Employee sick time policy recommendations for HR leaders
Benefits 5 minute read

Employee sick time policy recommendations for HR leaders

Rise | January 11, 2018

Leaders often worry that their time off and sick time off policies are going to be taken advantage of. But, should they really be worried about that?

Whether they believe time off is abused or neglected, it can be fair to point out and call attention to the inconsistencies in taking time off. According to statistics found by CareerBuilder, 40% of workers have called in sick in the last 12 months when they weren't sick. 

These stats, in addition to the concerns from HR professionals, remind us of the various time off policies that companies put in place, particularly as it relates to sick time. In response, we want to share some of our own recommendations and advice for HR leaders when it comes to sick time policies in the workplace. 

First of all, when should employees be calling in sick?

Here are 3 HR approved reasons for employees to call in sick:

1. If they’re too sick to come in

This reason is the one that’s most often ignored by your people. Employees may think they’re scoring bonus points for toughing it out like a team player, but truthfully, not calling in sick only causes an inconvenience to their co-workers as they are not able to perform at their best. In this case, they are likely going to end up needing even more time off later than they would have if they had just taken a day off when they needed to recover.

2. If their symptoms are contagious

If a sick employee is determined to still come to work, your whole staff is at risk of catching the same cold, fever, or other illness they’ve brought into the office. If your sick employee spreads their germs to the rest of their co-workers and is the reason the rest of the team goes down, you can bet they aren’t going to be very happy with not just their sick co-worker, but also with leadership for allowing it to happen.

Don’t allow a sick employee to jeopardize everyone else's ability to work and overall health just because they are too stubborn to stay home.

3. If their symptoms are seriously distracting

If your employee is hacking up a storm or blowing their nose every 30 seconds, it’s time for them to get some rest at home.

Disturbing everyone in the office with awful sounds of coughs, sneezes, and sniffles is no way to win favour from their work colleagues. This is also a good opportunity for your people to take advantage of your company’s work-from-home policies, which were instilled in order to make your employees feel comfortable and supported enough to take a day off from their duties when needed. 

Now that your sick employee has been diagnosed as in need of time off, how should they call in sick the right way?

Here are 3 must-dos for your employees when calling in sick:

1. Communicate as directed 

Far too often, I’ll get an employee text or email to call in sick when the policy explicitly states a phone call is required. 

Speaking over the phone will often allow you to see how the employee is doing, to gauge the severity of their illness or injury, to discuss how long they’ll be out of the office, and to help them ensure that their duties are covered by their team. 

If you are expecting your employees to adhere to a requested method of communication, that instruction must be clear, fair, and consistent. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and will reduce confusion and any feelings of preferential treatment.

2. Take responsibility for their work 

When calling in sick, your employees should be considerate of the gap in the workforce they’re leaving by delegating their tasks to their team members, providing instructions for how to get the work done in their absence, and rescheduling meetings and appointments.

It's important that employees feel supported in their work handoffs when taking required time off, whether planned or unplanned. Succession planning in any role is key, regardless of the seniority or complexity of the position.

If your employee isn’t well enough to communicate remotely, connect with their manager and/or supervisor and give them an update so that they are aware of your employee's status.

3. Be honest 

Honesty is the best policy -- I can’t stress this enough. 

Ever had a day where you just don’t feel on? That’s okay! It’s important for all employees to feel encouraged to sort themselves out, sort their work out, and take a day to focus on their well-being. If your employee knows they’re going to be out for three days or more due to a contagious virus, they should feel comfortable to be upfront about it. The more information they can provide, the better equipped your team will be when the employee takes their leave. 

When your employee is vulnerable and truthful with calling in sick, it is important that the reaction they receive from their HR and/or management is respectful, kind, and accepting. If you want your employees to trust their leadership and be upfront and honest about their personal matters, it is your responsibility to respect their needs and their privacy in return.

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