Every year in December I get the same wave of client calls. What can we do to prevent everyone from calling in sick during the holidays?
Why is this such a problem? It’s not just flu season or hangovers from too many holiday cocktails. California has mandatory sick leave, many cities have additional requirements, and employees realize that sick days not used will be lost. So what do they do? No surprise — they use them!
And employers can’t really prevent them from doing so. If the employee says s/he is sick (or a family member is sick), you can’t discipline the employee for calling out at the last minute or using the time. It is essentially statutorily protected; there is certainly risk if you require a doctor’s note for time used within the statutory period.
What can you do? Here are some suggestions:
- Make sure employees use up their allotted sick time and aren’t allowed to take unpaid time off in lieu of sick time. Once statutory sick time is used, you can discipline for taking additional time off (i.e. caveat, beware of ADA and intermittent FMLA/CFRA issues).
- Take good notes of why someone is calling off. If the time off is for a flat tire, or the DMV, or a sick pet (not an assistance animal), then it isn’t a sick day.
- If someone has a doctor’s appointment that was pre-scheduled, and just forgot to tell you, you can discipline for not giving proper notice (although be consistent).
- Consider rewarding employees who don’t use sick leave by paying it out at year-end (although if you are making an exception to your policy, clearly explain it as a one-time issue due to year-end staffing that is not intended to be precedent setting). Or change your policy to allow unused sick time to roll-over to discourage year-end use.
- Or, the practical solution, which is ask your employees to tell you when they plan to be sick (if they can), to avoid putting too much pressure on co-workers with last minute call-outs.
Just one more California law issue without a terrific solution.