About four in 10 (41 per cent) U.S. employers said they’re making a major effort to reduce absenteeism in 2018, according to a new survey by the Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America.

The survey found the number of employers looking to reduce employee absenteeism has significantly increased in the past few years, up from 22 per cent in 2014 and 32 per cent in 2016.

It found several factors are contributing to employers looking to better manage workplace absences. These include: the expansion of state and local leave laws; an opportunity to improve workforce health and productivity; a desire to make the employee experience with the leave process better; and the potential liability associated with mismanaging the process.

Read: Tips for handling difficult conversations about absenteeism

“Employers are continuing to refine their approach to absence management and they’re making this a business priority,” said Marc Costantini, executive vice-president of commercial and government markets at Guardian. “Whether it’s pressure from new regulations, a recognition that absenteeism hits the bottom line or simply trying to create a better experience for employees, companies are taking action.”

Among employers that said they’re prioritizing reducing absenteeism, 69 per cent saw increased productivity and improved employee experience. Sixty-four per cent said they’ve also reduced lost time, while 62 per cent said they’ve decreased overall absenteeism and reduced their direct costs. Six in ten (60 per cent) have increased their rate of employees returning to work.

Read: What health conditions are keeping employees from work?

Employers with 1,000 or more employees were the most advanced in their absence management process, with 54 per cent saying they’re trying to reduce absenteeism. This compares to 50 per cent of companies with 250 to 999 employees and 38 per cent of companies with 50 to 249 employees.

Guardian also noted more companies are implementing what it identified as the five best practices for managing leave. Three quarters (74 per cent) of surveyed employers said they implemented a full return-to-work program in 2018, up from 62 per cent in 2014; 69 per cent offered health management referrals, up from 44 per cent; and 65 per cent have the capability to identify trends through comprehensive reporting on short-term disability and leaves of absence, up from 55 per cent.

Almost half (49 per cent) of companies said they’ve integrated the administration of their short-term disability with the Family and Medical Leave Act and 37 per cent said they offer centralized intake.

Read: Putting employees first led to OPG’s Workplace Benefits Award win

“Progress on these best practices also are indicative of employers placing higher priority on improving the employee experience with leave,” the report said. “These particular practices make it easier for the employee to engage with the necessary resources throughout the disability and FMLA experience. Consolidating touch points, limiting repetitive communication and providing resources at critical times is key for employees who are in a challenging time in life either due to a disability, illness or needing to care for a loved one.”

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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