8 Sick Leave Policy Best Practices

What is one best practice for a sick leave policy?

To help you include best practices in your sick leave policy, we asked HR leaders and small business owners this question for their best advice. From making your policy better than other organizations to offering half sick days, there are several tips that may help you create an ideal sick leave policy for your company. 

Here are eight best practices for a sick leave policy:

  • Make Your Policy Better Than Other Organizations 
  • Automate When Possible
  • Encourage Employees to Use Their Sick Leave 
  • Allow Employees To Do What’s Best for Them
  • Ensure Your Policy is Easy to Understand
  • Write Your Policy With Empathy 
  • Create an Easy Way for Employees to Access Resources
  • Offer Half Sick Days


8 Sick Leave Policy Best Practices


Make Your Policy Better Than Other Organizations 

The best practice here is to look at what is standard among organizations and make yours better. Companies today look for any way to cut their employees’ pay, make them work longer and lower their benefits in order to simply save money. My simple suggestion is to make your sick leave policy better and an actual benefit you can be proud of. The easiest way to do this is to offer more sick time and allow it to roll over and accumulate. 

This lets employees bank time so they can use it for life events and emergencies. This also allows your more tenured employees to take a sabbatical if they choose to alleviate them from burning out. Employees can also feel safe to plan if they have something come up. Most people live paycheck to paycheck and taking leave or FMLA is simply not a financial option. Giving employees freedom of accruing sick time and using it how they want to is a wonderful benefit that most organizations have phased out. So, be better.

Mark Smith, University of Advancing Technology


Automate When Possible

Managing absences and pay can be a difficult task when operating manually. There are many services out there like ADP and Zenefits that can track working hours, time off, and sick leave that are extremely accurate and follow local guidelines. This can save hours of work and headache. If your current service does not cover these areas, consider finding one that includes tracking these hours and policies to further streamline your business.

Joe Spector, Dutch


Encourage Employees to Use Their Sick Leave

When implementing a sick leave policy, it’s important to communicate that people shouldn’t feel obligated to work when they are sick. Oftentimes, employees can feel guilty when taking sick leave, and come into work when they are sick which exposes other people to their germs. This can lead to more people having to take sick leave because they contracted whatever illness they were originally exposed to by their coworker. Let employees know they have a certain amount of time for sick leave and they should use it when they are too sick to work without feeling guilty.

Brett Sohns, LifeGoal Investments


Allow Employees To Do What’s Best For Them

You can reshape your sick leave policy to reflect the times. For instance, some employees may be too sick to come into the office but not sick enough to not work. If an employee can perform their job functions from home all the while keeping clear of other employees in good health, let them do so. On the other hand, we’ve recently learned the importance of taking health and wellness seriously, so shifting your policies to make room for life’s unexpected twists and turns will have your employees feeling less anxious and more appreciated.

Bradley Hall, Sonu Sleep


Ensure Your Policy is Easy to Understand 

Having a written sick leave policy for your employees is essential. It is necessary to decide what an employee can do to report to work when they fall ill or have a family emergency. Make sure your sick leave policy is clear, detailed, and fair. You can have an unlimited amount of sick leave; however, you should cap the amount of paid sick leave to five or seven days. It would be best if you had a clear understanding with your employees regarding their job duties to be clear on what they are required to do and what they can do in their place. 

Most importantly, you should be clear on the kind of leave you offer. There are several types of rest that you can provide to your employees like family medical leave and enterprise medical leave. You must be flexible with your sick leave policy. Most employers choose to give their employees a fair amount of sick leave that can be used unless there is an urgent need for a replacement.

Hilary Kozak, LivSmooth


Write Your Policy With Empathy

It is important that a sick leave policy has a balance between empathy and solid legal practices. Allow the people leaders to have some flexibility and accommodations for their employees when appropriate. Some companies write a strict and legalistic sick leave policy for the 1 or 2 employees who abused it in the past. Most employees have a valid reason for sick leave and there may be significant emotional stress that goes along with it. Having a very strict and narrow sick leave policy when you routinely ask employees to work extra hours on evenings and weekends can be counter-productive to employee engagement and loyalty.

Scott Baker, Stage 3 Leadership


Create an Easy Way for Employees to Access Resources

Advocating for our health and wellbeing at work can bring on additional stress or anxiety, so a sick leave policy should include a clear and easy process for employees to inform the employer without having to require sharing too many personal medical details. Especially in cases when work performance will potentially suffer due to a personal illness or struggle with mental wellbeing, it is in everyone’s best interest to know the communication process and how to access available resources, and if it might be an option to modify work hours or take a medical leave of absence through FMLA.

 Companies are invested in their teams’ health and employment longevity, so physical and mental health resources like an EAP may already be available. Help employees take well-informed next steps through a clear sick leave process so they know who to contact to keep their health the priority.

Russell Lieberman, Altan Insights


Offer Half Sick Days

The reality of running a business is that members of your workforce are going to get sick. That reality was felt hard during the covid-19 pandemic. At a minimum, businesses should offer five, but at least three, sick days per year with this in mind. Structuring it so that workers can take half sick days is also a good idea because sometimes employees are stricken with some type of illness while in the office or on a job site. Workers often want the option of not having to burn a full sick day whenever possible. Employees will appreciate a strong yet flexible sick policy, one that offers a reasonable amount of paid leave.

Scott MacDonell, Bambee


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