanced, reaffirming that many of them are becoming industry standards for how best to manage employee absenteeism. For example, employers using a central vacation portal achieved 54 percent, an increase of 135 percent since 2014; and 54 percent of employers said they use the same resource for managing sexually transmitted disease leave and FMLA – up 93 percent since 2014.

It was also confirmed that adopting best practices leads to better results in absence management. For example, six in ten organizations that have made reducing absenteeism a priority and taken steps to address it have reported positive results themselves. A notable gain is that 66 percent of employers reported an increased return rate among employees.

The score is based on the Guardian’s Absence Management Activity Index, originally introduced in 2012, and uses a series of questions to measure the extent to which an employer is implementing best practices for absence management. Employers are then divided into three categories depending on their level of maturity. The index showed that over a period of six years, the average maturity value in 2020 was 5.6 on a 10-point scale and has improved by 51 percent since 2012 (value – 3.7).

Click here to learn more about Guardian Absence Management or to download the latest report.

The fifth wave of the Guardian Absence Management Activity Index and study was conducted in the third quarter of 2020. It consisted of a total of 1,200 performance specialists, all of whom work for employers with at least 50 full-time employees and benefit eligible employees. The companies surveyed have between 50 and more than 5,000 employees.

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