It’s complicated: How employers can navigate the complexities of paid family leave

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If the job of those in human resources wasn’t complicated enough, the recent onset of mandated benefits from states and municipalities has created an even more challenging balancing act. Now, HR managers need to balance employee-related workplace issues, talent acquisition, employee engagement, diversity, inclusion and more with mandated benefits policies, like paid family leave, that differ from state to state.

Here’s a quick example: New Jersey, Rhode Island, California and New York have implemented state-mandated PFL programs, and Washington state and the District of Columbia have passed legislation. Another 16 states have considered legislation in the last year. It’s important to note some statutory family leave programs have varying definitions of who qualifies as a close relative; regulations for how the program can be funded; and stipulations for determining if disability benefits can work in conjunction with the program.

As clients begin to look at how PFL benefits play a part in their benefits offerings, you have the opportunity to differentiate yourself as an adviser by understanding their balancing act and providing recommendations on how to comply with these industry changes.

Regulatory complexities

Because states and municipalities are starting to add PFL benefits individually, clients with offices nationwide or with employees in different states must meet the varying jurisdiction requirements. Plus, states that don’t have mandatory disability products are starting to pass PFL laws that include an employee caring for themselves or for others. For clients that did not previously offer these benefits, the new statutory regulations could be challenging for HR managers to understand how these benefits fit in with their existing offerings.

You can help clients review their program holistically to determine if their current plan would meet the statutory requirements in the states where they have employees and help them navigate any changes that need to be made. With a strong push for PFL legislation at the national level, state-mandated employee benefits offerings may change drastically in the next few years. Proactively taking the lead on monitoring and updating clients on new regulations passed and providing recommendations on how to remain compliant could help set you apart from the competition.

Disability versus leave management
While programs like PFL can provide value to today’s diverse workforce, they add additional layers of complexity to employee benefits. Many of the statutory PFL programs being passed seem like a hybrid of disability and leave management — as some plans look like a leave benefit but pay like a disability benefit. Again, your ability to understand these complexities and help your clients understand what their existing benefits cover and where they may need to make adjustments can go a long way to build trust with your clients.

Outsourcing services
Another way to provide counsel for clients that are struggling to balance PFL administration is to connect them with an absence management program. Proactively discussing options to outsource with an absence management provider can take the weight off your clients’ HR team. These programs can help clients manage leave and disability law regulations, along with their changing nuances. When vetting carriers, help clients look for services with an integrated approach and dedicated consultants, which can be crucial to helping manage claims early on.

Helping your clients navigate the complexities of mandated benefits policies can help alleviate the difficult balancing act their HR managers have to do every day. Not only can this help them better manage their many HR responsibilities, but having this conversation also can open the door for you to discuss benefits options beyond medical plan offerings with your clients.

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