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Four-year study finds employers struggle with FMLA related to intermittent leave and disability, but professional outsourcing and software can help contribute to decreased loss time

DENVER — (Aug. 7, 2012) — Employees taking intermittent time off to care for themselves or for sick family members under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are nearly three times more likely to file a subsequent Short-term Disability (STD) claim within six months than employees not taking FMLA leaves, according to new research findings from Reed Group, the leading expert in leave administration and return to work management.

Intermittent FMLA claims, in which employees are away from work, return and then are away again, are a challenging source of frustration and difficulty for human resource managers. Reed Group’s findings suggest that professional outsourcing and software can be key strategies for HR managers to decrease employee lost time due to intermittent absence and associated costs.

As part of its study of more than 112,000 FMLA claims closed between 2008 and 2011 Reed Group found the following:

  • 51 percent of all FMLA claims involved intermittent leaves; and,
  • Employees on intermittent leaves are more likely to file a STD claim within the following six months, (21 percent) than those on continuous leave (8 percent).

The most common reasons for disability following intermittent leaves are musculoskeletal conditions and behavioral health problems.

“These findings make it clear that intermittent leaves are a major driver of business disruption and cost.  Robust tracking tools or professional outsourcing can help employers better manage FMLA and disability claims and reduce business cost and disruption,” said Kevin Curry, senior vice president and national practice leader for Reed Group. “By intercepting these cases early, employers can provide their employees with timely assistance and support which, in turn, can help reduce the incidence of STD and longer periods away from work.”

Curry also suggests employers use FMLA claims as a gauge for the need of employee assistance programs and offer programs that specifically address the employee needs associated with the most common FMLA claims within their company. By integrating FMLA management with a company’s existing health management programs, (such as employee assistance programs, wellness programs, disease management services, and health coaching) employers can reduce STD incidence, duration and costs.

“Employee assistance programs are often used to help employees remain healthy and prevent common issues that result in STD time away from work; however, most employers haven’t built the connection between FMLA claims, which can be a pre-cursor to a more impactful STD leave, and their employee assistance programs,” Curry said. “Without that connection, employers have a difficult time maximizing their EAP programs and reduce STD incidence as effectively as possible.”

Other recent industry research has generated similar findings; a 2012 employer leave management survey conducted by Spring Consulting Group found that only 32 percent of employers integrated EAP services with FMLA programs.

“Our study found the two most effective intermittent leave services are routine certification of medical conditions and software systems for tracking the leave,” said Karen English, a partner at Spring Consulting. “With the growing complexity of FMLA management, software tools are becoming a necessary management tool.”

To help organizations control the costs associated with FMLA and STD, Reed Group offers employers the industry’s leading online FMLA and leaves reference, Leave of Absence Advisor® and the industry’s most advanced leave management software, LeavePro™. Leave of Absence Advisor® and LeavePro™ will be demonstrated at booth number 24 at the DMEC annual meeting August 12 through 15 in Denver. DMEC members can receive an introductory annual subscription to Leave of Absence Advisor® for $199 a year, a $500 discount from the list price. Click here for more information or to request a personal demonstration.

About Reed Group

Reed Group is the recognized leader in helping organizations reduces the cost, compliance risk and complexity of employee absence. Our products and services address FMLA, ADA, state and other leave laws, workers’ compensation, and short- and long-term disability programs. Headquartered in Westminster, Colorado, Reed Group has been a trusted partner to employers, insurers, TPAs, government organizations, attorneys, and health care providers for over 35 years. Reed Group’s world-class team of clinical and absence management experts help organizations deploy Reed Group products and services to improve employee health and productivity. For more information, visit www.reedgroup.com.

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Compliance Team

Compliance Team

James Venable, JD, SPHR, is the Vice President of Employment Law, Absence and Accommodation Compliance at ReedGroup, where he provides expertise in Absence Management Compliance and Employee Relations Counseling. Mr. Venable has more than 20 years of experience across senior roles in Legal, Human Resources, and Compliance from several Fortune 500 companies. Mr. Venable joined ReedGroup in April 2018 after serving as Vice President of Human Resources, Employee Relations, Labor Relations, Compliance and Environmental Health and Safety for Comcast, where he was responsible for engagement and labor relations activities for the company’s West Division Business Unit.

Lori Welty, Esq. is a Compliance Attorney at ReedGroup. Ms. Welty provides expertise in all areas of state and federal leave law, including Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and their state law equivalents as well as disability and family leave benefits. Ms. Welty is an ongoing author of ReedGroup’s LeaveAdvisor online reference tool, as well as many other white papers and articles.

Sheri Pullen is a Compliance Analyst at Reed Group. Ms. Pullen develops leave of absence and disability content across a variety of platforms and provides compliance analysis, direction, and expertise regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), state leave laws, and ERISA as it relates to disability plans. Ms. Pullen has a strong compliance-focused background comprised of more than 20 years of experience in writing, editing, business analysis, and consulting.

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