Recently my company implemented a points-accrual system for unscheduled time off- whether that's clocking in late, leaving early, or calling out. Any difference in scheduled hours vs hours worked that was not pre-approved at least 2 days before the missed time counts towards points. The points are removed after a rolling 6 month period.

Employees get half a point for arriving late or leaving early, and one point for calling out the whole day. In theory this is meant to stop chronic lateness, absenteeism, and other attendance problems, which I can understand. However, at 5 points, management is allowed to terminate the employee. This means that we aren't allowed to call out sick more than 4 times within half a year. Speaking with our managers the day before if we need to leave the next day won't save us from gaining a point, since even though it was approved it was not more than 2 days before. We get points regardless of whether we choose to use our earned paid time off or take it as unpaid.

The irony of this situation is that HR has recently been pushing for us to go home or stay home if we're sick, so that we don't spread the germs. A reasonable request, but now that we get points for missing work, it makes staying home less of an option.

Is this an ethical system for them to have put in place? Is there a better way that we could recommend to them for holding employees accountable for their attendance that does not punish them for taking earned time off if they're sick?

[EDIT]: for clarification based on info in the comments: a doctor's note will exempt you from getting points (only if you go to actually get one, of course.)

The rolling 6 months means that if I received a point January 1st, that point will disappear June 1st. A point received in February would disappear in July, etc.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Mar 9 '17 at 0:15

These practices are usually popular with high turnover, low skill positions. In these cases, employee happiness is irrelevant because the unhappy ones can be replaced quickly enough.

However, as to the ethical status of this? No, it is less than ethical, as found by HM Government in the case of Sports Direct

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    I don't think there is a similar case in the USA. We're disposable cogs in a machine here. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Mar 8 '17 at 16:49
  • @RichardU laissez faire at its best. – Mindwin Mar 8 '17 at 18:03

This is a VERY unethical system and would likely run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act if the reason for absences were due to a chronic illness such as MS or other reasons that would fall under the ADA.

If you removed sick time from the equation, it would fall in line with the more ethical systems out there. Penalizing someone for using earned sick time is a bad idea in general, as your entire workplace will become a giant petri dish during the flue season.

Eliminate the sick time penalty, and the system becomes ethical.

  • I like your idea of drawing the line at using our PTO to not get points. We earn it, it's ours to use, whether that means scheduling time off in advance or responding to a sudden need to leave work with less notice. – Alister M Mar 8 '17 at 18:13

I think the other answers (as well as my own initial reaction) to your question were coloured by the fact that you did not initially disclose the exemption with a doctor's note.

As it stands now - this system doesn't sound very unethical. However, it is rather extreme.

The (UK and Australian) companies I have worked at do allow some level of "self-certification" for the odd sick day here and there - but they also had stipulations about doctor's certificates for if you were away for two or more days, or on a Monday or Friday. Same rules applied for carer's leave if you had to stay home with sick kids. Someone with an ongoing medical condition (such as MS) wouldn't necessarily need to get the same doctor's certification because their condition would already be on file. Other non-medical emergencies are considered, too.

Your organisation is just being stricter than ordinary.

The points system also appears quite heavy-handed - but it's no different to how a lot of companies would approach chronic absenteeism, it's just more transparent. Again, at the companies I've worked for, it clearly states in the employee handbook that repeatedly failing to provide a doctor's certificate when requested can result in discplinary action, eventually leading to dismissal.

I know that GP visits in the US come with a cost consideration (unlike the UK and, to some degree, in Australia) - so this policy can be quite unfair, there - but I still don't see it as unethical... just heavy-handed.

  • Wait. There are companies that want a doctor's note if you are out a day with a migraine or a bad cold? Who goes to a doctor with that, you just need a day in bed. I believe you, but I've never run into that. – bluegreen Mar 9 '17 at 16:11
  • @bluegreen - yeah, all companies I've worked at have had that in the handbook - but the manager can exercise some discretion for the odd day here and there. However, if the start to see a pattern or potential abuse, they have the rules in the handbook to allow them to get stricter. I can also easily imagine if there is broad abuse across the staff, the company would want to tighten things up - for example, we lost time-off-in-lieu in one organisation because of some people repeatedly taking it without arrangement. – HorusKol Mar 9 '17 at 21:38
  • That's interesting. I wonder if its a US vs other places thing. It made me check my company's handbook. We "may" have to have a physician's note if we are out sick for 3 or more consecutive days...which seems more reasonable to me. – bluegreen Mar 10 '17 at 12:52

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