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Mapping Out the Ever-Changing Employee Leave Environment

A Q&A with Steve McGonagle, AVP of Voya Leave Management

In May, Steve McGonagle joined Voya Employee Benefits as the new AVP of Leave Management. Steve comes to Voya with over 17 years of experience working for a number of top carriers in the Group Insurance industry. He most recently led the strategic development of The Standard’s Absence Management offering.

We spoke with Steve to learn his thoughts on why organizations can benefit from outsourcing leave.            

What are the challenges todays employers are facing when it comes to employee leave?

For the most part, the biggest challenge comes from the complexity around constantly changing regulatory and legislative issues. When I first got into the absence space it was just FLMA administration and I thought it was so complex, but now, I look back and realize how easy those days were! Employers struggle to understand the leave laws, while also making sure that supervisors have the training that they need to comply with FLMA and ADA regulations and the myriad of other regulations that are present when you have employees. Just keeping abreast of the leave laws and how they apply to their company, as well as appropriately tracking leave laws, is a major job.

How has COVID-19 made leave even more complex?

It’s added a whole new element. There have been changes to the federal FMLA policies for companies with fewer than 500 employees, but also new regulatory challenges for larger companies. There’s a whole new flight of questions that employers are asking. What changes when employees are working from home? How can you deal with the challenge of running your organization on a smaller employee population if many are out sick? What about self-quarantine? Do people still work during that time? Work from home, remote work, new technology – it’s made leave even more complex. With these new elements, it’s changed how employers are looking at FMLA as a whole, even beyond COVID.

What are the benefits of outsourcing leave?

The top reason that employers want to outsource is to mitigate risk. When you decrease risk, you can often decrease the time spent in a courtroom. A lot of the problem employers have comes from not having an adequately trained staff. Are supervisors asking the right questions when it comes to leave? When you outsource, you bring consistency to employee leave. That consistency pays off ̶ when employees are held accountable for their absences, it can improve morale and motivation. Outsourcing also helps reduce incidence rates and absence duration.

What makes an employer a good candidate for leave management services?

Any employer with more than 500 employees is a good candidate. If an organization has multiple locations in multiple work states, and if any of those states have mandated leave laws, management services might also be their best bet. I would also recommend outsourcing leave for operations that are going 24/7, like hospitals and production, groups with collective bargaining agreements, businesses that have experienced FMLA abuse and, finally, groups that have had lawsuits filed against them surrounding leave.

Is there anything that would make them NOT a good candidate?

I always think there is opportunity within every organization. But organizations that have centralized their approach with specific detailed guidelines around absence, have an absence center of excellence, and are utilizing technology that can track leaves and can interact with the different state leave laws, may be fine, though the technology they use needs to be very advanced.

Approximately how many leave cases can an employer expect to deal with per year?

The industry incidence average is between 10-13% of the workforce taking a leave each year.1 Voya works with many employers that have 1500 employees and above. So, if your organization of, say, 5000 employees has an average amount of leaves, you’re looking at more than 500 leaves a year. That many leaves of absence becomes very complex for an organization to administer on their own.

What should an employer look for when choosing a leave management provider?

They should look for a provider that can offer effective tracking and reporting. Integration with other programs like EAP (Employee Assistance Programs), ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) or ADAAA (Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act) is crucial. Additionally, they should look for as much integration as possible with their health management programs. A company should be offered a detailed assessment surrounding their current management of leave laws and their company’s handbook regarding leave.

What else do employers need to know about leave management?

Innovations in the leave space matter. Voya has been at the forefront of offering a leave manager with small caseloads that acts as the single point of contact for the entire leave. We also know the importance of real time notifications, the latest in ADA support, having subject matter experts in all aspects of leave administration, and offering vocational and clinical resources for each organization. The laws and regulations concerning leave are constantly changing. Voya not only stays on top of these changes, but is constantly moving ahead in fully managing the absence space for employers.

To learn more about Leave Management services offered by Voya Employee Benefits, contact your Voya Employee Benefits representative.


Voya Leave Management services are provided in part by Disability RMS, Inc.

Insurance products are issued by ReliaStar Life Insurance Company (Minneapolis, MN) and ReliaStar Life Insurance Company of New York (Woodbury, NY). Within the State of New York, only ReliaStar Life Insurance Company of New York is admitted, and its products issued. Both are members of the Voya® family of companies. Voya Employee Benefits is a division of both companies. Product availability and specific provisions may vary by state.

1 Source: Integrated Benefits Institute Health and Productivity Benchmarking, September 2019


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