In 2023, there are people at risk of being denied short-term disability after having a child… because they don’t have access to a fax machine?! SaaS tools and apps have dramatically shifted our lives and expectations over the past two decades, yet the world of leave management is still stuck in paper claims, call centers, and painstaking manual processes. It’s unacceptable.
It’s time to transform leave management, giving people and People teams the seamless experience they’ve come to expect from other tools—especially during such a complex and vulnerable time as a leave.
What a digital transformation brings to leave management
1. Save time, mitigate risks, provide clarity
“It’s nerve-wracking making sure you’re coordinating everything between federal, state, and local laws, getting it right with payroll, and also informing the employee along the way.”
— Gem HR leader
“I was in the hospital on the computer filling out the EDD form because you can’t prefill any of this stuff and if you miss the cutoff you don’t get paid...The payroll calcs are very complicated and to this day I don’t know if I was paid what I should have been.”
— Square employee
Despite the fact that more than 15 million people took leave in 2022 alone, it’s still. so. complicated. All at once, employers and employees have to tackle eligibility, compliance, insurance claims, payroll—on a strict timeline. If anyone slips up (which is easy to do), it can lead to lost pay or breaking the law. Even with a rep-based leave provider, employees get left in limbo without timely responses or are made to feel like their leave is a fast food order. It’s the last thing a person wants to deal with when trying to navigate the situation that prompted the leave in the first place; and it’s not really something your People team can keep up with while trying to tackle everything else on their plate.
Even the experts can be error-prone, because there are so many variables to consider. That’s why it makes more sense to let an algorithm comprehend and codify ever-changing leave laws, so nobody has to undertake this expertise in the spare time they don’t have. With all the information in one platform, that also makes it easy to access, ensures calculations are complete and accurate, and gives employers and their employees peace of mind that simply can’t be achieved in any other way—especially as your company scales and you encounter different scenarios.
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2. Interactive and innovative for today’s employees
“One person going on medical leave told me ‘I’m just not going to do the disability, forget it.’ If someone is forgoing that money, then you know there’s a huge problem.”
— OODA HR
You wouldn’t settle for manually preparing payroll and sending out physical checks, so why is it okay for leave management to be stuck in the 90s? Employees are now accustomed to using amazing workplace tools like Gusto, Carta, and Slack, all of which have simplified things that were previously manual, confusing, or just time-intensive. So the fact that they’re still left to mailed brochures and call centers during work hours not only feels antiquated, but wrong. It makes for a terrible employee experience, and if not handled carefully, can lead to turnover and damaged relationships and reputations.
When leave management works like other modern apps and SaaS tools, employees can get immediate answers to their questions and access a trove of resources relevant to their particular scenario right at their fingertips—not at the whims of whoever answers the phone that day. A modern leave management platform should also be interactive and adaptive, offering innovative features to help plan for particular scenarios based on variable inputs and accurate data. Like with other tools, we want leave management to be something anyone can do in a few clicks.
3. Automation and autonomy
“My employer didn't remotely bring up the idea of leave and I had no idea there was a paid state program that I could qualify for. The pressure was so high at home and at work, and I resented my job for making it so hard to find any kind of balance, so I burnt out, and eventually I quit.”
— Operations manager
“I told my boss and my HR partner that my son was in the hospital. They said all the right things… yet a few days later, I got an email from HR letting me know that my paycheck had been paused, and I was apparently now on unpaid leave. This came as a total shock and added extreme stress to my already impossible situation.”
— Product marketing leader
For almost all employees, before you can get support, you have to talk to your manager or HR. That means you can’t really know the details of your leave plan, pay, policy, and how your company will actually handle it until you break the news. In the face of a new pregnancy, a mental health crisis, or another family emergency, this can be an extremely sensitive moment. For those that don’t understand their rights, it might mean forgoing the leave, which can lead to burn out or simply walking away from the workforce altogether—something that especially impacts women and BIPOC.
Giving employees access to this information puts the power back in their hands to share when they’re ready, and empowers them with the knowledge they need to make such an important decision. Though this kind of news can still come as a surprise to managers and People teams, they’ll rest assured that the employee has the right information, and they can focus on the personalized touches to make sure employees feel seen and supported before, during, and after their leave.
Be the progressive People team you aspire to be
Even when achieved successfully, the way most companies manage leave is not up to today’s standards. It costs us time, money, and relationships in moments of life where we need to support and be supported. Infusing leave management with powerful technology and great design will empower people and People teams to make the right decisions quickly in the face of unforeseen scenarios or big life changes—which is a huge life change unto itself, and one we are in desperate need of.
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After two years, working with hundreds of employers, and supporting more than 5,000 leaves in Cocoon, we have more conviction than ever that technology has the power to transform taking and managing leave. Today, we’re excited to share our evolved and expanded vision, along with the technology that will power it — with an all new look and feel.