Why You Might Want to be Less Strict About Sick Days

February 10, 2015

Why You Might Want to be Less Strict About Sick Days

How many times have you given somebody a full-on interrogation after they’ve called in sick?

It’s true that when we’re down on head count less tends to get done… but in the long-run, you might actually do better to simply tell them “sorry to hear that, I hope things get better soon” – even if you suspect they’re not being 100% truthful.

So here are a few thoughts about why you might not want to get so up-in-arms every time somebody calls in sick.

Sickness Can Be Contagious

It’s obvious, I know – sickness spreads!

If ever you’ve praised employees for dragging themselves into the office with a hot water bottle and a lunchbox full of painkillers, then you might actually be making things far worse – after all, when the other 10 people on the team come down with the same bug the following week, you’re likely in an even worse position than if you’d just let that one person take the time to get better.

Being Understanding Encourages Productivity

I know that my ‘boss’ isn’t going to be mad with me because I take a day off sick. Even if I’m not actually ‘sick’, and the real reason is that my cat’s just died and I’m feeling really low, I know that I’m respected by my colleagues enough to be able to pick up the phone and say “I’m not well enough to work today” and have no negative repercussions.

But do you know what? Because I know this, I actually call in sick at this company much less than I have at previous companies; and when I’m working, I get far more done.

You cannot know what your employees are having to deal with at home, and you cannot know what they are feeling like inside. If they are calling in sick and genuinely don’t feel they can manage a day at work, then it’s probably better that you show compassion and enjoy the benefits of an enthused, motivated employee further down the line.

Constant ‘Duvet Days’ Could be a Sign of Bad Culture

For the employees who are quite obviously using ‘sick’ as an excuse to stay in bed because they had a late night the night before… well, sure you don’t want that; but it might actually be a warning sign that you need to change something or work on your company’s culture. If employees don’t want to work, and don’t feel invested in your company, then that is something you can work on.

One great solution I saw to this problem, was one company that actually gave their employees 4 ‘duvet days’ per year. Basically, these were sick days that the employee could call in with no-notice and they didn’t even require a ‘genuine’ sickness. It meant that if they had had a late night out and suddenly couldn’t get out of bed, they had something to fall back on without suffering career repercussions. And do you know what? Hardly any staff used all of their duvet days, and the company’s absence rates improved hugely.

For Problem Absences, Use the Bradford Factor

If sick days are, on the whole, a non-problem for your company, but you feel like there are one or two issues concerning individuals, then you might consider implementing an absence scoring system called the Bradford Factor – this great infographic explains how it works and why it’s effective

Stay ahead with HR

Get free HR insights, expert tips and exclusive interviews, and start making more impact at work

Please enter a valid email address

See People HR in action

View our short video demo

Get started absolutely free

No credit card required

Talk with an expert to learn how People HR could help your organisation