Employee Policies HR Management

Preventing Employees from Abusing Sick Leave

Employee absences due to illness are expensive. Finding ways to reduce the risk of having employees out sick, especially when abusive conditions may be present, is a priority of any HR department. Keep in mind that paid sick leave is not an actual legal requirement. The Family and Medical Leave Act only provides the right to take time off without losing the position for an approved reason. It does not guarantee any additional benefits.

How can you prevent employees from abusing your sick leave policies? The following tips can help you drastically to reduce the costs you are paying for these abuses.

#1: Ensure the Sick Leave Policy Is Clear

The first thing to do is to create a clear sick leave policy. The policy should list:

  • How many approved sick days are provided to the employee on an annual basis
  • How the employee can obtain approved sick leave, such as how and when to call in
  • Define if medical excuses from a doctor are required and if so when
  • Specifically state that the employee may not use sick days for personal days

Additionally, the policy should clearly outline what is defined as abuse and what steps will be taken when abusive situations occur. This makes it clear what your expectations are.

#2: Find Out If Sick Leave Abuse Is Happening

Do not automatically assume an employee is being abusive with sick time, but it is important to learn if abuse is happening. To do that, interview the supervisor, discuss the situation with the employee, and find out what is causing the excessive sick time.

#3: Track Time Off Fairly

Track all time off. A simple but effective method of tracking who is taking time off will help to ensure that everyone is fairly accounting for the time off they take. Look for clues that can indicate sick leave is being used for other purposes. Are there patterns in these requests off, such as every other Monday? Are there other patterns that can indicate a reason for the abuse? While supervisors should track this time off, if there is a problem found, HR professionals should take steps to determine what additional measures can be taken to prevent this from occurring.

#4: Do Take Action

When there are situations where sick leave abuse is present, react quickly and with the noted consequences. Talk to the employee to determine why the employee is missing work. There is generally a legitimate reason that the employee is struggling with coming to work, and you can help the employee sort this out. Be sure to enforce any policy you put in place to start.

In taking these actions, it is far easier to reduce the risk of abuse than to “tip toe” around it. Employees and managers are on the same page from the start. If you do let it slip by, the abuse could become even more disruptive to the work schedule, and sends the message to other employees that it’s ok to take unauthorized time off.

Photo Credit: graur razvan ionut FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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Tess Taylor

Tess Taylor is the Founder and CEO of HR Knows

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