Small Businesses Struggling with Absence and Disability Management

Small businesses often struggle to stay afload amongst compliance fines. Make sure your disability management program is up-to-date.

why small businesses struggle with disability management

There are a variety of federal, state, and local regulations that any business, big or small, has to be aware of and stay compliant with. However, staying on top of those demands, especially when you’re a small business scrambling to make ends meet, can be challenging.

It’s often tempting to deal with what seem to be more pressing and immediate issues than dealing with more abstract situations, like building out disability programs at your company—but ignoring these programs can lead to hefty fines and angry employees. Disability management is important for any company, but particularly small businesses.

Remember that you don’t have to build these structures alone, however. This Absence and Disability Readiness Index that analyzed the disability management programs of companies across the U.S. can be a helpful place to start. There are quite a few places where most companies fall short, but the good news is that there are actionable solutions that can address them.

What is disability management?

The idea of disability management itself isn’t as complex as it might sound. The fact is, there are a variety of disability programs that employers of all sizes are required to offer. Carrying out those programs in a way that minimizes the impact on your company is essentially what disability management is. These programs exist, and their integration and compliance should be managed by an HR specialist.

Small Business Disability Management 101

The best thing that a small business can do when it comes to handling disability management is to understand where many businesses go wrong and avoid those same missteps if possible. If you’ve already made those mistakes though, don’t worry—they can be fixed.

There are three places where small business employers struggle the most:

  1. Legal compliance. The report found that nearly one-third of small businesses have experienced complaints regarding their disability management, particularly when it comes to FMLA. Forty-four percent of businesses have reported fielding a complaint or lawsuit related to FMLA.
  2. Program measurement. The aforementioned report detailed that only 31% and 33% of the employers surveyed track their absence management programs and disability programs respectively.
  3. Accommodations support. When it comes time for an employee to take advantage of a disability program, less than half of the employers surveyed have formal programs designed to integrate their employees back into their jobs after the fact.

There are a number of ways that companies—especially small businesses—can start making strides with their disability management. Here are the three main things to remember:

  • Get data-driven. While it can be hard to know where to start, the best thing you can do is benchmark your absence and disability management programs against industry competitors. Rely on regular reporting your data internally so you can identify trends and improve problem areas.
  • Institute programs. You’ve probably realized by now that if you don’t have dedicated disability management programs, that you should start them. Make sure you’re able to accurately track employee engagement and productivity through formal return-to-work programs designed to be implemented after an employee’s absence.
  • Focus on training. Whoever is handling disability management at your company should be fully trained on the task at hand so that they can adequately carry out their duties.
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