Picture this: You go online to your favorite hotel website to book a room for your vacation. The site takes your information and says it will let you know whether a room is available… in a couple of weeks.

We wouldn’t accept that lag time from a booking site, but that’s pretty much the situation HR departments have faced when dealing with employee benefits.

Throughout the benefits administration process, the exchange of information between employers and insurance companies provides nothing like the instant, accurate results we have come to expect in the digital age.

But that is changing.

Long in use in other industries, application programming interface (API) technology is now promising to do for HR what it has done for other sectors of the economy. And the difference once you bring an API into the absence management equation, is dramatic and stark.

The old world: Manual data entry for multiple employees and process points

To illustrate the impact, let’s consider how API‐based integration can impact leave administration. When an employer decides to outsource leave administration to a third‐party administrator (TPA), the TPA typically handles the complex process of intake, eligibility determination, compliance and approval of an employee’s leave request — all of which must be in accordance with federal regulations and state laws, as well as company policies.

Employees typically interact with the TPA, which then relays to the employer information about who’s on leave, why they’re on leave, and when they’ll return to work.

Before APIs, information was normally conveyed to the employer through emails and periodic reports. This process typically resulted in vast amounts of manual data entry for HR.

HR would need to go into its system and make an entry every time an employee requested leave, every time leave went into approved status, every time a return‐to‐work date was set, every time that date changed, and then when the leave was actually over and the employee returned to work.

The lack of a systematic process left the door open for errors. And when you consider that a larger organization can have dozens or even hundreds of employees on leave at any given time, the magnitude of the effort becomes clear.

Some organizations used EDI files as a way to partially automate the process. Yet setting up one of these files was expensive, the updates were generally at least a day old by the time the employer received the file from the TPA, and errors could still slip through. Without the ability to analyze the organization’s employee‐absence status in real time, everything became more difficult, from planning for staffing to budgeting for payroll.

The new world: Automatic updates and real-time tracking

Leveraging the power of APIs, Unum’s HR Connect integration with Kronos Workforce Dimensions is changing the game in terms of how benefits are deployed. The technology itself automates the absence process to eliminate manual effort and remove delays.

Here’s how the process works:

1. An employee notifies Unum that they are requesting leave. Maybe they’re having a baby and they’re requesting parental leave required by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Maybe they’re going out on disability leave due to an injury. The absence is entered into Unum’s system and is instantly reflected in the employer’s Workforce Dimensions system – adding the appropriate time codes directly on the employee’s schedule.

2. Unum applies the company’s leave policies and applicable laws to review the leave request, making a determination on whether the request is approved or denied. This decision is entered into Unum’s system, and the employer’s Kronos Workforce Dimensions system gets the news immediately. The decision also comes with an estimated date the employee will be back at work.

3. The employee goes on leave. If the leave date has changed from the initial approved request, this fact is automatically relayed to the employer’s system, so they can make quick changes to payroll, building access, etc.

4. The employee’s leave is over, and the employee comes back to work. This information is automatically recorded in Kronos Workforce Dimensions, so the employer has a clear view of the leave, without the burden of continual manual updating.

Throughout the process, the appropriate absence codes auto‐populate into the employee’s timecard, so they’re paid on time and accurately during the absence. This also helps HR avoid time‐consuming payroll reconciliations.

The end result is an automated process that is vastly more efficient. Not only does it create time savings and productivity increases, it also helps companies make the most of their investments in timekeeping software and absence management services.

And it means that HR teams and leave administrators can now enjoy near‐real‐time responses, instantly updated data, and a single source of truth for their leave data. In today’s increasingly uncertain world, where HR departments are inundated with requests amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, freeing up more time in the day is only a good thing.

Save your HR team considerable time and headache, allowing them to focus on what’s really important –your employees. Learn more about our Kronos Workforce Dimensions and Unum integration, visit our page on the Kronos Marketplace.

 

The content from this blog is courtesy of Mark Stanton, Director of Marketing Strategy- Unum. Simplifying absence management for an industry-leading leave experience. Find the latest from Unum on their HR Trends blog.

Published: Tuesday, September 1, 2020