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We are a company that is quite small (25-30 employees). As we've grown from 10-30 employees over the last year, our culture has also evolved from informal and startup-like to a more process oriented structure.

We don't really want to be that strict, but we think it's a good idea to allow employees to take a set number of leaves off and also know how much to take off. We also implemented a set time with which they should come to work at with some more perks as listed below -

  1. 5 day work week
  2. 2 days of leave / month
  3. 2 days to work from home
  4. Can be late 4 times a month after informing team leader

In general, the time to come work is basically 11AM so it is not really "hard" to get here and the office is in the heart of the city. We also came up with these rules after consulting with the employees and in general they liked it.

So I have two questions -

  1. There is one set of folks who insist on making every use of the policy such that they will ensure that they are late 4 times a week, work from home 2 days a month etc, from my end as a manager, I don't think that it's a very good thing to have in our culture where people use a policy like this to the maximum because I generally feel that people should be committed to their work and also this might be viewed as an example for other people to start doing this.
  2. There is another set of folks who have gone past the leave policy and late policy and even after a few warnings continue to do so. One option that we saw as a deduction in their salary, but I don't really think that's the solution to the problem. How should we approach this problem? Should we think of a way to reprimand them or is that the wrong approach in general?
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    How is it bad if they are following the company’s guidelines? Afterrall they we’re told that what they are doing was acceptable by the guidelines given to them. – Joe W Jun 5 '18 at 6:19
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    If you want them to wear 37 pieces if flair, make the minimum 37 pieces! :D – tddmonkey Jun 5 '18 at 6:23
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    You have employees that are not motivated and your question is how to punish. Beatings will continue until moral improves. – paparazzo Jun 5 '18 at 6:38
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    For the lateness, I would make the employees make up that time at some later time. The same goes for the leave days (unless they want to take one of their sick days). That being said, if your workers are already working in excess of 40 hours despite your current policy, forget I said anything. – Stephan Branczyk Jun 5 '18 at 9:04
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    "they will ensure that they are late 4 times a week, work from home 2 days a month etc, from my end as a manager, I don't think that it's a very good thing to have in our culture where people use a policy like this to the maximum" What would be a good thing to do instead? It is not clear what the issue is. Employees are following the policy that you said was ok to follow. Could you please clarify? – Masked Man Jun 5 '18 at 16:00
15

Your two questions map to two simple problems.

Employees fake illness/lateness to use all their leave

This is a case where your employees don't want their leave to go to waste - quite understandably, since it's basically 'free money'. I assume from your description that if an employee doesn't use up their monthly leave, it gets discarded. As such, the solution is simple: make it accumulate. This is the standard everywhere I've worked - you get a number of leave days per month, or per year, and can use them as you wish.

With a monthly approach where excess is discarded, you basically are forcing your employees to take short breaks every month, with no possibility of a longer vacation. This goes against the grain of how most people take holidays - of course there's pushback. You can enforce a maximum period (say, 10 weeks of accumulated leave), after which any excess is discarded, so as to prevent people building massive amounts you may need to payout in a single lump sum, and to make sure people do take vacations on occasion. But your system does need to allow people to build up longer blocks and use them all at once. If excess leave is lost at the end of each month, that's not possible.

Employees overtly refuse to comply with the policy

The first thing to do here is ask these employees why they can't follow the policy. Most people won't deliberately imperil their jobs with explicit defiance of company policy, so there's a couple of reasons this could happen - either they have life circumstances that are incompatible with the policies, or this policy is viewed as an abrupt change and removal of perks, and you're seeing pushback because they can't see any value in it and refuse to accept it.

The former, life circumstances, can be addressed by special exemption or reviewing the policy to be more flexible to different people's needs. The latter requires you first to look at whether the policy is in fact beneficial compared to what existed prior, and to guage how big a change everyone views it to be. If it's too big a change, maybe you could look at a smaller, more flexible transition phase. If you still feel it's OK as is, then yes, you'll need to lay out some punishments or reprimands.

I wouldn't use docking pay - this is likely illegal in most jurisdictions anyway - but I would certainly classify any unapproved time over the policy as 'unpaid leave', plus a caution/strikes-based system whereby repeat offenses can be met with PIPs and/or eventual termination. Just be cautious, lenient, and sensible - for example, don't classify someone simply not showing up to work all day as an identical offense to someone showing up at 11:03 for the fifth time after calling their team lead.

  • Stopping the leave accumulation at a maximum could also be problematic depending on the jurisdiction. One way around that would be to reserve the right to order an employee to use some of their leave in a given time-frame (for instance, my employer requires me to take at least one week of my leave in July). – Haem Jun 6 '18 at 13:57
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Do not rate people by their presence, rate them by their performance.

When you provide a very detailed leave policy, then you can sanction people for exceeding it (including firing them), but you can not blame people for exploiting it to the letter as much as they can.

But you can blame people for not doing the work they are supposed to do.

So find a fair and expressive metric to measure how much work people get done. This might be easier said than done, because many fields of work make it very difficult to properly quantify productivity. If you need help with this, open a new question where you tell us more details about your line of work.

Then judge people by how they measure up to this metric. Use the metric to hand out bonusses, perks, raises and promotions.

The top performers might fulfill their quota even though they are often absent. But if they still perform adequately, where is the problem?

Those people who underperform might realize that they need to spend more time at work in order to achieve what you expect them to achieve.

Also note that there is an ideal number of work-hours for each person. Some people are very productive for short amounts of time, but lose their concentration if you make them work too much. Others work slowly, but are able to do so for hours and hours on end. A flexible leave policy can allow people to figure out their ideal number of work-hours to maximize their personal productivity. But only if paired with an incentive to actually maximize their productivity.

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    Top performers being absent often will likely demotivate lower performers. – Dukeling Jun 5 '18 at 15:36
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As already noted, you can't really blame employees for making full use of the perks you give them.

While some would be abusing the perks because they're lazy or just don't have the best work ethic, others could be doing so because they're not happy at work, so it might be worth having one-on-one's to try to find out how they're feeling and whether there's anything that can be improved, before going too far in terms of changing policies or punishing them.

Coming in late / leaving early

I'd recommend against saying you allow this X times a month.

Instead, say the working hours is X to Y, but you don't mind them coming in a bit later or leaving a bit earlier "once in a while" as long as:

  • Either:

    • They have a good reason (going to the doctor is a good reason, oversleeping or just being tired is not). It's up to you whether you require them to tell you said reason, or whether you just say they should have one. OR

    • It is for exceptional circumstances (if it happens once every week, it's not exceptional).

  • They tell you beforehand via IM or email (e.g. the day before or before 11 AM on the day).
  • They wouldn't miss any meetings or deadlines and they're not blocking someone else (i.e. that employee can't continue their work without this employee's help).
  • Their overall performance is acceptable.
  • They don't abuse this perk (if they do, it should be revoked).

Working from home

You can do this exactly as above.

But it can also work to just allow them to work from home twice a month (or however often). Some people can be as productive, or more productive, when working from home, so working from home is not necessarily a bad thing.

This is assuming the job doesn't require them to constantly work closely with others, which would be best achieved when they're in the office. If this is the case, you might want to scrap working from home altogether.

They should probably be reachable by phone, email, IM and/or however else to the same extent than if they had been in the office (if not to a greater extent, since people can't just walk over and talk to them).

One problem with people working from home is that it can be hard to check up on them (contacting them or checking if they're online can work to some extent) - if they're lazy and only doing the minimum amount of work to keep their job, allowing them to work from home might not be the best idea. The better idea is probably just to get rid of them though.

Taking leave

As already noted, leave should accumulate (at least up to a year). Many people would prefer to take longer holidays, and that would probably help prevent burnout better than taking 2 days every month.

Other than than, them taking all their (regular) leave shouldn't be a problem.

Violating the policy

Those repeatedly violating the leave policy (or making use of perks despite them having been revoked) should:

  • Be issued with warnings
  • Have their leave be consumed by them coming in late or working from home (without permission)
  • Possibly be eventually terminated

If this is one of your top performers, you can also make an argument for just looking the other way (because what they get done should be much more important than how long they take to get it done). Although there is a risk there that others will feel you're showing favouritism (if they complain, you can say something along the lines of "their working hours is between them and me", but this may not be too effective).

Changing the policy

If you want to update the leave policy from what it was, I'd probably recommend sending an email saying something along these lines:

Please see this page for our updated leave policy.

The current leave policy was created on the assumption that the perks will be used conservatively. Some of you have used them as intended, but others have, unfortunately, tried to make maximum use of them.

We accept that this was our mistake, not yours, and we apologise for not making clear what we expect of you. We will be updating the leave policy going forward to better reflect our original intent.

For those of you only rarely or occasionally making use of these perks, this will likely not change anything. If you have been trying to "use up" the perks every month, this will need to change going forward, but there will not be any consequences beyond that.

So, starting next month, you will no longer be allowed to come in late 4 times every month. Instead, we expect you to only come in late when you have a good reason for doing so (e.g. a doctor's appointment - oversleeping or just being tired is not a good reason). As such, there is no longer an exact threshold for how often you're allowed to come in late. As a rough guideline, we expect an average of about 0-2 times a month, with 4 times a month being the maximum. We will tell you if we think you're overusing this perk, and may revoke it if it's abused.

...

Some may not be happy with this, but there isn't too much that can be done about that.

  • oversleeping is a valid excuse for coming into work late? – Ramhound Jun 6 '18 at 5:51
  • @Ramhound While I don't have a problem with allowing oversleeping occasionally, if you make that a "valid" reason, it would always and frequently be usable and then there isn't much point to saying you need a good reason. But I did say that part is optional, and edited to present an alternative. – Dukeling Jun 6 '18 at 10:45
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you have a written policy. People are violating said policy. This is grounds for termination and you are justified in executing on it. Let a few go and the rest will fall in line.

BTW, you have great benefits. These people are really killing the golden goose.

  • 2
    The OP has made it quite clear that people are not violating the policy but staying just within it – tddmonkey Jun 5 '18 at 18:44
  • @tddmonkey It seems that some are trying to make full use of it while staying within it, but others are violating it - "There is another set of folks who have gone past the leave policy..." – Dukeling Jun 5 '18 at 18:54
  • Oh yeah, my bad, sorry! – tddmonkey Jun 5 '18 at 18:56

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