When employers have issues with FMLA certifications it can make leave administration a true nightmare.
But one of the best solutions to the problem often gets overlooked by employers.
That solution: Going right to the doctor for help. That’s what employment law attorney Jeff Nowak did.
Nowak, the author of the FMLA Insights blog (FmlaInsights.com), spoke at a conference which brought employers and physicians together. They discussed challenges and solutions for medical- and disability-related issues.
He discussed FMLA certifications with physicians and got ideas on how employers can improve collaboration with doctors.
The main problem from employers’ viewpoint: Doctors are busy. Because of that, they can put off the vibe they don’t have time to listen to employers or answer questions. But the reality is very different, as Nowak found out.
Doctors told Nowak there are three misconceptions about healthcare providers that tend to hurt collaborations and hold up the FMLA certification process. They are:
‘Doctors aren’t open to talking with employers’
It may seem like doctors don’t want to listen to what you have to say. And that’s why it’s so hard to get all the information you need from them during the certification process.
More often than not, doctors appreciate it when they can establish contact with patients’ employers for the patient’s benefit.
Ironically, however, providers told Nowak they often struggle to understand what information employers need most from them.
What employers can do: Communicate early and be specific.
Doctors said they appreciate spending a modest amount of time talking with employers early in the certification or recertification process. Reason: It results in fewer clarification requests down the road.
Physicians also said they’d like a clear breakdown, during the recertification process, of the absence patterns employers are seeing.
One thing to remember when it seems like providers are being tight-lipped: Doctors may not always know when HIPAA applies.
So be prepared to obtain a HIPAA release from an employee before having an open conversation with a doctor.
‘Doctors are just rubber-stamping certifications’
The opposite is true, Nowak says. Physicians revealed that they’re talking with patients candidly about their conditions and the consequences of trying to game the system.
What employers can do: Relax – a little. Doctors aren’t just giving the green light to every FMLA request they receive. But that doesn’t mean some employees won’t try to push the envelope.
‘Frequency & duration determinations are set in stone’
Doctors are only human and can only be so precise in their predictions.
They’re making educated guesses based on individuals’ symptoms. But, in the end, workers will all heal at different paces that even doctors can’t predict.
What employers can do: You certainly want to follow the timelines doctors spell out. But don’t be so rigid as to assume abuse once employee absences start to waver from them.
Instead, track the absence patterns you’re seeing. Then, when at least 30 days has passed since an employee’s last certification, approach their doctor with a recertification request and the info you’ve gathered.