An employee taking a day or even a week off is typically an uneventful occurrence, but sometimes an employee’s leave must be more substantial. A leave of absence (LOA) allows an employee to spend an extended period of time away from work (either paid or unpaid, depending on the situation). Although these situations aren’t as common as short-term vacations, they do happen, and they are protected by law in many cases.
Is your organization prepared to manage these LOAs for your employees? Are you looking for a solution to better manage your LOAs? Below, we explore the 10 key features to consider in your leave of absence management solution.
What Is an Automated Leave Management System?
To manage leaves of absence and other types of employee leave, you need a leave management system (LMS). An automated LMS is a digital platform that empowers employees, managers, and HR personnel to efficiently manage employees’ time off.
Employees can see exactly how much leave they have banked because the system automatically adds hours or days according to the company’s policies. Employees can also request time off through the system, including leaves outside their typical vacation or sick time, such as a leave of absence. Supervisors and HR personnel can approve or deny time-off requests through the system, and employees will automatically be notified. HR personnel can also use the system to learn more about the way employees in the organization use various types of leave through aggregate data.
A 2020 study of automated leave management systems found that the systems led to an error-free, fast process for employees requesting time off. Digitizing your LOA processes also comes with other valuable benefits for your organization. Automating and streamlining the leave management process can strengthen the employee experience, improve productivity, and help ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
What to Look for in an LOA Management Solution
You know you need a modern LMS to manage leaves of absence. But how can you choose the best solution for your organization? Look for a solution that offers as many of these 10 features as possible.
1. Flexibility to Handle a Variety of LOA Situations
Because leaves of absence are designed for unusual circumstances, they can take many different shapes and sizes. Be sure to choose a solution that can handle the full scope of LOA situations, including:
- Mandatory leaves of absence
- Voluntary leaves of absence
- Long-term leaves
- Intermittent absences
Whether an employee wants to take a couple of months off to bond with their newly adopted child or an employee needs an accommodation of intermittent time off to deal with a medical condition, your LOA solution should be able to handle these different scenarios, and many more.
2. Customization for Company-Specific Leaves
An LOA solution designed to handle different types of leave is a great start, but even more ideal is a solution you can customize for your specific needs. A flexible solution should allow you to tailor it to your company’s own internal policies governing LOAs.
Keep in mind that your own policies for a medical leave of absence or any other type of LOA that is protected by legal regulations cannot conflict with these regulations.
3. Consistent Application of Leave Rules
One way an LMS can automate the process of managing LOAs is by automatically applying standards or rules consistently. This doesn’t necessarily mean it should treat all employees the same, though, because different situations may call for different LOA allowances.
What it does mean is that the system should apply the correct policy to each employee and accurately show their remaining hours and days of leave based on the applicable certification or policy.
4. Detailed, Automated Communication with Employees
Employees want transparency and clarity when it comes to their time off. The best software solutions will provide this detailed communication without forcing your HR staff to compose burdensome emails or make phone calls to answer employees’ questions.
Instead, the system can use the data at its disposal to generate letters (and even add attachments) and send these messages to employees automatically. They can also send automatic reminders of various dates or requirements straight to employees’ email inboxes or phones for their convenience. Employees get the updates and instructions they need, and your HR staff needs to intervene only occasionally to answer questions.
5. Integration with Other Software Systems
Chances are that you rely on other software systems for HR processes. Don’t try to make those programs handle LOAs if they weren’t designed for that. However, you also shouldn’t settle for an LOA solution that is completely disconnected from your other HR platforms.
Look for an LOA solution that will integrate with your HR information system or whatever programs you use for functions such as payroll and timekeeping. Ensuring these systems can communicate with one another will make it easier to keep consistent records and maintain accurate data across these applications.
6. Integration with Digital Signature Systems
In addition to integrating with your core HR systems, the best LOA solutions should also integrate with digital signature systems, such as DocuSign. This can help accelerate the signing of accommodation agreements and other documents involved in the LOA process.
Digital signatures, also known as e-signatures, have become increasingly common in HR—especially since the pandemic prompted companies to find virtual ways of completing paperwork rather than requiring in-person interactions. The digital signature market is growing at an astounding compound annual growth rate of 28.9 percent!
7. Compliance-Focused Record Keeping
Compliance is a key concern and one of the greatest challenges for HR departments managing employees’ leaves of absence—particularly when the LOA is regulated by a law such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), or a state statute.
To remain compliant, your LOA system should generate the forms necessary to capture the relevant information and store records securely so you can always access the information you need for legal purposes.
8. Self-Service Portal
A 2021 survey found that nearly 88 percent of employees have instant access to their compensation and benefits information through a self-service portal or similar technology. Employees today are used to this self-service functionality, so try to extend this to your LOA solution.
An LOA platform that includes a self-service portal can allow employees to submit requests, upload certificates, check information, and more—all on their own without having to contact the HR department and wait for a reply for each step. Of course, this efficiency is also more convenient for your HR staff.
9. ADA and Return to Work Processes for Injured Employees
If an employee is taking a leave of absence from work to recover from an injury or a medical condition, you should create a plan for helping the employee safely return to work and resume their duties with any necessary accommodations or take on a light-duty role temporarily. Similarly, some employees require special accommodations under the ADA. Ideally, your LOA should facilitate the ADA interactive process as well.
Though the return to work process comes after a leave of absence, an LOA solution that can also handle this process can help you successfully transition out of an LOA so you and your employee can start benefiting from renewed productivity.
10. Functionality for Workers’ Comp Claims
Your company must handle workers’ compensation claims with the utmost care. If an employee suffers a work-related injury or illness, you’ll want your LOA solution to help you record all the relevant information regarding the employee’s time away from work.
Your leave management system should work in tandem with a claims management system to help you expertly manage all workers’ compensation claims.
Start Effectively Managing Leaves of Absence with Pulpstream
A modern leave management system can empower your organization to handle every leave scenario with care and convenience for your employees and your HR staff.