Use FMLA leave as an ‘early warning system’
Employers can use leave-taking under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as an “early warning system” to predict and prevent disability absence, according to a study by the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI), a benefits research and consulting firm.
Analyzing data from 161 companies and 520,000 employees, Early Warnings: Using FMLA to Understand and Manage Disability Absence suggests that employers have an opportunity to minimize disability costs by developing strategies to connect at-risk employees with existing benefits.
“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 IBI President Thomas Parry in a media release. “The 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.”
Among the study highlights:
• Employees who take FMLA leave are more likely to use short-term disability (STD) the following year.
• FMLA requests were predictive of a future STD claim even when leave was denied, suggesting that employees who are ineligible for FMLA leave may still benefit from interventions.
• Employees without access to STD benefits use more FMLA days.
• STD durations are longer when preceded by FMLA claims. And the likelihood of a later long-term-disability claim increases, as well.
• Intermittent FMLA leave is as likely on Monday and Friday as on any other weekday and is equally likely to be a full-day absence.
“Employers can track and analyze FMLA leave-taking data in order to promote healthier workforces and prevent disability absence,” Gregory Poulakos told SHRM Online. Poulakos, senior VP financial protection products at UnitedHealthcare, recommended that employers:
• Take advantage of FMLA as a way to improve employees’ health at early stages to prevent future disability absences.
• Connect workers who request FMLA leave with resources such as employee assistance programs, ergonomic interventions and disease management programs, regardless of an employee’s eligibility for FMLA leave.
• Coordinate activities across benefits programs silos, which continue to be barriers to effective FMLA management.
Based on UnitedHealthcare data, employers can reduce the duration of disability claims by more than 13% through proactive outreach, said Poulakos, who helps oversee UnitedHealthcare’s Bridge2Health program. “For instance, employees who are living with a cardiovascular condition receive additional support and information on filing an FMLA, disability or critical-illness claim,” he noted. “The timing and depth of that support is not possible if the employer does not use an integrated approach to employee benefits.”
Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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Market Recap: RISI Crow’s Construction Materials Cost Index
A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for March 29, 2013
*Western – regional species perimeter foundation; Southern – regional species slab construction.
Crow’s Market Recap — A condensed recap of the market conditions for the major North American softwood lumber and panel products as reported in Crow’s Weekly Market Report.
Lumber: Trading in the SPF lumber market was lackluster until Thursday. That is when futures made an up-limit move, sending buyers into the market to either purchase or determine where the market was going. Buyers remaining on the sidelines and mills with a variety of approaches toward the market generated mixed pricing in the Southern Pine lumber market. Steady sales into Texas helped keep West prices from tumbling. Some producers used month-end discounting or less aggressive price increases to bolster their order files. Trading was not quite as active as it has been in recent weeks in Coastal species markets. However, any drag on prices only stopped them from moving higher and did not apply any downward pressure. Buyers of Inland species lumber continued to look for coverage, many times to no avail. Producers reported broken tallies and limited volumes available. Buyers wanted the quickest shipping volumes. Reports of open market sales of Radiata Pine Shop were far and few. Ponderosa Pine producers reported continued steady sales of low grade Shop lumber while sales of the upper grades remained quiet. Activity in the Ponderosa Pine board market was muted, partially due to lack of offering from producers and partially from a shortened week, as many folks took Good Friday off. With Western Red Cedar not moving from yards as well as expected, some buyers resisted price increases issued by producers for April. Weather continued to garner much of the blame for the bottleneck in the distribution chain.
Panels: Weather continued to be the top subject in OSB market discussions. Asking prices at the mill level remained firm while sales of wood in the hands of secondaries often took place $5 to $15 lower. Sales activity picked up at midweek in the Southern Pine plywood market, propelling prices higher and pushing mill order files out into the latter half of April. Much of the activity surrounded thick rated sheathing panels, causing those prices to increase the most. Trading activity in the Western Fir plywood market improved, sending what had been listless sheathing and underlayment prices higher. Much of the increased demand emerged at midweek into Thursday before the market slowed because of the holiday weekend. Market dynamics in particleboard and MDF remained much the same, with MDF in short supply and particleboard demand lacking in the West but much better in the East.
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