Many small businesses don’t provide paid sick leave for hourly workers. Sick leave can protect your employees’ health and prevent productivity losses due to a company-wide illness. Workforce management software can help businesses with salaried or hourly employees manage sick leave.
When employees come into work sick, it can be a public health threat. Hourly jobs often require contact with the public. Consider child care providers, eldercare aides, restaurant workers, hotel staff, and retail personnel.
If workers don’t interact with the public, they are usually in close contact with other employees. Call center reps sit just a couple feet away from their coworkers. Manufacturing employees stand next to each other on the line.
What type of sick leave policy is best for your business? There is no perfect one. Employers must consider the size of their staff and financial resources. The nature of the work is also important. If tasks can be done at home, it allows for more flexibility. The trustworthiness and engagement of your staff is also a determining factor.
Types of Sick Leave Policies
- At the beginning of the year, each employee receives the same amount of paid sick days to be used when needed.
- Sick days are lumped with vacation days or other paid time off (PTO).
- Sick days are staggered throughout the year. Employees are allotted a few days every quarter.
- Employees accrue paid sick leave based on time with the company.
- Employees are allowed all the sick leave they need.
These policies have been used mainly for salaried, full-time employees. Business owners with hourly employees are starting to offer paid sick time—whether by choice or legal mandate.
Let’s consider the effects of each type of policy.
All Paid Time Off Lumped Together
Some employers don’t want the hassle of separating sick days from vacation days or other paid days off. Employees who never get sick like this approach. They get to enjoy more vacation days. Employees who get sick more often may be tempted to come in while sick because they don’t want to shorten their vacation. With workforce management software, it’s easy to track different types of paid leave.
The Number of Sick Days Increases With Time Employed
Accruing paid sick days based on years employed can be an incentive to remain with the company. But your new employees also get sick. If they come into work coughing, they could spread the bug to everyone else. A widespread illness would hurt productivity a lot more than one employee taking a few days off.
Each Employee Gets The Same Number of Days Per Year
Many employers give all staff members the same amount of sick days at the first of the year. That’s a fair way of doing it, but an employee with an extended illness could use all the days up by the end of March. Some employers stagger the sick days so employees get some paid sick time each quarter.
Do The Unused Sick Days Roll Over?
With the previous policies, the business owner has to decide if unused sick days roll over at the end of the year. If they don’t, you may have half the staff absent during December. They know they will lose their sick day accruals January 1st.
Unlimited Sick Leave
Some employers have dropped all limits on paid sick leave. They let their employees use their own judgment. This has been successful at many large employers like Virgin and Netflix. There are few small businesses with hourly employees that have tried this approach.
It May Require Trial and Error
If you are implementing a paid sick leave policy for the first time, you may have to adjust it over the first few years. You can’t always predict how your employees will react. Policies shape behavior and the behavior shapes the company culture.
Be careful about drastically changing a longstanding policy. Especially if you have been allowing staff members to “bank” paid sick days. If you discontinue the policy without somehow compensating workers for unused days, you will end up with some angry employees.
How to Implement a Sick Leave Policy
Sick leave policies are often included in a broader absence management plan. This tracks all time off—unplanned as well as planned. These absences include delivering a baby, scheduled surgery, vacation, holidays, bereavement, and family leave.
Spell out what type of ailments require staying home. Some colds hang on for several weeks. It’s unrealistic for an employee to stay home for the better part of a month. You need to draw the line, however, at fevers and vomiting. Employees must be completely over their fever and digestive distress before they return.
Explain the policy during onboarding. WFM onboarding tools simplify the process and don’t require a lot of administrative resources. Use workforce management software with completion confirmation to ensure new hires read and understand the sick leave rules. Company policy documents can be easily updated when they are stored digitally in a cloud-based workforce management system.
Remind Staff Periodically
Remind personnel of the rules periodically—especially at the onset of flu season. Do this with WFM hubs. Employees log into the company dashboard at the start of every shift. Include remainders of the sick leave policy in the announcements section.
Make Sure Managers Follow the Policy
A policy can be undermined if managers aren’t on board. Some supervisors pressure sick employees to come into work if there is a pending project deadline. Teach them to optimize their reams to compensate for absent employees.
Follow The Policy Yourself
Set a good example. Don’t power through colds and bouts of flu at your desk. Your managers and employees will think you expect the same of them.
Sick Leave Laws
If you are subject to a state or local sick leave law, you don’t have a choice. The laws require employers to track eligibility, earned hours, hours available, and sick leave used. They must also prove compliance on demand. Let workforce management software automate compliance and recordkeeping. Small employers can’t afford an expensive violation. The protection and peace of mind are well worth the cost of a system.
Use Scheduling Software for Absences
With any type of policy, you need to cover shifts for the sick employee. Use online employee scheduling boards to quickly find replacements. Employees can see the schedule trade board on any mobile device, day or night. Managers and employees can arrange trades in a centralized online forum. The system sends notifications of available shifts and manager approvals.
SwipeClock has easy-to-use WFM systems with sick leave tools and online shift trade boards. They are designed for small to mid-size businesses with templates for every industry. See SwipeClock Workforce Management for more information.
By Liz Strikwerda