The information HR and benefits pros receive from an employee’s healthcare provider and/or physician is critical when it comes to approving and administering that worker’s FMLA leave request correctly. So it just make sense for employers’ to work with providers and physicians to get a complete picture of the worker’s FMLA circumstances.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen – and the two sides end up butting heads for a variety of reasons. Luckily, there are painless ways to improve the employer/provider relationship regarding FMLA administration.
Looking from the other side
Here are some of the things employers can learn from healthcare providers and physicians concerning FMLA administration:
- They are actually open to regular communications. There are plenty of horror stories from benefits pros about trying to get critical info from a provider or physician about an employee on leave. But Nowak says this is the exception.
The key is convincing providers that providing info about the medical condition early on (frequency, duration, etc.) will result in fewer follow-up calls later.
- They don’t always know when they can and can’t talk to companies about their patient. Essentially, any time a healthcare provider believes HIPAA is in play, the employer must get a release from the employee that allows it to discuss the matter directly with his or her physician.
- Providers need more detailed info from employers. According to Nowak, firms need to do a better job of explaining:
- why the company is seeking recertification in the first place, and
- the patterns of absenteeism that are being observed.
One of the biggest complaints providers have about employers regarding FMLA issues (things like, requests for info to corroborate patterns of absence): The communication is confusing or ambiguous.
As a result, providers aren’t really sure what employers are seeking.