Research from Integrated Benefits Institute Shows How Employees Use (and Don't Misuse) FMLA

Feb 25, 2013, 08:02 ET from Integrated Benefits Institute

20 years later, new report reappraises Family and Medical Leave Act as "early warning system" to prevent disability absence

DALLAS, Feb. 25, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Following the 20th anniversary of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) released a study that spotlights how employers can use FMLA as an "early warning system" to predict and prevent disability absence. Analyzing data from 161 companies and 520,000 employees, the report shows how employers can benefit from paying attention to how family and medical leave predicts future disability claims, and also shines light on some of employers' perception about the misuse of FMLA.



"In many ways FMLA gets a bad rap because of the spotlight on questionable claims, and employers usually focus on trying to prevent misuse of leaves," said Thomas Parry, PhD, IBI president, who presented the findings at the 2013 IBI/NBCH Health and Productivity Forum. "Our data tell a different story of how employees are using it, and how there's an opportunity for employers to prevent disability absence. Employers should consider using FMLA as an early warning system to detect impending health issues among their employees and their families."

FMLA requires employees to inform their employers when they or family members have serious medical conditions. This offers a unique in-road to understanding employees' most critical health needs so employers can help prevent future longer term and more serious absences through short- and long-term disability.

The study results demonstrate that through their benefits departments and with the assistance of external absence and health management professionals, employers have an opportunity to minimize disability costs by developing strategies to connect at-risk employees with existing benefits.

Principal research findings

  • A substantial minority of employees take FMLA leave.
  • Employees who use FMLA are more likely to use short-term disability (STD) the following year.
  • FMLA requests were predictive of a future STD claim even when leave is denied.
    • Employees who are ineligible for FMLA may still benefit from interventions.
  • Employees without access to STD benefits use more FMLA days.
  • STD durations are longer when preceded by FMLA claims.
    • The likelihood of a later LTD claim increases as well.
  • Intermittent FMLA is as likely on Monday and Friday as on any other weekday, and is equally likely to be a full-day absence.
    • No evidence to support the common charge that employees use intermittent FMLA to give themselves long weekends.

About the Integrated Benefits Institute

The work of the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) emphasizes that healthy employees promote healthy business. As the leading research organization in health and productivity, IBI provides the data, research and tools that professionals need to make sound decisions about how they invest in the health of their workforce. Since 1997, IBI has been an independent nonprofit, currently serving 770 members—companies that provide health and productivity services and those that implement health-related programs to benefit their employees and their business.

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Thomas Parry

SOURCE Integrated Benefits Institute