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5 Trends for 2019 in Absence and Disability Management

The Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) has identified five leading trends in absence and disability management that HR leaders should pay attention to in 2019. Interestingly, an automated leave management system can help organizations keep pace with what’s ahead and mitigate compliance and other risks associated with all five trends.

1. Employee Engagement

With employee engagement increasingly viewed as two-way street, employers need to invest in education and professional development to promote engagement and “up-skill” in data and people skills. This will affect leave policies and how leave is tracked and managed.

In addition, various forms of leave, especially paid family leave, will play an increasingly larger role in fostering engagement. “We’ll continue to see those programs expand at the private, local, and state levels, if not at the federal level,” the DMEC reports.

A manual leave management system, or even one built internally or not developed specifically to manage leave, usually creates more headaches for HR and makes an already complex problem more difficult. An optimal automated system delivers what’s needed to get leave management right to boost employee engagement, including for federal and state FMLA regulations.

2. Supervisor Training

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and Employee Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have said most of their enforcement actions can be avoided through basic supervisor training. FMLA, ADA, anti-discrimination, and sexual harassment liability are all greatly reduced when supervisors and managers understand the relevant laws and the most common types of communication pitfalls to avoid.

An automated leave management system significantly reduces the information supervisors and managers need to know off the top of their heads and instead makes it easy and safe for them to find the information they need at a glance. Compliance is also easier thanks to automated alerts, correspondence, and task management.

3. Workplace Diversity and Inclusion

A tight labor market means employers will also continue to hire employees from diverse backgrounds with varied skills and abilities. We’ll also continue to see more diverse workplaces and a deepened understanding about the role different perspectives play in driving innovation and competitiveness.

Those are factors that highlight one reason leave management isn’t as cut and dried as it once was. Companies need to carefully consider whether a particular employee’s situation is covered by any laws and regulations.

An automated leave management system that’s constantly updated to comply with local, state, and federal laws will help ensure that your business meets legal parameters around such issues as disability and the complexities of accommodations — many of which relate directly to diversity and inclusion. 

4. Automation

As more routine tasks and even some forms of subjective assessment or judgment are automated, employees need to bring greater skill and more advanced analysis and creativity to their work. The DMEC notes that as a result, absence and disability professionals are learning to use AI and big data to interpret output in a way that drives business results.

Data warehousing for HR can help overcome this challenge. The right system can allow for all of HR’s disparate people data to be stored and managed in one location, from employee benefits to risk management. The results are optimal manageability and accessibility, more control and insight into all of your employee-generated data, and better business decisions.

5. Marijuana

The U.S. has not seen such a potentially large shift in social, legal, and workplace practices involving a drug since alcohol prohibition was ended in 1933. The increased legalization or decriminalization for medical and recreational marijuana presents employers, courts, and others with a host of new challenges. Leave management is going to be one of those  challenges.

As the DMEC points out, medical marijuana presents the more complex challenge. First, because it’s more widespread; it’s now legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia. Second, because prescribed (and even recreational) drug use is often still illegal when employees are at work, the federal law isn’t in sync with states that have legalized the drug. This means that employees can’t use prescribed drugs on employer property.

An automated, constantly updated leave management system gives employers the confidence that the implications of all this are sorted out for them, helping them ensure compliance and avoid legal and employment risk.