Simplifying leaves for employees in need

Gina's Gems

Gina Gabriele, Geri Burreal

November 7, 2023

In an ideal world, employees could call “1-800-I-Need-A-Leave” to request time off or leave time. Unfortunately, leaves of absence are a challenging area and continue to become more complex given new legislation across the country. Managing and reducing employee benefit costs is no longer enough. Employers must have a successful program design that incorporates efficient and intuitive workflow and business processes. “Make it simple, make it clean, make it empathetic.”

Disabled man with one hand

In a recent interview, MMA Client Relationship Leader, Gina Gabriele, spoke with Gerri Burruel, the Managing Director of Purchaser Innovation and Engagement for Business Group on Health (PBGH) to discuss an employee’s experience when it comes to taking a leave. A veteran in the large employer space for decades, Gerri brings her expertise and purchaser perspective to PBGH. Previously, she worked for several large national and global organizations, making Gerri well-versed in the large complex environment and the issues that come with it.


Challenges employees and employers face when taking leave time

A leave of absence is a process used by employees to take time off work when they experience uncommon circumstances. There are many types of leaves, including medical leave, bereavement, disability, sick days, vacation, and more. However, resources to help employees submit time off requests are limited. In turn, employee satisfaction and the overall wellness of the company are adversely affected.

In the interview, Gerri spoke candidly about her previous experiences as Vice President of Benefits and launching a parental leave program. She describes the experience as “A real lesson learned for us,” as it was ultimately met with a lot of confusion from employees and administrators. The idea was brought forward by the company’s Women’s Resource Group, which allowed employees to get involved in the development process. While the process of bringing the policy forward to leadership was simple, implementation was not as easy. One of the common complaints was that employees were not certain whether they were getting paid while on leave. She says the main faults of the program were that the employers did not properly plan ahead and consider the complexity and resources needed. “We [employers] should’ve recognized that it was complex. We should’ve recognized that it needed a lot of resources. We should’ve made sure our senior leadership knew that. And we should have done it that way in the first place.”

Given that it’s not a common practice for an employee to take a leave, they often struggle to properly navigate the process. According to Gerri, the average employee may only experience the need for time off once in their entire career. Figuring out the proper steps and the right numbers to call can be confusing and is most often not clearly laid out for the employees. As a result, some employees may grow to resent their employers for making it so difficult to take a leave. Gerri points out that at the time employees take their leave, they are generally not in their best state of mind and not being their best selves. Employers should not expect employees to be able to navigate complicated and difficult processes. “We [employers] make it difficult for them [employees].”

Additionally, poor management of leave programs seems to be a pattern across businesses. While employee experience is commonly prioritized when it comes to health care, it is not translated efficiently to the leave process. The number of leaves, the costs of each program, new legislation, and an increasing rise in remote workers create even more obstacles for management. Leaves are a huge cost center for employers because every type of leave requires its own budget and process. Each one is unique and different. New unpaid and paid time off programs are mandated by state and federal authorities, bringing more challenges and potential exposure for employers. New legislation requires full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guidelines. Moreover, now, more than ever, people are working remotely and all over the country. The COVID-19 pandemic has created major challenges to traditional ways of managing employee productivity and absence.

Japanese woman in casual clothes checking and writing the schedule on diary on the desk.

MMA Absence, Disability, and Life Practice

The reality of today’s multi-generational workforce requires you to prepare for numerous life events. Employees expect paid and unpaid time off benefits that adapt to various personal and professional needs. Marsh McLennan Agency provides solutions that focus on improving the process for leaves of absence. Through our Absence, Disability, and Life (ADL) Practice, employers and employees benefit from adaptive time-away-from-work programs. In turn, your employees receive an administrative experience that is seamless and hassle-free.

MMA ADL consultants have the experience and skill set to develop attendance policies that work, capitalize on our experience, and implement customized solutions. They help align absence management service providers, payroll, and ancillary vendors to your chosen programs. At the same time, they can flex with emerging statutory requirements to help you comply with federal and state statutes. Our experts are supported by compliance teams that regularly consult with new legislation updates. The leaves compliance practice conducts routine audits of insurance companies and third-party administrators (TPAs) to ensure your programs remain compliant, effective, and employee-friendly. Furthermore, MMA leverages cloud-based data management, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning to ensure and streamline your success.


How can MMA ADL help you?

By leveraging the buying power of Marsh McLennan and the boutique expertise of MMA ADL, we can help employers like you with our expertise in absence management, disability, life, voluntary benefits, compliance, audits, and more. Visit our website for more information. MMA ADL can generate significant cost savings while delivering an improved employee experience by re-imagining and re-balancing these benefits

Gina Gabriele frequently hosts interviews with ADL professionals, discussing trending topics, strategies, and solutions. Visit our MMA ADL vlog to watch her recent interview with co-writer and subject matter expert, Gerri Burruel.