5 Tips for a Stronger Sick Leave Policy

According to United Press International, 37 percent of Americans say they would go to work sick because they lack a sick leave policy that allows them to take time off to recover. At least 25 percent actually do show up sick.

Sure, you might think it’s great to have employees that want to work so hard they’ll work while sick, but one sick employee can wreak havoc on your workplace. A mild fever and cough for one employee can land another in the hospital. If the flu takes hold, you can end up with many people out for weeks. Talk about lost productivity and increased health care costs!

You need a sick leave policy, but even that might not be enough. You need bosses who encourage people to stay home when they are sick and bosses that stay home themselves. Here are some tips for a stronger sick leave policy.

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1. Follow “Daycare” Rules

If you’ve ever had a child in childcare you know these off the top of your head — kids must be vomit-free and fever-free for 24 hours before they will accept them back. This is a great guideline for adults as well. Sniffles, coughs and general colds can go on for weeks, and it’s not practical to have someone stay out of work for that long, but fevers and tummy bugs require you to stay away.

2. Provide Paid Sick Leave

If your employees are non-exempt — that is, paid by the hour and eligible for overtime — if they don’t work, they don’t get paid. And many of these jobs can’t be done from home, either. But, having an hourly job doesn’t protect you from whatever is going around. They need a reasonable amount of paid sick leave and a boss that understands you can’t always give advanced notice. Connecticut, for instance, requires five paid sick days per year, while the federal government requires seven for their contractors, explains the Connecticut Employment Law Blog.

While you can have these sick days roll over, don’t pay them out like you would unused vacation when someone quits. Why? Because that encourages people to come in while sick to save up days. Likewise, be careful about sick day roll over. Again, it’s nice if someone can save up a ton of sick days for a planned pregnancy or surgery; but then they come in when they should otherwise stay home, defeating the purpose.

For exempt employees, unless you have a sick leave policy and the employee has exhausted this leave, you have to pay for sick days if they perform any work during the week.

3. Allow Eligible Employees to Work From Home

Many people don’t want to skip work because the workload just doesn’t allow it. If you take two days off now, you’ll pay for it during the next two weeks. While you should applaud the work ethic, you still don’t want sick people in the office sharing their germs with everyone else. If it’s possible for sick employees to work from home, let them.

Additionally, if you have employees who are prone to illness, let them work from home during outbreaks. While you cannot prevent the spread of illness at work completely (often, as the CDC notes, people are contagious before showing symptoms), you will want to do your part to help keep everyone healthy.

4. Follow the Law

Some states and cities have mandatory sick leave laws that you need to follow. If you have more than 50 employees and the sick employee has been there for a year, that person could be eligible for FMLA if the illness is severe. People with certain disabilities may qualify for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act and require a reasonable accommodation, such as time off or the ability to work from home, to handle acute illnesses.

5. Go Home When Sick

One of the best things you can do as a boss is to go home yourself when you’re sick. It not only keeps the germs from spreading, it teaches your employees that they, too, can take the time off they need to recover. A healthy workforce is a productive workforce.

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