Flu Season Alert: Does Your Company Have an Effective Policy for Sick Days?

Policy for Sick Days?

Today’s diverse workforce has varied needs, particularly when it comes to benefits like personal time off. Although many employees take it for granted, time off is part of every benefits package, and is especially relevant with flu season on the horizon and employees who may have to stay home to recover. Benefits packages typically include any paid days that employees don’t work, including holidays, vacation days, sick days, and personal days or choice time off.

Establishing and communicating your paid time off (PTO) policy is an important part of empowering your employees to comply with it and appropriately use this time away from work. Here are some guidelines to make your policy an effective one:

Putting together your company’s policy

Some companies find it more convenient to combine sick days, personal days and vacation days into a single PTO program. Others separate each into its own category. Whatever you decide, it is important to clearly spell out your policies in your employee handbook or intranet site.

When establishing your time-off policy, be sure to check for any applicable state laws or regulations. In some states,  for example, laws specify that companies must allow employees to carry vacation time over to the following year. 

Another legal question is whether your state requires you to allow employees to use a portion of their sick days to care for ill family members. Because of these technicalities, it is important to coordinate closely with your legal department on any changes to your PTO policy. Small businesses should consult their outside legal counsel.

Implementing the sick leave policy

Sick days, in particular, can be a gray area in PTO policy. Generally, sick-day policies are in place to limit the number of days a company pays for. Sick-day policies can also limit the number of contiguous sick days an employee can use without taking unpaid leave. 

Some companies take their sick-leave policies even further by offering a reward to employees who don’t use all the days they’re entitled to, such as a cash payment. Be aware that this type of reward could backfire if it encourages employees to come to work even when they don’t feel up to par, spreading illness throughout the office.

Communicating with your employees

A failure to establish and clearly communicate a sick-day policy to your employees can be harmful. By explaining your sick-day policy, you’ll likely make your office a healthier and more productive place to work.

Have you established or revised your sick-day policy lately? Share your experience below.