3

We all get monthly 1 sick leave. There is no medical certificate required if you are taking 1 day off. One of the concern I have is with my team (reporting to me), that some people might be abusing it. Typically I just get a message in the morning, "not feeling well, taking off". Usually I approve and its not a major concern but I know as a pattern that everyone ensures their 12 sick days are used over the year and more people take sick leaves on Monday or a Friday. In fact in one of the team outing event, there was even a joke about faking sick leave where few team members almost accepted they do that. I was surprised that the team is comfortable to joke about it in front of manager. I can still ignore it and focus on their overall performance but this is young team and I want to make sure I talk about integrity and honesty with regards to sick leave. I want to address this in team meeting but I do not know how. I do not want to sound like a personal attack on someone who has recently taken sick leave. Also, I do not want to indicate that there is definitely a suspicious pattern. There is a possibility in my mind and I want to make sure everyone understands the seriousness of it.

Some clarifications based on comments

  1. Not sure how other teams handle it. May be they do not.
  2. Yes sick leaves are accrued. One can take 12 a year at once but require some medical certificate for taking more than 2 consecutively.
  3. No slacking or performance concern. I just want to highlight the importance of being honest. However, not something I have to immediately address.
  4. Based on the comments and answers, I will let it to go and not worry about it.
23
  • 10
    Mental health is health, why is this a problem? Is team performance down? Are people slacking?
    – Aida Paul
    Commented Jun 9 at 9:28
  • 9
    Does the fact that your team members take 12 sick leave days per year negatively affect the team performance or anyone's individual performance ? Commented Jun 9 at 9:51
  • 8
    What happens if they don't take the sick days? What happens if they are sick longer than "allowed" (funny concept to begin with)?
    – nvoigt
    Commented Jun 9 at 13:21
  • 6
    @PagMax - India has some very specific employment laws that are not always employee friendly. It also changes what our recommendations might be as a policy that is appropriate for the US or EU might not be applicable in India.
    – Donald
    Commented Jun 9 at 19:15
  • 8
    There was a Dilbert comic that said something like: "40% of all Sick days are Mondays and Fridays! That's nearly half! It's a scandal." Commented Jun 9 at 22:19

3 Answers 3

20

Cracking down on this will probably backfire. Just let it go.

If people are making sure to take every single sick leave day ever year, I'm guessing its because your company doesn't give very many vacation days (relative to what your employees want/need). After all, if you had plenty of vacation available, why fake a sick day.

So if you crack down on this, while you will see it as improving integrity, your employees will see it as you taking away their already extremely small number of vacation days. They'll get burnt out and find another job.

But if you do decide to address it, don't do it on your own. Contact your company's HR department (or your manager) and ask them for guidance.

1
21

I know you've said you intend to let it go, but I want to advise you to do something very different. I want you to embrace it. Your company has a policy that will keep you all healthier and happier, and your staff are doing exactly as they should. You don't currently believe this: you think they're being unethical, and you've decided not to take action on that but will continue to think of your people as unethical cheaters. That's a shame. And if word of your position gets out (perhaps when you praise someone who doesn't take a day in a given month) the team's behaviour might change, which would be a bigger shame.

Why do I think this policy keeps your team healthier and happier than one that requires people to either be "sufficiently ill" for a day off or to prove they are sufficiently ill for a day off?

  • people who come to work when they are a little bit ill are less productive, and slow down their recovery to a more productive state. You might get three half days from them at the start of the week, instead of one zero-day followed by two full days.
  • people who come to work when they are little bit ill can infect their coworkers so that you end up 5 people missing full-productivity days because they're all "a little bit ill." It's true that hangovers and depression are not contagious, but often a cold or other virus means a person can't cope with things they would normally cope with.
  • people who feel trusted to decide whether to come in or not generally feel more loyalty to their workplace. If someone is struggling with a chronic illness, pressure to justify days off leads directly to looking for a different job. Even if the person taking a day off has no reason at all for that, just wants a Monday with no commute and a chance to relax, giving that to them makes them happier and improves employee retention.

On balance, someone staying home when they are a little ill is a net benefit to the company. It's the right thing to do. The policy that enables this also enables someone to stay home when they're "just" unhappy or tired, and you might see that as a net loss: I put it to you that the benefit outweighs the loss and therefore the policy, and the way your team reacts to it, are both good. Besides, being unhappy and being tired are also things that people need to recover from to be productive again. If your staff like their jobs, they will come in and do them as soon as they possibly can. If they don't like their jobs, a restrictive sick day policy won't improve that.

You report that the team is running fine, getting things done on schedule, and are not slackers. They like this policy. I think you should like this policy too. They're not abusing anything. They're not lying. They're not unethical. They are doing what the company wants them to do, protecting their health and the health of their coworkers. Enjoy it!

6
  • 2
    They're not abusing anything. They're not lying. They're not unethical - Wrong IMO. Why is it called 'sick leave'? I worked in a place where we were allowed a certain number of 'personal days' , which needed no explanation, and a separate category for 'sick days' which had no limit, but had to be verified by a physician if they were more than 3 days. According to the reasoning expressed in this answer, they should be 'personal days'. Using 'sick leave' just to have a long weekend - the pattern identified by the OP - is lying and unethical.
    – Vector
    Commented Jun 9 at 23:45
  • 3
    -1 I can still ignore it and focus on their overall performance but this is young team and I want to make sure I talk about integrity and honesty with regards to sick leave. OP wants to be a good manager. Why are you telling him not to bother and encouraging apparently deceitful behavior? They're not abusing anything - They are abusing the company's policy of sick leave. Why don't they just tell them they can take an extra day off once a month? The OP says he has detected a pattern indicating deceit, Why are you OK with that?
    – Vector
    Commented Jun 10 at 3:40
  • 2
    In the UK, your GP (doctor) won’t give you a sick note for a single day. It’s at least three days. Would you rather I stay at home for a day without a doctors note or for three days with one? (And with a sick note, I’m legally not allowed to work, and you are legally not allowed to let me work).
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jun 10 at 7:28
  • 5
    @vector the OP calls them "sick days" but since there's no requirement beyond "not feeling great" it's clear the company considers them what you call personal days. The definition of a word that may or may not be in the employer's name for the day is not the most important part of the policy, and is what leads to considering this to be an "integrity" issue. From a practical point of view, the occasional "just wanted a long weekend" person is worth it to keep the "little bit ill" folks home. But there's no evidence such people even exist, much less that they are the majority of the absences. Commented Jun 10 at 11:44
  • 1
    @KateGregory, did you know that statistically 40% of all sick days are taken on Mondays and Fridays? Clearly unethical cheaters. (I think it might be safer to say 60% of all sickdays happen Tuesday to Thursday)).
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jun 12 at 11:22
16

I want to address this in team meeting but I do not know how.

Change the policy. It's stupid in the first place. Sickness does NOT follow a one day per month pattern and its idiotic to assume so.

Create a policy that treats your employees as responsible adults and they will behave this way. On the other hand, if you treat your people like school children, that's how they will act

I know as a pattern that everyone ensures their 12 sick days are used

What's the problem here? In what way is that dishonest or non-compliant with the policy as written? For any normal person this feels like a budgeted "day off" that they are entitled to (and lose if they don't use it) and as an integral part of their benefits package. Assuming that people will not take leave they are entitled to is highly unrealistic.

Case in point: one of my employers had 5 days of personal/sick time for non-exempt employees and unlimited personal/sick for salaried employees. In the former group everyone took the 5 days. In the latter group the average was 3.5 days/year. Occasional there was an outlier or outright abuse but this was rare and easy to deal with on a case by case basis.

4
  • 2
    There is no way to bring up the policy and remind employees to be honest about their sick leave without them immediately believing you are suspicious of them using leave their are entitled to use when they are sick. It’s clear you believe sick leave is being abused. That’s the entire premise of your question.
    – Donald
    Commented Jun 9 at 19:11
  • 2
    @PagMax I think Hilmar would agree with all the positive aspects of the policy (I certainly do), the "stupid" bit (@Hilmar you might formulate that less confrontational^^) is not realising that even adults are wired certain ways and certain behaviours can get triggered more likely with certain concrete policies. Here: Giving a fixed rule about the amount of days per month, is more likely to trigger economic thinking rather than social thinking, i.e. how do you maximize the benefit you get from this policy. Commented Jun 9 at 19:37
  • 2
    @PagMax Or from another pov reading the day restriction as a general grant of additional time off (1 day per month to make handling "actually sick cases" easy vs. 1 day per month for your health to take as best pleases you). I.e. we simply say, the problem would probably not exist or exist less strongly without the explicit day/month limit as that can send the wrong signals and may trigger min-max thinking in people. With an unlimited policy it typically is clear that there is a social contract to not abuse it, with a clear limit, that limit is what people assume is acceptable as non-abuse. Commented Jun 9 at 19:41
  • All in all, Hilmar, if you agree with what I tried to explain, maybe expand the answer a bit and formulate the "stupid" a bit more professionally / nuanced / to the point taking into account that the policy does allow for longer sick leaves just not with the same automatism ;) As an improvement suggestion. Have a neat day everyone. Commented Jun 9 at 19:44

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .