The U.S. does not have a national policy on Paid Family and Medical Leave and so many states are mandating their own laws. The underlying concept may be the same but different states have different rules around PFML. The Hartford’s Tom Tipton, VP of Product Management and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Adam Seidner will help explain the difference and what employers need to know.
Laura: Welcome to the Line on Leave, an Absence Management podcast series from The Hartford. Hi, I’m Laura Marzi, the Chief Marketing Officer for Group Benefits at The Hartford. As the largest Disability provider in the country,1 we’re delighted to welcome our employers, trusted producers and many other interested listeners to The Line on Leave, the first in our series of podcasts on Paid Family and Medical Leave. This follows our recent webinar on Paid Family & Medical Leave, now available on our PFML page. I encourage you to check it out; you’ll find some great resources there, including state-specific FAQs, articles and other important updates. Which gets us to today’s interview.
With us today from at The Hartford are Tom Tipton, Vice President of Product Management and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Adam Seidner. At The Hartford he’s an expert in workplace accommodations and strategies in helping employees safely return to their jobs. They are going to help guide us through some of the differences in the PFML laws out there and will explain what employers need to know about what’s been happening and what it means for them.
Thanks, gentlemen, for your time today. I know this a topic you have both been actively engaged in. Tom, can you quickly bring us up to speed on the PFML landscape?
Tom: Absolutely. A brief history lesson – Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993 – that guaranteed 12 weeks of Leave and job protection to eligible employees.
So we have a national policy on Family and Medical Leave, but it is still only an unpaid policy. Fast forward to today, and states have been actively mandating PFML.
Currently six states – New York, New Jersey, California, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Washington as well as the District of Columbia – have Paid Family and Medical Leave laws.
About two dozen other states introduced – but did not pass – Paid Family and Medical Leave legislation this year. We fully expect to see another flurry of PFML legislation in many of those states in 2020.
Laura: And why are we seeing this activity now, Tom?
Tom: Take a look at today’s workforce. Attitudes, demographics and family demands are changing. More than a third of the today’s workforce are Millennials,2 the newest generation of parents. Gen-Xers are sandwiched between raising their growing families and caring for an elderly parent. And there are still quite a few Baby Boomers in the mix who have their own health needs. And so there is a strong desire for benefits that reflect these needs as a tool for attracting, retaining, and protecting top talent.
What we do know is that states with mandated Paid Family and Medical Leave laws vary in their approaches for how to fund it and how to administer it.
For example, programs in New York and New Jersey are nearly 100% funded by employees. However, these are relatively low payroll deductions. Taxpayers and employers could potentially bear the bulk of these plans. In Massachusetts and Washington, employers and employees share the cost. Some states allow employers to use their own plans if they meet state requirements; but others like Rhode Island, have chosen to run the program themselves. There were several bills proposed this year that had no options for private plans and instead only offered a state-administered Paid Family and Medical Leave program.
That, we believe, is a very short-sighted approach. There is a holistic, integrated approach to Absence Management that needs to be addressed. There is an important medical component to all of this.
Laura: Wow, that’s a lot of information Tom. Dr. Seidner, do you agree and can you elaborate?
Adam: Yes. I believe the intentions are all good, but an effective PFML program is more than just wage replacement while an employee is out. States can mandate the rules of eligibility, duration of leave, benefit levels and disburse checks, but are employers really equipped to manage an effective Family and Medical Leave plan?
We’ve been talking a lot about the “family” part of Paid Family and Medical Leave, but let’s look at what is needed when an employee goes out with an illness or disability.
Questions to ask include:
- Is there support to get the employee the resources and care he or she needs for a safe return to work?
- Is there advocacy and expertise in the program for ADA accommodations?
- Is there referral and coordination of health and wellness programs? Here’s an example of how all of that fits together.
Mr. Smith is a 55-year-old employee and he finds himself having to help care for his 78-year-old father who has Multiple Sclerosis. He applied for paid intermittent leave to handle his father’s care. The insurance company’s claim representative worked with Mr. Smith to arrange for a home health aide from 9 in the morning to 9 at night. Once that home health care service was in place, Mr. Smith was able to return to work after two weeks and did not have to take any further Paid Leave for the next two years.
Private insurers do this every day – they work with their employer’s clients to help them care for their employees throughout the duration of Leave.
Laura: So, what you’re saying is leave it to the experts?
Adam: What I’m saying is there are many more things to consider than simply administering wage replacement. So get the experts involved.
An effective Absence Management approach should have these important components:
- Prevention and Intervention – This is an important educational element for employers. A prevention and intervention program includes an assessment of the employer’s work site, safety and prevention consultations, as well as, help to navigate the health care system. Consultations can help employers develop a Return To Work strategy that may include forming a Return To Work team and modifying job descriptions based on the Americans with Disabilities Act and amendments. Under the ADAAA which requires that employers make reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities to help them return to work.
- The second, there are Claim and Leave Management – It begins with compassionate intake from an experienced, clinical nursing staff with established, streamlined processes that integrate Leave with ADA requirements and Disability claims. Such a process helps eliminates confusion and stress, while helping return employees to productivity swiftly and safely.
- Thirdly, reporting and interpretation – Integrated technology with real-time reporting and claim status updates, and online tools for employees for ease of claims processing and communication.
Laura: So who’s putting this all together?
Adam: Well, that brings me to my last point, which is:
4. Coordination. There should be an integrative process for managing work and non-work absences, referrals to health and wellness programs and more.
Laura: Wow, that’s a lot to consider.
Adam: Exactly. And if the bottom line for an employer is assuring that his or her employee has the time, support and services necessary for a safe return to work. It just makes sense to have the option to partner with experts in the field.
Laura: Those partnerships are incredibly important, Adam. Bringing in a set of expert “eyes” can often help an employer spot something that was right in front of him or her all the time.
For example, one of our clients, a hospital in the Midwest, was having a high incidence of intermittent leaves, and we brought in our analytic consulting resources to find out why. It turned out not to be a medical situation at all. Most of the employees taking those leaves were the housekeeping staff with children and often were unable to get work on time. We learned that any employee who was tardy – even 5 minutes late – got docked points and once they ran up a certain amount of points they would be terminated. Rather than coming in late and risk being fired, employees would take a couple hours leave here and there. And so we worked with our customer to look at the problem holistically and adopt Absence Management solutions.
The partnerships can also be very powerful in terms of all the resources an employer can leverage. I’ll leave you with this final example.
One of our large northeast customers – an employer with a workforce of nearly 8,000 – wanted to develop an effective Return to Work program. Because of Workers’ Compensation business from our P&C side, we brought in our risk engineering team and help the customer assess workplace and job safety and accurately document current positions.
We were able to make recommendations on Return to Work plan, ADA accommodations, ergonomics and train-the-trainer programs to name a few. Leveraging our P&C risk engineering expertise, large Workers’ Comp database and claims insight for Group Benefits – something no one else in the industry can do – gives our customers a powerful alliance in helping care for their employees throughout their leaves, including Short-term and Long-term Disability as well as Worker’s Comp. Programs like our iRECOVER,® born on the Workers’ Comp side, were also brought over to Group Benefits. So yes, partnerships definitely do matter.
This has been a very interesting discussion and there will be much more to come. We invite you to subscribe with us to definitely stay on top of these very important trends. So, again, a big thanks to The Hartford’s Tom Tipton and Dr. Adam Seidner for their helpful insights. And thanks to our listeners for stopping by. You can find this podcast along with future podcasts and additional resources on this topic on The Hartford’s Paid Family and Medical Leave page.
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1 Sources: LIMRA 2018 Absence Management / Family Medical Leave Sales and In Force.
2 Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. labor force at 35%, Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, April, 2018.