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Can Leave and Disability Programs Improve the Workplace Experience?

The way you manage leave and disability matters. It can affect how quickly an employee recovers — but also how they view their overall experience with your company.

Our report explores the employer perspective on:

  • The way they’ve managed leaves of absence and disability through a pandemic, social upheaval and economic uncertainty
  • How employee expectations for support have changed over the past few years and what works best to take care of both company and workforce

Lessons From a Trying Time

Find out more in our latest research report, Keeping Pace With Employee Expectations: The Role of Leave and Disability Management.

A Way to Boost Workplace Happiness

Since 2018, signs pointing to more employee satisfaction improved for employers with formal leave and disability management programs. The research included employers who had programs for the Family and Medical Leave Act, Paid Family Leave, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act, and return-to-work and stay-at-work support.

Return-to-work and stay-at-work programs had the most positive impact on retention.

Leave Management
Return to Work/Stay at Work
2022Greater retention61%
Stronger morale53%
Lower absenteeism52%
Higher productivity47%
Disability Management
Return to Work/Stay at Work
2022Greater retention52%
Stronger morale49%
Higher productivity46%
Lower absenteeism45%

Companies With Formal Programs Reported Improvements in Four Key Indicators

Greater retention: 53%

Stronger morale: 48%

Lower absenteeism: 45%

Higher productivity: 42%

Rising Requests for Accommodations

Over the past few years, employees have turned to their employers for more support. That includes reasonable accommodations, which have surged since 2018 for most conditions.

Most common reason for a request: A temporary physical condition

36% increase in requests related to a mental health condition

Increase in Frequency of Reasonable Accommodation Requests        
Since 2018
Temporary physical disabilities, illnesses or injuries+12%
Chronic musculoskeletal conditions+11%
Chronic disease conditions+21%
Permanent physical disabilities+16%
Mental health conditions+36%
Substance abuse or addiction+33%

58% of employers received requests for chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.

Help for Employers

Employers don’t think about asking their benefits provider for help. But if HR is confused about programs like PFML, FMLA and ADAAA, employees will be too.
Brenda Smith
Senior Director Workplace Possibilities, The Standard

Secrecy and Stigma Hamper Mental Health Support

The largest increase in reasonable accommodation requests was for mental health. The research also found that secrecy and stigma were serious obstacles to supporting employees with these conditions.

70% of employers

said workers hide their conditions.

32% increase in employers

who reported a stigma attached to people with mental health conditions since 2018.

Mixed Feelings About Managing Leave and Disability

Employer confidence in managing leave and disability has risen since 2018. But it’s not rock solid. And, we found disconnects between confidence and perceptions of success.

Today, not even 50%

of employers feel very confident in how their companies are managing absence and disability.

More than half of companies

reported experiencing complaints or lawsuits related to their disability management.

But reports of success from employers with disability programs grew significantly.

2022: 40%  
2018: 26%  

35% increase in employers who reported having very successful formal disability programs.



See What's Working and What Isn't

Interested in what's working for employers managing leave and disability?
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