Many employees get stuck with flu during cold weather and call in sick. Organizations can’t reach their goals when employees don’t come to work or are unproductive when they come. Indeed, this can be a big issue when you suspect they’re not really sick.
Apart from reduced workplace productivity, sick offs can affect other employees’ morale because team members are expected to complete their tasks. They may also think that you’re turning a blind eye to such employees’ behavior or unfair to those who report to work regularly and on time.
So then, here is how to handle employee sick-offs.
Address the Issue Immediately
It’s best to have the sick-off conversation early before it becomes too much. Addressing it as soon as you notice it happening can reduce this tendency. In fact, most employees with this problem will start calling sick a few months after joining the company.
Some of the reasons why employees take some time off are stress, doctor’s appointments, or lack of sleep. Having a transparent discussion and asking such an employee why it’s happening can help address the issue.
On the other hand, the organization should be understanding and compassionate because an employee calling sick so often could be dealing with a chronic health issue or caring for an ill family member. You should also understand that such an employee doesn’t have to disclose their personal details when they don’t want to.
Develop a Clear Sick Time Workplace Policy
It’s vital to have a sick time workplace policy because it ensures that your employees know the boundaries and what they should do not to cross them.
The US Department of Labor doesn’t provide a federal paid sick leave requirement to employers. But employees can turn to Families First Coronavirus Response Act to access temporary paid sick leave. Still, they can use the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) when taking unpaid leave.
In view of that, your company should include the legalities of such provisions and work processes in its policy. It should indicate how your employees will notify you when taking a sick-off time and who will take over their projects or tasks when they’re on sick-off. Further, the policy clearly states what should happen when employees exhaust their sick time.
Apply the Established Policy Uniformly
Having a sick-off policy is one thing, but enforcing it is another. A consistent application of the established policy eliminates confusion or the perception of preferential treatment.
So when one employee is penalized for violating the policy or procedure, another one who makes the same mistake should receive the same discipline irrespective of their position in the company. Exceptions should only be made when an applicable federal or state law supports it.
Be Fair and Firm
Employees can misuse the sick-off provision when there is no policy. However, demanding a medical certificate from their doctor or proof of illness from an employee who calls in sick too often can deter them from such a habit.
Actually, a company can use software to monitor time off for sick leave in order to determine if there is a noticeable pattern. For instance, how many employees call in sick on Fridays or Mondays?
Alternatively, an employer might opt to merge vacation days with sick days to allow employees more flexibility and show compassion.
How to Deal with Attendance Problems
Counsel and Verbal Warning: Don’t embarrass the employee for taking sick off. Instead, invite them to your office for a meeting via email. Discuss their absences or tardiness and establish the cause. Continuously monitor their attendance and advise them to improve on it, especially when no major health issue is involved. Additionally, you may notify HR if there is a major issue that will keep the staff away for an extended period.
Issue the First Written Warning: It’s important to set the second meeting when the sick-off pattern continues without any solid reason. You can discuss the impact of their absenteeism on others and the company. Next, discuss how their job will be affected when the problem continues.
Second Warning or Suspension: You should consult HR when the problem persists and invite the employee for another meeting. Allow the person to talk about their problem and tell them that you will get back to them after determining the next step. You can inform them through writing that the next step is suspension or termination. However, you can immediately suspend them at this stage based on the company HR policy if the employee’s actions violate it.
Suspension/Termination: A temporary suspension without pay is one of the solutions when there is no improvement in attendance. The intention should be put into writing and have the start and the end dates. HR should handle this stage in your presence or without involving you. The company may opt to dismiss the employee due to excessive attendance issues. If so, HR should discuss the pay and benefits with the affected individual after ascertaining that there is no underlying issue or the problem is not due to low morale
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