Sick Leave

What is sick leave?

Sick leave is employee time off, either paid or unpaid.

Does the government require employers to provide sick leave?

The FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) doesn’t require paid sick leave. The FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) mandates unpaid sick leave. There are state-level laws that regulate paid and unpaid sick leave.

Why do employers provide sick leave?

When employees come into work sick, it can be a public health threat. Hourly jobs often require contact with the public. Consider child care providers, eldercare aides, restaurant workers, hotel staff, and retail personnel.

If workers don’t interact with the public, they are usually in close contact with other employees. Call center reps sit just a couple feet away from their coworkers. Manufacturing employees stand next to each other on the line.

What are different types of sick leave policies?

  • At the beginning of the year, each employee receives the same amount of paid sick days to be used when needed.
  • Sick days are lumped with vacation days or other paid time off (PTO).
  • Sick days are staggered throughout the year. Employees are allotted a few days every quarter.
  • Employees accrue paid sick leave based on time with the company.
  • Employees are allowed all the sick leave they need.

These policies have been used mainly for salaried, full-time employees. Business owners with hourly employees are starting to offer paid sick time—whether by choice or legal mandate.

How does your company’s sick leave policy affect your business?

Sick leave policies impact business operations and company culture. Let’s discuss how.

All Paid Time Off (PTO) lumped together

Some employers don’t want the hassle of separating sick days from vacation days or other paid days off. Employees who never get sick like this approach. They get to enjoy more vacation days. Employees who get sick more often may be tempted to come in while sick because they don’t want to shorten their vacation. With PTO tracker software, it’s easy to track different types of paid leave.

Sick leave increases with tenure

Accruing paid sick days based on years employed can be an incentive to remain with the company. But new employees also get sick. If they come into work coughing, they could spread the bug to everyone else. A widespread illness would hurt productivity a lot more than one employee taking a few days off.

Each employee gets the same amount of sick leave

Many employers give all staff members the same amount of sick days at the first of the year. That’s a fair way of doing it, but an employee with an extended illness could use all the days up by the end of March. Some employers stagger the sick days so employees get some paid sick time each quarter.

Unlimited sick leave

Some employers have dropped all limits on paid sick leave. They let their employees use their own judgment. This has been successful at many large employers like Virgin and Netflix. There are few small businesses with hourly employees that have tried this approach.

Do the unused sick days roll over?

With the previous policies, the business owner has to decide if unused sick days roll over at the end of the year. If they don’t, you may have half the staff absent during December. They know they will lose their sick day accruals January 1st.

Use PTO tracking software for sick leave

Many types of HR software have PTO tracking tools. These include timekeeping/scheduling products, PTO tracker apps, and unified Human Resources Management Systems. When sick leave tracking is synced with scheduling, it can help managers maintain stable schedules even when some employees are out sick.

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Additional resources