sick leave abuse

How to Handle Sick Leave Abuse in the Workplace

Nobody loves being sick. However, burnout, switching seasons or viral flu can leave us unable to function properly, let alone go to work. And that’s when most of us reach for the phone and call our HRs to tell them we need to take sick leave.

However, some of us are not honest at all times. Occasionally, we just don’t feel like working. And that’s understandable: we are all humans and we cannot be top performers every day. In those cases, we might just leave any morale behind and take a sick day. Every one of us did this, there’s no point in hiding it. But the problem occurs when those occasions turn into a habit and when one sole moment of weakness turns into abuse.

Let’s see what statistics say about leave abuse.

When you start googling it, turns out it’s quite common. Sick leave affects not only the employer but the coworkers as well. They are usually left to pick out the pieces and finish the job they usually don’t do. What happens in these occasions is that their work suffers too and the productivity decreases.

Not only is it common but it’s costly as well.

By the publication Circadian, a workforce solution company, unpredicted leave can cost a company roughly $3,600 per year for each hourly worker and $2,650 each year for salaried employees. Yikes!

One research discovered that one in ten Hong Kongers abused their sick leave. Among the most common reasons for calling in sick were family issues (8%), a follow-up job interview (2%) or being late due to the traffic issues (1%).  Sadly, the situation around the globe is anything but different. When we look at this it makes us wonder whether there’s a way to prevent sick leave abuse from happening.

What are some possible solutions for sick leave abuse?

Even though we cannot guarantee this will make you immune from your workers abusing sick leave in the workplace, we might say with confidence you will reduce it to a bare minimum.

Better employee engagement can be one of the solutions.

Maybe you just need to improve employee’s engagement. Many slackers in the workplace feel like faking an illness due to their lack of motivation. If they don’t feel engaged and motivated in their workplace, they are ultimately coming for a paycheck at the end of the month.

And that’s never a good sign, both for the worker and the company. By offering them a possibility to enhance their skills, making them feel like they are a part of the team and that their presence matters will drastically reduce the abuse of sick leave among your employees.

Implementing an unlimited PTO policy can help as well.

PTO policy left everyone wondering. How is it possible to allow your employees to take as much time off they need and still profit? In the end, it turns out that companies with PTO policy experience less time off from their workers, and end up facing a different problem – how to make them actually go on a vacation. The point is to switch from the actual hours to the task completion solely. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how much any of them stayed at the office, or how many of them actually showed up for work as long as the job gets done.

Don’t be afraid to try new things. A whole bunch of successful companies like Netflix or Crowdflower have made PTO work perfectly. What’s stopping you?

The first step in dealing with sick leave abuse is gathering all the data.

You cannot solve anything if you don’t know what the causes for the problem are. If you think your workers abuse sick leave, you need to dig deeper and gather the statistics. It does not matter if you’re in a big company or in a relatively small startup. With the actual numbers in hand, you will be able to pinpoint the most critical areas and start figuring out the solution. And you should be objective in your effort to find the cure for this problem.

Counseling might also be an option.

We aren’t saying you should go all the way and become the new Michael Scott in your office, but maybe in your attempt to reduce sick leave abuse you should with a more humane approach. Many problems arise due to misunderstandings or the inability to communicate in a proper way. Somehow, we cannot shake away the feeling many of them might get easily resolved if people talked with each other.

Call the ones which you think are slacking from work the most and ask them sincerely about the possible problems they might be facing. However, merely talking might not solve the problem. That’s why it is crucial to be prepared to offer a possible solution. Let your employees know they can reach out whenever they feel like they need some help.

Make your sick leave policy loud and clear.

Let everyone know where they stand and don’t leave any blank spots. This should be done at the very beginning of the hiring process. People tend to misinterpret signs if they are said in an occasional talk. Be sure you create a document, which you can even put online so it’s accessible to your employees whenever they need it. Don’t be afraid to set the rules straight. When everyone has it clear, there will be fewer problems we reassure you.

Bonuses make the employees go around.

End of the year is when most businesses plan their costs for the year. If you missed doing it this year then you might want to keep this in mind for next year.

A bonus program for good attendance might keep employees on board when it comes to attendance and slacking. Don’t be afraid to show appreciation to those who exceed the standard. And to reward them properly, that is.

A little bit of exercise never hurt nobody.

Is that how it goes? As the 21st century moves forward we’re spending more and more time on the computers than ever before. Eight, and often more, hours sitting at the desk can do so much harm. That’s why physical activity is more important than ever. If you don’t have the budget to pay for a gym membership for your employees and encourage them to be more active, then introducing them to yoga chairs might do the job.

Encourage them to opt for healthier food choices, and you can even organize a healthy food day at work. Cut free snacks and sodas and introduce them to fruit. All of this may reduce the number of people who get sick during the year.

Solve the issue caused by non-medical leave.

Many of us can feel trapped while trying to solve personal problems during working hours. Sometimes it’s inventible – you just need to attend your child’s school play or you have to go to the bank. And if it’s not acceptable to approach your employer honestly, then you are left with one choice – to call in sick.

Business owners and managers can solve this problem easily by coming forward and making more flexible working arrangements. Like we’ve said before, don’t focus on the hours, focus on the job that needs to be done. When you realize this, your business will thrive.

To this day, sick leave abuse remains a prominent problem for managers and business owners. We’re still refusing to talk about it as much as we should, and it remains taboo. However, there’s a solution for almost any problem out there. You just need to see what your resources are, to collect the data and to be willing to try new approaches. Let’s just not forget we should all take a more humane approach while dealing with the office drama and solve it in a constructive way.