Wood Words

Flu Season is Here! Make Sure Your Sick Leave Policy is “Healthy”

Employees calling in sick?

It’s extremely common this time of year. And with a flu vaccine that’s just 10% effective against the dominant strain in Australia, Middle Tennessee employers are right to be concerned about a “flupocalypse” in our hemisphere this season.

Whether staff absences are due to influenza, other illnesses or “mental health days,” frequent call-offs negatively impact your organization’s productivity, efficiency and morale. One of the best ways to protect your company – while still ensuring your team can take time off when they’re ill – is with a sound sick leave policy. Here are a few tips to help you create a policy that’s healthy for all parties involved:

Check federal, state and local laws related to sick and medical leaves.

  • The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) allows employers to dock pay for missed work in only a few specific circumstances.
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to employers of a certain size.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may require you to grant medical leave as a “reasonable accommodation” for individuals with certain disabilities.
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act may also affect sick leave.
  • While there is no federal or Tennessee law requiring private employers to provide paid sick leave, other states and local laws do.

Educate yourself about what you can and cannot do before crafting your policy. Know when you’re required to grant sick leave, as well as what limits and exclusions apply to your organization and its employees.

Plan for reporting requirements.

Smart HR policy provides clear evidence of compliance. Consider how you’re going to gather and store data related to your policy, so it’s accessible and up-to-date when you need it.

Put it in writing.

The U.S. Department of Labor requires you to create a written policy for sick leave. If it doesn’t already, update your employee handbook so that it includes clear sick leave policy verbiage. At a minimum, your policy should include:

  • A description of what sick leave may be used for, such as health maintenance, disability, injury, illness and workers’-compensation-related injuries, in accordance with laws like those described above.
  • Guidelines and timelines for requesting time off, including documentation required (e.g., a doctor’s note).
  • Consequences and protocols for addressing non-compliance. Explain in plain language how first-time and repeat policy violations will be handled.

Be mindful of deadlines.

Laws like the FMLA require you to respond to leave requests within a certain time frame. Stay aware of these deadlines so you stay compliant.

Make communicating easy.

Make your call-off and documentation procedures simple, clear and consistent. For example, consider creating a single-page, leave-reporting form employees can fill out upon returning to work, so it’s easier for you to track and document leave taken.

Related post: Dealing with Attendance Problems

Need last-minute help?

When employees call in sick, our Lebanon staffing firm is here to lend a hand – and keep your business running smoothly. Just give your local Wood Personnel office a call!

Disclaimer: This information is not a substitute for legal advice. It was created for guidance and information-sharing only. Individuals and businesses should seek legal counsel or assistance from federal, state or local resources for legal advice on sick leave policy.