New York — With ever-changing federal and state laws, conforming to numerous requirements related to employee leaves of absence can be difficult for small and midsize business owners. The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), a New York provider of employee and voluntary benefits for small and midsized companies, announced a new absence management program that can help business owners and benefit managers comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

“Managing employee leaves of absence can be an overwhelming and tedious task for small and midsize business owners who typically don’t have large human resource departments,” says Barry Petruzzi, second VP, Guardian Group Life and Disability. “It costs an average of $78,000 to defend an FMLA lawsuit, regardless of the outcome, according to the Department of Labor. Guardian’s Absence Management Program is just one way that we give small and midsize business owners access to services that are normally reserved for their larger counterparts. We provide tools, benefits, choices, flexibility and services to level the business playing field and make it easier for small and midsize business owners to succeed in a competitive marketplace.”

Guardian’s Absence Management Program was designed to create both time and cost efficiencies for business owners and benefit managers who are responsible for administering absences under FMLA, as well as state-required leaves, jury duty and military leave. Companies also can enhance their program to include employer-authorized leaves outside of FMLA such as bereavements, vacation, paid time-off days, and medical leaves. The program facilitates:

•    Compliance with laws and policies
•    Ability to better plan for staffing needs
•    Reduction of unnecessary personnel costs

Features include:

•    Cost savings through group discounted rates –– To receive a discount, groups must have 50 or more employees and at least one line of coverage (short-term disability, long-term disability or life insurance)
•    Simple online or telephone submissions of leave requests –– A leave administrator begins processing the request within one day of submission
•    Management of all communications –– including notification of rights, required forms, approval/denial notifications and return-to-work notices prior to the end of a leave
•    Online access to leave information –– 24/7 access for employee and employers to review requests
•    Medical certification management –– full management of the medical certification process including the review/evaluation of medical forms, referrals for second and third medical opinions, and coordination with disability carriers
•    Eligibility determinations –– determinations are based on FMLA and state leave laws and in accordance with company-specific policies
•    Absence tracking –– Complete audit trail of leave policy documents and correspondence to ensure compliance
•    Predictive reporting –– Online reporting system highlights absence patterns and trends to help plan for staffing needs

“Absence management is important, as we can expect to see more employees taking time off from work under the FMLA because they are sandwiched between the responsibilities of caring for their parents and children while they manage their careers,” says Petruzzi. “Many employees also will need time off to recover from once-deadly illnesses that now have high survival rates, such as cancer and heart disease.”

Source: The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America

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