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Tip Tuesday: Common Pitfalls of Absence Management

August 8, 2019

As an absence management administrator for more than eight years, I’ve seen numerous issues that continue to plague companies administering employee leaves of absence. I don’t blame them - it’s complex! A lot of these issues are avoidable; understanding them will make leave administration program easier. For this reason, many companies hire us to train their staff, update their policies, or outsource their absence management to us.

I’ve compiled a list of common mistakes that we help companies overcome while reforming their leave management program:

Policies and procedures not included or updated in employee handbook

  • Policy should include call-off requirements under FMLA
  • Updated handbook should be distributed to employees
  • Updated handbook should be posted on the employee portal

Improper supervisor training

  • Supervisors should recognize qualifying reasons/conditions under specific leave laws
  • Supervisors should be knowledgeable of company policy
  • Supervisors should document conversations regarding FMLA

Inconsistent enforcement of policies

  • Playing favorites can be misinterpreted to be discrimination against select employees

Lax or insufficient call-off requirements

  • Company should apply call-off requirements to both sick leave and FMLA leave
  • Employees must follow department’s normal call-off procedures absent unusual circumstances
  • Company can delay or deny FMLA leave for insufficient notice
  • Absences during delay can be counted under attendance policy
  • Company should require employees to report FMLA leave when they call off work
  • Company should require employees to provide anticipated dates of absence, number of hours missed per day, reason for leave, reason for absence, and medical condition that caused the absence every time employees call off FMLA leave, even for intermittent FMLA leave
  • Company should consider requiring written confirmation of reason for all absences, including FMLA leave

Not requiring paid leave to run concurrently with FMLA or state leave laws

  • Vacation, sick, PTO
  • Supplement workers’ compensation, disability where permitted by state law

Not considering state leave laws

  • State leave laws, where applicable, should run concurrent with FMLA leave when taken for the same qualifying reason

Not supplying job descriptions with certification

  • Condition should prevent employee from performing one or more essential functions of the position
  • Not FMLA leave if condition is unrelated to the position

Accepting incomplete or insufficient medical certifications

  • Every applicable entry should be complete
  • Afford only one chance to correct incomplete or insufficient certifications
  • Call to verify questionable certification forms
  • Ensure absence patterns are consistent with certifications
  • Ensure reason for leave (as stated by the employee) matches the certification

Not exercising right to require recertification

  • Every 6 months in conjunction with an absence
  • When in doubt of continuing need for FMLA leave
  • Significant change in FMLA use
  • Extensions of leave
  • Require an annual certification for indefinite or lifetime conditions to preserve second/third opinion option

Grouping FMLA leave taken for multiple reasons in one leave year

  • Company should determine eligibility for each reason for a single, separate 12-month period
  • New absences for new reasons for leave require determination of eligibility and new leave year

Not requiring fitness-for-duty release

  • Company should include the requirement in the Rights and Responsibilities Notice
  • Company should supply a copy of the job description with the form to ensure it is meaningful
  • Release should reflect the employee’s ability to perform his job functions

If you are facing issues with your leave of absence management program, F&H Solutions Group offers consulting, training and outsourced Absence Management services. We’re here to help.