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Optis Blog: Your Place to Find Our Bright Ideas

If you want to get a clearer idea of what Optis does, or if you're curious about our perspective on absence, risk, and data management, our blog is a great place to start. Feel free to leave comments or share our blog posts with any of your social connections.


 

On Jan. 23, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli called on major corporations to be more proactive in demonstrating their disability inclusion efforts. The announcement essentially catapulted disability inclusion into the corporate accountability mainstream, putting it on par with environmental, social, and governance (ESG), and corporate social responsibility (CSR) concerns and initiatives.

DiNapoli asked nearly 50 companies in New York State’s pension portfolio to measure and report inclusion across their enterprise, starting this year. According to published reports, DiNapoli even recommended that disability inclusion data be measured and reported using a benchmarking tool called the Disability Equality Index.

Still, many corporations will resist emphasizing disability inclusion in their ESG or CSR reports or planning because they think of inclusion as compliance. Too often, business leaders think of it as something costly and a part of risk management, not as corporate social responsibility.

It’s a wrong assumption that an automated leave management system can help set right. An automated, constantly updated leave management system gives employers of any size the confidence to know all the implications of disability leave and accommodations are sorted out for them. An automated system is the best way to ensure compliance, avoid legal and employment risk, and also improve your corporate brand by being proactively inclusive.

And regardless of whether you consider disability inclusion part of CSR, your business is likely to be increasingly affected by disability as a topic of hiring, leave management, and workplace accommodations. An estimated 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a disability. As the population ages — combined with more people working longer — this number will only rise, experts say. 

Also, nearly 20 percent of people of working age have a disability, and close to 70 percent of them are unemployed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Those numbers represent a potentially very high number of people without jobs in a booming job market.

And if you think there isn’t increasing sentiment for being proactive about disability inclusion as part of ESG or social responsibility, then at least consider it as good for your business. Disability inclusion — and having the tools in place to properly manage disability leaves and accommodations — is a corporate social responsibility with a huge upside: jobs and a jump-start on profits.

A study from Accenture, in partnership with Disability:IN and the AAPD, showed for the first time that companies that champion people with disabilities outperform others, based on profitability and shareholder returns. To put a finer point on it, companies that improved internal practices for disability inclusion were four times more likely to see higher total shareholder returns.

The research identified five common denominators among such organizations:

  1. They hire people with disabilities.
  2. They carry out practices that encourage and advance those employees.
  3. They provide accessible tools and technologies, paired with a formal accommodations program.
  4. They generate awareness through recruitment efforts, disability education programs, and grassroots-led initiatives.
  5. They create empowering environments through mentoring and coaching initiatives.

A quality foundational automated leave management solution like Optis LeaveXpert Essential will meet the most critical capabilities of a leave management system, including federal and state FMLA regulations, and automated alerts, correspondence, and task management. Ready right out of the box, LeaveXpert Essential doesn’t require any add-ons or the purchase of any additional feature downloads.

Optis LeaveXpert Plus offers support for reverse data feeds, custom reporting, and historic case migration. LeaveXpert Unlimited is, meanwhile, built specifically for organizations with complex leave and absence management needs. 

But fully adapting to disability inclusion requires more than leave management and accommodations. Reporting on ESG or CSR initiatives and developing inclusive hiring and training strategies are significant undertakings for larger companies. An integrated data warehouse system for all of our people data can mitigate those challenges and positively impact all five of the key characteristics of companies that are exemplary at hiring and retaining people with disabilities.

Optis Insights, for example, is uniquely designed to support the complex people-data needs of enterprise employers, insurers, and third-party administrators. It’s employee and HR data-management software that mitigates risk and delivers greater insight into the data that lives in all of your HR data systems. To support ESG, CRS, and inclusion efforts, Optis Insights puts you in control of the data you need to remove the uncertainty and drastically cut the time for getting high-quality, centralized data and total transparency into your people data.

The bottom line is that disability rights, hiring strategies, leave management, and workplace accommodations will increasingly grow as trends U.S. business should be aware of and respond to.

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.

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