Getting a Handle on Total Absence Management

By Felicia Palmer, Director, HRO Services, TPI

Felicia Palmer headshot Did you catch the tidbit about a new leave bill proposed on Capitol Hill?

In case it escaped your notice, it essentially builds on the Family Medical Leave Act and offers the same 12-week leave on a "paid" basis. Yes, "paid". It strikes me that the number of births, adoptions and ill parents to care for is going to skyrocket - once foregone compensation is no longer a factor in an employee's decision. Note that this legislation was proposed in 2008 and is being re-proposed in the new session of Congress. Technically speaking, it is bill 1723, the "Family Leave Insurance Act of 2009".

For HR professionals trying to get a handle on absence management, this is just one more dynamic - albeit dramatic - one to consider when grappling with managing absence. The topic of Total Absence Management (TAM) is getting more attention as employers come to realize there is an opportunity to influence the quality and cost of this HR function.

So, some of the key issues facing companies with respect to leave administration include:

  • Decentralized management, which results in inconsistent application of policies
  • HRIS systems don't generally provide effective functionality to support comprehensive intake and management of leaves
  • Employers without adequate tools to manage absence are likely less restrictive in granting leave, thereby increasing loss of productivity unnecessarily
  • These factors, in combination, increase the risk of noncompliance with regulations governing leaves

And the financial aspect is intriguing, if not compelling - per Mercer Consulting, the direct and indirect costs of absence - including overtime, lost productivity, overstaffing and hiring/training of replacements - can exceed 14% of payroll.

So, as an unscientific sample, where is your dial as it relates to TAM? Is it an area of concern where you see a need to tighten and/or improve the process? Is it on the radar at all?