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It is important that every company owner knows how to put limit on official company leaves without affecting the employee’s rights. Making sure to have a Sick Leave Plan at hand will definitely help both employer-employee relationship come to a wider understanding of each other’s situation.
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What Is a Sick Leave Plan?
Sick leave plan is defined as absence from work and performance of regular duties because of an employee’s bona fide illness, non-work-related injury, or quarantine through exposure to contagious disease.
You may request sick leave only for the necessary absence from duty because of personal or family illness, including pregnancy and recovery, injury, health care provider appointments or legal quarantine. Similar to vacation leave, you cannot take sick leave until after it has been accrued. Excessive use of sick leave may result in disciplinary action.
The amount of sick leave provided to by private sectors are based on several factors including the amount of time you work during a pay period, your employment type, and whether you are considered exempt (salaried) or non-exempt (hourly).
What Are the Dos and Don’ts of Taking a Sick Leave?
When an employee takes a sick day, it has several negative impacts on the company, including:
Dos for Taking a Sick Day
There are appropriate methods of handling sick time as an employee. The following list describes some of the things an employee needs to do when requesting sick time:
Don’ts for Taking a Sick Day
Along with appropriate methods, here are behaviors to avoid when taking a sick day:
Ten Ways to Reduce Sick Leave:
Here are ten tips to reduce sick leave in the workplace:
- Have clear policies and procedures regarding sick leave and absences
- Be flexible about non-medical leave and working arrangements
- Create a positive work environment
- Elicit the help of supervisors and managers
- Address employee concerns regarding their job security
- Be available and show support for those struggling with illness or injury
- Reduce and address workplace conflict
- Accommodate employee needs when possible
- Praise employees for a job well done
- Address all breaches of company sick leave policies immediately and consistently
By creating a positive and responsive work environment, employees are more likely to show up and less likely to take advantage of sick leave.
How to Develop and Administer Paid-Leave Programs?
Step 1. Identify the Objective and Any Legal Requirements to Offer Paid Leave
Organizations should first think about why they are considering a paid-leave program. Is the reason to be more competitive? Is it to build a rewards program for employees? Is it to manage employees’ time off? Or is it to improve the productivity, health or safety of the workforce? Whatever the reason, establishing the need for paid leave helps determine the type of leave, how much to provide, when to provide it and how it will affect the business.
Employers must identify any requirements to provide paid sick leave under state and local laws or as a federal contractor. An employer is not mandated to offer a paid-leave plan however, employers may not dock the pay of exempt employees for absences due to sickness or disability unless a) employers have a bona fide plan for paid time off that can be used for these absences, and b) exempt employees are either not yet eligible or have exhausted their benefits under the plan.
Step 2. Identify What Type of Leave to Offer Employees and Who Will Be Eligible
Next, organizations should decide whether to offer separate vacation-, sick- and personal-leave benefits or a combination of the three in one comprehensive paid-time-off (PTO) plan.
Vacation leave is the most commonly offered leave benefit. It is generally used for time away from work for rest, relaxation, travel, handling personal matters and other planned reasons. Vacation leave is typically scheduled in advance, although some employers allow employees to use vacation time for unexpected absences.
Sick leave can be unplanned or foreseeable and is typically used for absences due to an employee’s own illness or injury, or to care for an employee’s sick family member. Some employers are required by state law, city ordinance or federal contract to grant paid sick leave to employees and to allow employees to use sick leave for other relatives, such as parents, spouses or registered domestic partners.
Personal leave is generally used for any reason, planned or unplanned, and typically supplements vacation and sick leave for short-term absences.
Step 3. Identify How Much Leave Employees Will Be Eligible for and When They Will Earn It
Employers can consider creating a matrix with years of service and accrual rates/days awarded based on position or hours worked. Organizations must decide if employees will receive the paid leave front-loaded at the beginning of the calendar or anniversary year, or at the start of employment, or if employees will accrue leave based on the number of hours worked or on length of service. In states where paid leave is required to be paid out upon termination, employers are more likely to implement an accrual system to avoid having to pay out a full year’s worth of leave to an employee who departs the organization early in the year.
Moreover, employers must determine if new hires will begin accruing paid leave immediately or if they must wait a period of time before earning paid leave and/or using the leave. It is common for employers to have a waiting period of one to two months before employees are eligible to take paid leave.
Step 4. Establish When and How Employees Can Take Leave
Organizations should define in their company policy in what increments paid leave can be used. Some employers charge paid leave in full-day or half-day increments only. Other employers charge paid leave in smaller increments, such as quarter-hour or full-hour increments.
Employers also need to establish a procedure regarding when employees should request leave, how they should request leave, and the process of approval or denial of the leave.
Organizations should determine if they will require a certain amount of advance notice for vacation, personal or PTO leave. For example, an employer may ask employees to request planned time off at least 30 days in advance so the manager has sufficient time to replace the employee or prepare for the absence.
Step 5. Identify When Paid-Leave Use Will Be Required
If an employee is collecting short-term disability benefits or other supplemental pay, the policy should be explicit regarding whether and how the employer will permit the use of concurrent paid leave.
The employer’s policy should address this eventuality. Generally, in the event of a business closure, employers require the time to be counted as vacation time if all other employees are required to use their leave time to cover the day. Some companies do not require employees to use their vacation time during a business closure if other employees are not required to do so. Other employers consider planned absences to remain as vacation days, despite the office being closed, whether or not other employees are required to use their leave time.
Step 6. Determine Payout Upon Termination Practices
Organizations should identify any state law requirements regarding payout of vacation/PTO upon termination.
Some states require employers to pay out earned but unused vacation/PTO leave when an employee departs the organization. If state law does not require this, employers should outline in their company policy if they will pay out unused leave at termination and, if so, what qualifiers exist to be eligible for the payout, such as voluntary resignation only or sufficient resignation notice provided. Employers have discretion in some states to determine under what circumstances, if any, employees will be paid for unused leave at separation.
In states where paid leave is required to be paid out upon termination, employers are more likely to implement an accrual system to avoid having to pay out a full year’s worth of leave to an employee departs the organization early in the year. For example, an employee hired on Feb. 1 receives two weeks of vacation at the time of hire. If that employee quits March 30 before using any paid leave, the employee may be eligible under state law to receive the two weeks’ vacation pay. However, if an employer has a paid-leave plan stating that leave is accrued monthly, per pay period or on any other basis, the employer may be obligated only to pay out the leave accrued and unused at the time of an employee’s departure.
Payout of leave upon termination generally applies to vacation and/or PTO and does not include paid-sick-leave hours or other hours specific to a particular event, such as paid holidays.
Step 7. Create a Policy and Communicate It to Staff
The last step is for employers to create a written policy outlining all the rules and procedures for paid leave. HR professionals are responsible for keeping employee handbooks and policy and procedure manuals up-to-date and for communicating the policy to all staff. Employees should sign an acknowledgment that they received the information and understand the policy.
Employers may use sample policies as a starting point in creating their own policy, or they may choose to outsource development of the policy to a consultant or attorney.
Can You Be Fired While On Sick Leave?
Yes. This can be necessary even when you have an employee who is sick and on long term sick leave. You can dismiss someone who’s off sick, as long as you go through the correct disciplinary procedures.
Can You Terminate An Employee On Sick Leave?
If you are persistently off sick, or on long-term sick, your employer should normally look at any alternatives before deciding to dismiss you. For instance, they might have to consider whether the job itself is making you sick and needs to be changed. You can still be dismissed if you are off sick.
How Long Can You Be Off Work With Anxiety And Depression?
For as long as you need to get better. Some employees may need to take time off for treatment while others could just require a couple of days away from work. It is possible to return to work before a fit note runs out.
Can An Employer Deny Sick Leave?
An employer can confirm an employee is unable to take sick leave if the employee’s reason for the leave does not fall under the legislation. For example, if they are asking to take sick leave for someone who is not in their immediate family or household, as defined by the Fair Work Act.
Is Excessive Absenteeism Considered Misconduct?
It is important that employer’s policies and procedures are implemented consistently. As long as employees follow your company’s policies and national system laws regarding sick leave, they cannot be disciplined for misconduct.
Generally, employers recognize that many employees struggle to balance the needs of work with outside interests and obligations. Taking time away from work is important, not only to handle personal matters and take care of illnesses but also for physical and emotional well-being. In addition to promoting a happier and healthier workforce, paid-leave benefits may enhance employers’ recruitment efforts and retention strategies. Paid-leave programs affect employers financially, administratively and operationally; therefore, an employer should have a well-designed plan that meets both the employer’s and employees’ needs.