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Sick leave: do you encourage employees to take days off when they're sick?

Carter O'Brien's Profile

Recent reports say one in four employees come to work sick, infecting other workers and spreading illnesses like the flu. Does your company encourage employees to stay home?


Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

I do. Who wants a sick person giving everyone else the same cold/flu etc.

However, other issues I see no reason why they can't come to work, even if they need to adjust their hours (orthopaedic injuries)

Those who can telecommute can at least contribute something from home - but I know if I'm really sick, the only contribution I'm making is to additional sleep.

Topic Expert
Mike Caruana
Title: Director of Financial Services
Company: Diamond Resorts International
(Director of Financial Services, Diamond Resorts International) |

Yes, we encourage our sick team members to stay at home until better or on antibiotics and no longer contagious. They get the fact that transmitting their bug would significantly affect attendance on a much larger scale. We've had no issues with it.

Bryan Frey
Title: VP Finance/Corp Controller
(VP Finance/Corp Controller, ) |

Strongly, but they keep coming in! I'm sure I'm not the only one that sees this happening. People really feel the need to be in the office at almost all costs. At multiple companies, big and small, I've been surrounded by sniffling, coughing and nose blowing :). I'm not sure what it takes to get sick people to go home and work from there or take the day off. The idea that you have to be in the office to be valued seems very deeply ingrained in the U.S. business psyche.

It may be my imagination, but it does seem to be a bit better after we instituted a PTO-free policy. That is, just take the time you need, don't worry about "banking" sick days. At least that removed the desire to save up sick days for when you quit or are let go.

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

I can attest to what Bryan says and my conclusion is the PTO bank. While it's awesome, the drawback is in the sick area. No-one wants to "waste" a sick day sitting at home. The general feeling is if I am going to miss work, I'm going away or to the pool/beach.

To answer the question, yes encourage your associates to stay home to they don't infect the entire office. :)

Chris Holtzer
Title: Senior Manager - Strategic Analysis
Company: Sargento
(Senior Manager - Strategic Analysis, Sargento) |

Our company has unlimited sick time for salaried employees, but requires hourly to use PTO. I oversee both hourly and salaried folks, and I feel like more salaried folks show up sick than hourly (this is not a scientific study, but just a gut feeling). It is a bit counter intuitive to what I would expect, but the fact is no one backs up the salaried folks. So they are held responsible to get things done healthy or not.

Personally, remote login / laptops has made a huge impact for me. Prior to being able to login from home, I would come in on my death bed (stupid, I know). But with the ability to at least manage emails at a minimum, I don't think twice about staying home and keeping the germs local.

Another thing to note is the two day flu will knock a young family out for a week at least. As it works through the house, the kids need to be cared for at home. So in the past I would go in sick, because I had just stayed home with the kids, or knew I would soon need to be home with them. It is a vicious cycle.

Vivek G
Title: PMM
Company: Replicon
(PMM, Replicon) |

In previous companies that I have worked at, we have a no-limit policy for sick days and a strict quota for all other vacation types. This has worked well for that company.
Ideally, employees who fall sick & risk infecting co-workers should be encouraged, as part of policy, to stay home else they would end up affecting others on the team!

Topic Expert
Keith Perry
Title: Director of Global Accounting
Company: Agrinos, Inc.
(Director of Global Accounting, Agrinos, Inc.) |

I really like the "no limit" policy. You've got to tread lightly (mostly because of insurance rules and related), but it is a great part of a good plan.

Lynn Zeiner
Title: Business Manager
Company: DME Alliance, Inc
LinkedIn Profile
(Business Manager, DME Alliance, Inc) |

We provide employees 5 sick days per year separate from PTO so they feel comfortable taking time off when they are sick. We also allow employees to use that time to take care of sick family members and go to doctor/dentist appointments. However, we do review trends for when the days were taken (were they always Friday, or all in December before they expire, etc.) to see if the policy is being abused and not really being used for sick time/needs.

Topic Expert
Keith Perry
Title: Director of Global Accounting
Company: Agrinos, Inc.
(Director of Global Accounting, Agrinos, Inc.) |

My interpretation of people coming in sick has perhaps been generous: that they understand that their work won't get done, that it has to get done, and therefore they have to come in. I've worked with a few of the structures above, and they do help.*

What I have done that has worked (role modeled in part by my last CEO) was:
-Explain to them that it isn't that they are allowed the time, it is that they *are not allowed* in the building if they are ill (even after hours...flu hangs around).
-That it is my / the teams responsibility to get their work done: it will *not* pile up and they don't have to make up the time.
-That the worst thing anyone can do is waste other peoples' time. Getting them sick is doing just that.

Note: I work in silicon valley...getting people to take time off is hard enough. I've (almost) never had to worry about people slacking on me, so long as we keep a healthy environment and keep them in a role that they enjoy (totally my problem, not theirs).

I have never lost sleep around here about taking the odd Friday/Monday "mental health day." I do worry about performance. If someone is slacking and it is costing others on the team, it is a problem. Otherwise, we're all good.

This is also something I try to push down on my middle-managers and model myself. These days with dual-income plus kids couples, accommodations make sense. If you structure the work day to fit their needs within the context of the company's needs, you end up with incredibly faithful employees who can't be poached.

Nanette Neidhardt
Title: General Counsel
Company: Scioto Properties
(General Counsel, Scioto Properties) |

The problem I have seen over the years is that when people only have 5 or 6 sick days a year, especially women with kids, they tend to come in because they are afraid they will run out of paid time off. They come in when they are sick so that they have time to be off when they can't take their kids to day care. And so many of these employees really can't afford not to be paid.

Topic Expert
Keith Perry
Title: Director of Global Accounting
Company: Agrinos, Inc.
(Director of Global Accounting, Agrinos, Inc.) |


Fantastic point. Not to be sexist in a generalization, but single moms tend to carry a pretty heavy load. The often *have to* take time when a kid gets sick. To Nanette's point, that squeezes them. Sick days aren't the only answer in cases like this, and flexibility can help. Putting in time-trading structures (for hourly workers, such a food service, etc) can help make the workplace amenable to real life, without costing the company extra.

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

We strongly encourage employees who are sick not to come into the office. With today's ability to telecommute, we make sure they have tools to work from home if able. We will also tall people to go home if they arrive sick.

ArLyne Diamond
Title: Owner - President
Company: Diamond Associates
LinkedIn Profile
(Owner - President, Diamond Associates) |

Yes, of course - for a variety of reasons. It prevents the spread of disease to other employees, it allows the sick employee to actually rest and heal, and it is good for morale.

Furthermore, I don't think we should require people to prove they are actually ill. Sometimes people need a mental health day to themselves. I encourage clients to create a number of allowable days off which can be used for sick time, vacation, holiday, or any other personal reason. That way we are treating our employees with respect and trust and don't have to play "cop" to determine if their excuse for taking time off is legitimate or not.


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