Your Rigid Attendance Policies Are Making Everyone Sick

by Evil HR Lady on February 12, 2018

The flu is terrible this year and because the flu shot isn’t very effective this year, there’s a chance you’ll get it even if you did the responsible thing and get your flu shot.

This means that your employees are likely to get sick as well.

And the flu isn’t the only thing hitting people this year. My town has also been hit with norovirus, which means contagious vomiting and diarrhea. Basically, everyone is living in a panic all the time that they’ll be next.

And you, with your policies of doctor’s notes, not allowing people to go home, treating people who take sick days as slackers, and coming into work when you’re sick yourself are making it much, much worse.

Repeat after me: Sick people need to stay home.

To keep reading, click here: Your Rigid Attendance Policies Are Making Everyone Sick

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Jill February 12, 2018 at 4:23 pm

I just don’t understand places that push their sick employees to come in anyway. I know when I’m sick, I’m so foggy-headed and listless that you wouldn’t get any meaningful work out of me anyway.

And if I was a client dealing with a vendor that was clearly sick and gross, that would be a huge turn-off. So just let people stay home!

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grannybunny February 12, 2018 at 4:26 pm

I agree that rigid attendance policies are part of the problem. We are having a flu epidemic in our City. The public health officials have issued statements advising people NOT to go to the doctor or Emergency Room unless their symptoms are severe or they have a pre-existing serious health condition. I work for a Federal Government agency that requires employees to provide medical documentation for absences exceeding 3 days. Technically, the documentation could be a written statement from the employee or a family member. However, many members of management interpret that requirement as meaning a doctor’s note. As a result, employees are returning to work after 3 days, even though they may not be well enough to put in an honest day’s work and may — in fact — still be contagious.

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Kathy February 12, 2018 at 4:47 pm

It’s disappointing that you have to say this every flu season. There seems to be such a permanent fear on the part of employers that if one employee is allowed to stay home because he is ill, others will take that as permission to stay home when they just don’t feel like working.

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anyone out there but me February 12, 2018 at 5:24 pm

Its such a catch 22 for employees. They want to stay home sick, boss wants them to stay home sick, but then boss won’t give them enough sick time or PTO. So workers have to come in to get paid. I don’t know many who can afford to take unpaid days off. Employers — GIVE YOUR EMPLOYEES ENOUGH SICK TIME. Treat people with some humanity. Geesh.

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LaraW February 12, 2018 at 5:39 pm

I used to work for a nursing home where we would require people who met certain criteria to stay home (fever of over 100, vomiting, etc) but then if they stayed home too much, we disciplined them. Made no sense at all. I hated it.

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Maude February 12, 2018 at 6:02 pm

The worst policy I ever worked under was requiring a doctor’s note for the absence to be excused. Most of the people working for the company were lower wage employees and the insurance plan had a high deductible. For the employee to be excused, they would have to needlessly pay a doctor bill when all they needed was to stay home in rest in many instances.

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James February 12, 2018 at 6:19 pm

On the other side of the equation, Manager Tools argues that one SHOULD go to work sick, in this podcast:

https://www.manager-tools.com/2009/12/yes-go-work-sick

It’s been a while since I’ve listened to it, but as I recall, their argument is that if you stay home you’re costing the company money, while if you go in you’re still providing some value, even if it’s not 100% your normal value. They argue that one can take advantage of teleworking, but the general feel of the site is that teleworking isn’t a fantastic option in general.

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BethRA February 12, 2018 at 7:24 pm

The impact of coming to work sick is more than just not giving “100% of your normal value” – it means you’ll likely be sick longer since you’re not letting your body rest, you’ll probably cause distraction for your coworkers, and you’ll likely make other people in the office sick as well (so even more people working at less than full capacity)

Also, what jerks.

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James February 13, 2018 at 3:24 pm

They actually acknowledge those issues in the discussion. They are of the opinion that fairly simple precautions can reduce the chances of anyone else getting sick. They also argue that what you bring up is only one side of the equation. The other side is that it’s not just your work not being done. Delaying my work by a day or more may put others behind as well. And work is generally complex enough that you can’t simply say “James as behind a day, so Phil will be behind a day”. My delay may put Phil back a week.

(No argument on my part about them being jerks–there’s a strain of Dr. House running through their podcasts.)

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BethRA February 13, 2018 at 3:58 pm

Having people come in while sick doesn’t eliminate those delays, though, but rather disperses them throughout the process and organization (and of course, ‘simple precautions’ can limit/reduce the odds of an illness spreading – and yet people continue to get sick). The approach strikes me as penny-wise and pound-foolish.

“House” was a fun show, but I think some fans of it’s protagonist forget that it was a work of fiction.

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Goober February 12, 2018 at 7:53 pm

Do they have any comments on the fact that this year’s flue season is killing as many people every five days as 9/11 did?

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James February 13, 2018 at 3:19 pm

Since it was produced in 2009, I imagine that they did not have any comments on that subject.

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Maria Rose February 12, 2018 at 7:46 pm

Admittedly the sick policy of the US is a problem but in the face of a flu epidemic this year some places have become more lenient to help decrease spread of sickness. But the reason why we have such restrictions on use of sick days is to be blamed on those employees who fake illness to get extra days off. If you have worked with coworkers like this you would understand.
Any good employee would not use anything in the paid leave program, sick days, personal days and vacation to decrease time spent at work, just for the pleasure of creating more time at social activity. They are good team workers not spare bodies in motion.
Blame the abusers for the stringent policies in place.

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Goober February 12, 2018 at 10:36 pm

That’s an argument that sick leave should be folded into paid time off. Use it for whatever you want, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. Good employees will carefully husband it to use for vacation. The ones you mention will use it to go to the beach, and whine for more when they actually are sick (and, hopefully, not get it).

As the article mentioned, people who abuse sick time generally have other performance problems, too. The solution is to replace them, not punish the good workers by treating them like children.

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James February 13, 2018 at 3:34 pm

The downside is, such policies result in employees coming in while sick, in order to husband their vacation days. The workers think they’re being diligent, balancing work and home life.

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Bluey February 12, 2018 at 10:45 pm

Yep.

We have a generous time-off policy as well as PTO accrual. I work in a hospital and my co-workers are at risk of catching viruses like the flu. ( I am an Admin little patient contact )

They can call in up to 4 times before starting to get a ” verbal” for attendance and the 5th gets written and so on up to the 8th and then you are gone.

It is a rolling year time frame, so each occurrence falls off after a year to that date. People will actually figure out to the date, what occurrence falls off so they can then call in again so they don’t jump to the next occurrence.

So for me, I say make sure you are not abusing time off; like taking off a day to give yourself a long weekend for example.

Use your PTO wisely. Once you have lets say a week, mentally put away at least one day for emergency needs.

We do take care of all the people abusing by writing them up.

I realize that not all companies give as much time ( 1st year we get about 2 weeks ) but still it is amazing how much people still want to still call in all the time and mess with their attendance. Many just don’t care about their jobs.

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anyone out there but me February 14, 2018 at 5:23 pm

Eh… I kind of disagree. If you have employees abusing the sick leave policy, then they are either problem employees.. OR your sick leave policy is lacking.

Bottom line for me is this: treat your employees as reasonable, diligent working adults unless/until they prove otherwise. Offer a reasonable amount of sick/vacation leave or PTO. And be willing to be flexible in the face of an epidemic-type situation such as this year’s flu has turned out to be. Remember that your hourly wage receptionist may not be able to afford 4 days off for the flu when she only has 2 sick days left, because she used her other 3 to stay home with sick kids. Give her an extra 2 days for pete’s sake… it isn’t going to kill you, but the flu *might* kill her.

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anyone out there but me February 14, 2018 at 5:25 pm

AND… I thank the heavens daily that I work 100% from home now, for an awesome boss who lets me do my job and otherwise leaves me alone. I no longer have to worry or deal with horrible sick leave policies!! Hallelujah!

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Beth February 13, 2018 at 2:18 am

I completely agree with this! However, I guess it really depends on the severity of the sickness, or, rather, whether it’s contagious or not! When you have a lenient sick policy, there will be people that take advantage of it. In my experience, though, those types of people are dishonest and will find any way necessary to get out of work, even if it means lying about disabilities or something ridiculous like that. Anyhow, the point is, I agree that if you are truly sick, stay off work until you aren’t contagious.

OR you could start giving your employees some leeway to work from home! Especially when sick, this could help heaps. Here’s a guideline on starting to have remote employees: http://recruit.ee/bl-remote-hiring-eb-bh

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steve February 19, 2018 at 5:00 pm

I agree with your don’t come to work if you are that sick and our policy mostly accommodates that. However you are completely wrong that poor attendance employees have other issues. We have employees that are only seen for attendance issues. Never for quality, quantity or safety.

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