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Managing Employees Sick Time

By February 26, 2013No Comments

HR Advisor

Human Resource Insights from Kathleen Weiss

Q — Dear Kathleen: Our company has a vacation policy and a sick time policy. We offer our employees six sick days per year and they are not allowed to carry over any sick days to the following year. They have to use it or lose it. As you can imagine, the employees always exhaust their sick time. We have had suspicions on many occasions that employees have not actually been “sick”, but have called in sick for personal reasons. How do we manage this and make sure they are calling in for a legitimate illness?


Bob R., CEO — Advertising Company, Newark


A — The answer to your question is: There is no way to make sure employees calling in sick are actually sick. It’s not surprising that your employees take all their sick time during the year. The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 42 percent of all workers in private industry are not entitled to sick time. For those who are, paid sick time is viewed as an entitlement to the employees. Most do take all the time allowed — and call in at the last minute.


Sick pay banks, especially the “use it or lose it” kind, are a haven for deception. Statistics show that, on average, only 34 percent of employees calling in “sick” are actually sick. The other 66 percent take off for personal reasons. Employees who call in under the guise of being sick, call in at the last moment to support their story of illness. This causes undo strain on the daily functions of a business. Managers have to scramble to reschedule work activities, other employees must unexpectedly pitch in, work is delayed, and, many times, customer service suffers. As long as employers offer “sick time” banks, the problem of the last minute scramble will always be there.


So what do you do? Many companies are switching from a traditional vacation and sick time banks to one “Paid Time Off” (PTO) bank. PTO banks are gaining huge popularity due to the win-win situation for employee and employer. A work-life balance is of growing importance; PTO policies offer employees one bank of paid time to be used for illness, family matters, vacation or whatever they like. They no longer have to worry about manufacturing an illness excuse to earn their sick day. It gives them the freedom and flexibility to schedule their time off without worry.


For the employer concerned about employee retention, this flexibility is a significant benefit to the employee and can be used as a tool in the hiring and retention process. A PTO policy typically reduces man-hours and offers less administrative hassles with only one time off bank to manage. If employees are given PTO instead of vacation and sick time, they are more likely to schedule their time off in advance. As a result, PTO offers the company more control in the approval process. PTO allows companies to better manage the day-to-day business needs without as many last minute “no-shows”, and keeps up productivity since work arrangements can be pre-scheduled. The employer no longer needs to worry if the employees are being honest about their time off. It’s really a win-win situation for both employee and employer!

SWK’s HR Advisor services provide cost-effective human resource solutions to small businesses. If you want more information on how to change your current vacation and sick policy to a PTO policy – or you have an outdated employee handbook that needs to be revised – please contact Kathleen Weiss, SPHR, at 973-758-6122, e-mail or visit Kathleen’s HR blog can be found at

Our services include:

  • Employee Handbooks (English and Spanish)
  • HR Audits
  • HR Hotline
  • Performance Management and goal setting to increase productivity
  • Job Descriptions
  • Staffing
  • Employee Relations

Disclaimer: Information provided is not intended to be and should not be considered legal advice. As always, please consult your attorney regarding your company’s legal matters.

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