For those of you that employ others, this will all be too familiar for you. Many of us grew up in the days or have in built within us that being sick for work, well, it just didn’t exist. Some of us had to be absolutely dying to take a day off.
Sadly, in today’s world of employment, it really has become an “entitlement”, not an “emergency back-up” type of “perk”. It has increased in size and yet still some employees don’t have enough.
But what rules should we have in place for if the employee is unwell and can’t come to work?
I’ve seen everything from a text message, 1 ring (prank style) missed call, email and even no notification at all in recent years.
So, what is right and what is wrong, what can we ask for from our employees or do we just have to sit back and suck it up that they couldn’t be bothered, or didn’t have the old Dutch courage to even call you?
I’ve always kept it simple, as I do with many things. Make the rule book from the start, set the expectations and then refer to them always.
I am certainly not saying that people can’t be human. I have seen plenty of employees genuinely unwell and slept through their alarm to let you know, but this is rare, like rarer than the lunar eclipse. And we all know who these people are, they normally do come to work when they are a little bit sick and they don’t have sick days very often at all.
Then there are the other employees. The ones that most Monday’s you go, ok, who is it going to be today types. You almost watch the calendar and go, oh this is Monday number 3, surely its today I won’t see “so n so” or when summer hits and the beach weather is just perfect, you wait for the call sometimes even the night before. Oh god I love those ones. “sorry, I won’t be well enough to work tomorrow” are you kidding me right now! Who the hell knows the night before what they will feel like in the morning? This is a whole new breed but sadly became less surprizing very quickly.
Any as we all know, we have to have empathy, we need to ask, “oh, are you ok?” “what did the doctor say?” “have they given you good medication?” This to me was always translated in my head for the bad employees as “ok I will ask like I care” “have you even seen a doctor” “if you haven’t then you won’t have a clue about medication, but you know I am onto you”
For our genuine employees, I think I actually ask the same questions, but there is no suspicion in my tone and I do really care that they are ok.
So, back to you rule book. The employee handbook, also referred to as the terms and conditions of your business. This should have been presented and signed by all parties upon commencing the new employee into your business. It is the bible, the go to and has everything in it that you expect.
And please create this how you see fit, this is just what I would have or close to it;
Personal Leave (Sick Leave or Carers Leave)
Please phone XX 1 hour prior to your shift so that your replacement can be arranged.
If required to work the day after being unwell, please phone by 4pm of that day to advise XX for the next working day so that a replacement can be arranged. This one can be a text message if they just need to confirm they are coming in, that’s not going to hurt anyone these days.
Phone calls are only expected, texts, emails or no communication is not acceptable.
Please supply a medical certificate for the personal leave for payroll processing and this must be submitted by 5pm on the last day of the pay week. This is acceptable via text or email; however, the original may also be requested. Please ensure the practitioner has signed and correctly dates the document. Reason for absence is not required.
If you have scheduled medical requirements arising in the future, these can be booked with XX and documentation may be required as well as the medical certificate after the procedure. This is also acceptable via text or email; however, the original may be requested.
Please note that the items listed above are required to be adhered to and failing to do so will be placed on your personnel file and could be used in any performance reviews of your position.
So, this sample above of course refers to Personal Leave, but there should be many other items included in your employee handbook such as Annual Leave, Mobile Phone Policy etc.
Above all else, don’t forget you need to demonstrate your efforts to work with your employees. You are not allowed to badger them about personal leave and you also need to be careful with questioning their personal leave entitlements.
One rule is very clear and this is something you may come across. If an employee has 10 personal leave days a year or pro-rata hours for this, if they have used up their leave, you can pay them annual leave at your discretion. It is not mandatory to pay someone annual leave, but sometimes it will help a genuine employee get through a difficult time of being very ill or having an unwell close relative that they need to care for.
My number 1 is the text, email or no notification for being absent. I struggle with this whole topic to be frankly honest as I think I have literally been sick only a hand full of times in my entire working life. But I do understand we are all built differently and I do know that some people are more affected by the common cold than others, so empathy is a huge area for us all to work on as small business owners.