Teammate shakes hand with a colleague returning from a leave

What employers need to know about employee leave

Employee leave is complex. And while offering options to replace income is a great start, it’s only the beginning.

From unexpected health emergencies to time away from work to care for aging loved ones, there are a wide variety of reasons employees may need to take extended time off. 

Just as wide in variety is the way that leave will look for the employee. They may be paid, partially paid or not paid at all. They may have opportunities in their individual state to qualify for state leaves or under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Or, they may also have something available under their employer leave program. 

Voya embarked on qualitative research with over 30 employees from a variety of backgrounds who had recently experienced leave to understand what makes the employee leave experience successful.1 

Here are a few of the key findings: 

Employees want support and education

When it comes to employee leave, support is critical. And employees will turn to their employer for support and education first – from the employee handbook and employer’s intranet to their manager and Human Resources.

Unfortunately, in many cases that search is filled with frustration. Which leads to the next key finding...

Employees struggle to find information that’s clear, comprehensive

Available information can be inconsistent among employers due to several reasons. Companies may be leaner and automating more functions or HR professionals have less leave experience.

These HR professionals may turn to their employee benefits brokers for help, but they, too, are facing challenges – since the leave industry is becoming so complex. Brokers may not have the resources to stay on top of all the changes.

Over 40% of large (1,000+ employees) employers currently outsource their leave, according to the 2020 DMEC Employer Leave Management Survey,2 and that complexity is one of the biggest reasons why.

Another important reason is to ensure a consistent, empathetic, high-quality process and experience – the importance of which is illustrated in the next key finding.

A negative employee experience can create a poor employer perception

There are several factors associated with an employee’s leave experience. But perhaps the most important is the support the employee receives from their supervisor, according to the Voya research.

This includes things like empathy and setting clear expectations, as well as a defined leave process and clear plan about the employee’s return from leave.

Even if they had a positive perception of their employer before their leave, if the process wasn’t defined or they didn’t have support from their supervisor, the Voya research found that they were more likely to have their positive view of their employer decrease.

The leave administrator's role is also very important to ensure a positive leave experience – handling private medical information with care and communicating effectively with the employee throughout their leave.

The return-to-work experience is as important as the leave

Finally, it’s important for employers to remember the transition back to work is important too, according to the Voya research.

Providing the right support before, during and after leave is crucial to preserving employee satisfaction. Employers can start by:

  • Supplying clear and adequate information to employees related to their leave
  • Offering an empathetic, easy-to-follow process that’s appropriate to the employee’s unique situation
  • Ensuring that the front-line support the employee receives from their supervisor is effective
  • Ensuring the employee experiences a successful return to work

As employees re-adjust to being back to work, their managers can also help coordinate a transition plan to keep the employee’s workload manageable. Here a more tips to help employers support an employee who is returning to work.

Find out how we support employers and employees throughout the leave process, or contact your Voya representative for more information.

Related article:

  1. Voya Financial Proprietary Research conducted in October 2020; included 30 in depth interviews with individuals who had recently returned to work after experiencing a leave.
  2. 2020 Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) Employer Leave Management Survey Whitepaper. Survey completed by 793 employers who collectively represent all organizational sizes, U.S. states, and a broad range of industries.

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

Disability Income Insurance is issued and underwritten 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.


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