You've gathered the absence data ... but now what?

Today's post comes from G.Neil's HR News Weekly:

You’re well-versed in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) time and pay laws, you keep careful records of each employee’s attendance and you’ve even identified your company’s biggest attendance issues. But that’s where it stops, according to a Liberty Mutual survey of 300 human resource and benefits professionals conducted in April 2011.

The survey found that employers are making the effort to stay informed and track attendance, but they’re not using the numbers to address the bottom-line impact of employees missing work. Specifically, 53% of respondents ranked compliance with state and federal leave laws as their greatest concern, yet nearly 50% didn’t know the cost of absence within their own workplaces.

That can be an expensive mistake! The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) calculates that uncontrolled employee absence costs employers $100 billion per year, based on 2009 data.

“While employers are clearly aware of how important it is to comply with leave regulations — and are therefore tracking these leaves — many haven’t taken steps to use the data they collect to proactively manage absence and control the total financial impact on their companies,” says Heather Luiz, disability product manager for Liberty Mutual Group Benefits.

From at-a-glance tracking sheets to software, G.Neil offers a variety of practical tools to help you manage attendance, employee vacations, sick time and other time off.

Beyond the tracking, it's up to you to review the data and look for weaknesses in employee attendance. Is it a certain handful of employees who call in sick or come in late month after month? It may be time for these employees' managers to have a heart-to-heart talk with them about what is going on and what they expect going forward. If your attendance rules are clear and you enforce them consistently, this type of counseling shouldn't pose any problems.

Managing medical leave - and preventing FMLA abuse - can be a little trickier. In addition to the administrative side of FMLA leave (requiring leave request forms and medical certifications, for example), you'll need to track used and available FMLA time based on the latest federal regulations.

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