With cases of Coronavirus on the rise, now seems like a good time to review your company’s sick policy. The unfortunate truth is that many companies have terrible sick policies designed to minimize absences rather than safeguard community health.
Policies that demand a doctor’s note, penalize workers for missing too many days of work, or that require workers to use up vacation days before taking sick days pressure employees to suck it up and come to work while sick. Needless to say, employees who have to work while sick will feel miserable, will take longer to recover, will have lower productivity, and may spread disease to others in the workplace.
Sure, we can all fight off the worst of a common cold and come back to work while we’re still a little sniffly. But with highly contagious, long-lasting, and dangerous diseases like COVID-19, a workplace sick policy that essentially encourages employees to work while sick could spell disaster for the entire workplace.
The federal government doesn’t require sick time, and a lot of states don’t either; but that doesn’t mean it isn’t in your company’s – and your immune system’s – best interest to have a sensible sick time policy.
Suzanne Lucas of Evil HR Lady spells out some guidelines for a sick policy that is actually effective at giving sick employees time to recover and keeping co-workers from going down too.
She recommends that you don’t require a note from a doctor for fewer than three sick days absence (since many illnesses can be treated at home without visiting a doctor) and suggests offering a minimum of five paid sick days and five unpaid.
She notes that most people do not use all of their sick days, citing a 2018 study that showed that employees only took 2.5 days of sick leave, even if they could’ve taken more. So you won’t necessarily be encouraging absences. You’ll just be covering your bases in case someone really does need more time to get well.
Lucas also suggests helping to maintain workplace health by keeping bathrooms fully stocked with soap and paper towels, having hand sanitizer at the ready, and reminding employees to clean commonly used and shared items like keyboards and phones regularly. She also suggests finding a public health worker who can come give flu shots in the workplace.
Lastly, you may be able to maintain productivity within your sick policy by allowing people to work from home, for example, if they are being quarantined while waiting out the Coronavirus exposure period but don’t, in fact, have symptoms.
She also recommends having a policy that makes provisions for parents, who often end up using their own sick days to care for their sick children. Sick kids can’t be taken to daycare or school, but parents who need to be at home to check on their little one might still be able to complete some tasks remotely.