It is a well-known fact that leaves of absence can affect an employer’s bottom line. Unplanned absences affect an employer’s profits directly and indirectly. Temporary staff are also usually more expensive, resulting in reduced productivity, and other employees are overworked to cover for absent employees.

MARTA, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, certainly feels the effect of unplanned absences in its bottom line. In 2012, the high rate of unplanned absences cost MARTA about $11m, with the total cost rising to $13.6m in 2014. This is an unimaginable cost to the organization since MARTA is funded through sales taxes and a limited amount of federal money.

On any given day, one of every three MARTA employees is absent from work due to an unplanned event. For bus drivers, maintenance workers and train operators, this rate is even higher with one out of every two employees absent. With an abundance of leave laws and no centralized system for managing employee absence, it is difficult for MARTA to administer leaves of absences efficiently and cost effective.

In addition to the cost, this high rate of absence also affects MARTA customers. It is not uncommon for passengers to be subjected to late buses or trains, and cranky overworked employees who are often called in to cover for an employee out on leave.

MARTA employees have demanding jobs that can be detrimental to their health such as sitting all day and mental stress caused by traffic and dealing with unruly passengers. Compounded by the additional stress of having to cover for high rates of absent employees, it is suspected that there are false illnesses being recorded, ongoing FMLA abuse, and employees calling out due to schedule conflicts.

Properly administered absence management solutions are known to help employers reduce costs associated with employee leaves of absence. In fact, active absence management is known to reduce administration costs by 30%, and the duration of leaves of absence by 5%.

There are many ways in which employers can implement a centralized absence management system.

  1. Implement a vendor software platform internally. There are many absence management solutions, such as AbsenceDirect, which can be used internally to manage employee leaves of absence.
  2. Outsourcing to an external vendor to manage employees leaves of absence.

In MARTA’s case, it was decided that an experienced private absence management company would manage employee leaves of absence to rein in costs with closer oversight.