Attendance, Scheduling, TimeClock   ·  

10 Tips for Keeping Your Business Healthy when Employees Get Sick

Sick leave and employee attendance tracking - learn what should be a part of your attendance policies for employee absences due to illness.

Employees will get sick.  Or hurt.  And they will miss work.  And because sick leave is seldom requested in advance, it can make your day more difficult.  Before you stress over another employee calling in sick, check out these top 10 tips for dealing with sick leave and sick employees at work.

  1. If you have a company policy on employee absences when they’re sick, be sure you follow it with all employees. Allowing one employee to call off without penalty and punishing another can result in fines or lawsuits for discrimination. Attendance policies need to be consistent from one employee to another.
  2. Use an absence tracking tool to spot patterns in sick leave or call offs for illness.  While there are many chronic illnesses that can cause an employee to get sick over and over, an attendance tracking program, software or calendar can help you spot other trends like repeated Monday sick days, or going home sick before a holiday weekend. You can then decide if you need to take action to address the issue.
  3. Sometimes having an employee at work and sick is worse than having them stay home. Decide on a sick leave policy that clearly states when an employee can be at work while ill, when they must take the day off, and when they can work from home. Employees who know their job is safe even if they’re sick are more likely to avoid contaminating the rest of the office! (Note: If employees work from home in accordance with your policy, you must pay them at the regular rate.)
  4. During cold and flu season, create a list of backups to call in when someone is out sick. While you cannot require that someone remain on call (in most jobs) without pay, you will still have an idea of who may be available on a given day, and that makes covering shifts or work assignments easier. Use prior years’ attendance tracking records to spot months or seasons when employee absences are highest to plan the maximum level of coverage you need.
  5. Do your part to control the spread of contagious illness at work.  Provide your employees (and customers, if possible) with access to sinks for hand washing, hand sanitizer dispensers and tissues  Train employees in preventative steps they can take to reduce transmitting illness, and you’ll reduce the amount of sick leave they’ll need.
  6. Docking pay for sick days is different for exempt employees. If an exempt (salaried) employee comes into work for any length of time, and then goes home sick, you must pay that employee for the entire day. If you have a paid sick leave program, you may deduct hours from that, but you cannot reduce their pay even if they don’t have enough hours in reserve. Make sure whatever attendance tracking tool you use can make the distinction.
  7. Even if your company doesn’t offer paid sick leave, you may not be able to discipline or fire an employee for calling in sick. Some employee absences for medical or health reasons are protected by federal, state or local family and medical leave laws. These could include pregnancy, childbirth, adoption, chronic illness, disability, or the need to care for a sick family member. Check federal, state and local laws to see if your employees are protected by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA laws) or other programs, and make sure your sick leave policies reflect the laws.
  8. Keep employee medical records confidential. Store all employee medical records, including doctor’s notes, FMLA material and other health-related content in a secure file, separate from other employee records.  That will protect the confidentiality of those records, and keep you company safe from lawsuits or fines for HIPAA violations.
  9. Have a policy on medical notes. Some businesses require medical documentation of illness to process all sick leave claims of more than a day or two. This can expose your business to the risk of violating GINA (Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act) laws. It can also be expensive for your employees, particularly if they don’t have insurance.  A better policy might be to only require a medical statement authorizing a return to work after an injury or a serious illness, or where there is good reason to suspect the company sick leave policies are being violated.
  10. Document on the job illnesses or injuries.  If an employee gets ill or hurt at work, keep records. Illness at work only needs to be documented and reported on your OSHA forms if the illness is reasonably connected to something at work. Injuries, on the other hand, need to be recorded no matter what the cause.  Check OSHA regulations and your state laws for more details on what you need to record.
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