So, How’s That Working For You?

After reading everyone’s horror stories about crazy punishments for getting sick, I’m really interested in hearing from the people who create and/or enforce these rules. I know you must be out there.

Does it really decrease absenteeism? Does your turnover increase? What is the reasoning behind it? Was it HR’s idea, or the CEOs or Finance? Have you calculated the costs associated with this policy?

I’m really interested. Honest. I’m pretty sure the people who comment aren’t all just making up stories, so there must be HR out there who enforces these things. Tell me how it’s going.

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51 thoughts on “So, How’s That Working For You?

  1. I've read through several of the comments regarding the 'flu policies'. I am a nurse with a not for profit hospice. Nurses are notorious for coming to work sick…no idea why…maybe the 'suck it up' mentality. Anyway, our agency has offered flu vaccinations but for those that did not get immunized they are also offering quick access to tamiflu through our medical director. So, if we do become ill, we can access meds to stop the progress of the illness within hours of getting sick. Great idea. Keeps us working, mitigates the risk of infecting others and we all feel pretty good about where we work.

  2. My boyfriend got written up for calling in sick because he has swine flu. According to him, our manager said that he had taken too much time off during this year and didn't have any personal/sick days to use. I'm shocked that he got punished for calling in to not get others sick. He thought he should come in when he has seasonal flu and get the manager sick.

  3. In my experience watching attendance policies get enforced, no one has ever run afoul of the policy for being sick.

    They've had an issue because they have called in too many times already during a certain calendar period. Frequently (and I know that there have been, and always will be exceptions to this) the employee has been taking a lot of onesie-twosie mental health days, or not being really ill (just feeling off?), and then they really get sick and the attendance policy bites them.

    If an employee is written up the first time they can't come to work for being ill, that's horrendous. The sixth time in six months or a year? I'm wondering if they should be using their FMLA.

  4. Anon @ 6:10 pm, you do realize some people get sick more often than others, right? Six days in six months is not a lot if you have some kind of underlying condition. Do people who cannot throw off colds as easily as some just not get to have jobs, now?

  5. Human, if it's part of an underlying condition, it's very likely an FMLA issue and treated differently than the standard application of an attendance policy, usually as a single, recurring instance.

    I'm talking from 25 years of watching my employee relations colleagues talk to supervisors and employees about the attendance policy in various companies I've worked in. I know that there is a subset of people who call in at a drop of the hat, take mental health days on a regular basis, and who have poisoned the corporate well for people who wouldn't dream of doing that.

    BTW: not being able to throw off one cold would get treated as a single instance of absence if it resulted in a week's absence from work under a very common application of an attendance policy. One instance does not usually get a person written up. Doing it repeatedly is a problem.

    Life would be a lot easier for HR practitioners if everyone could use their sick time responsibly. Attendance policies wind up being instituted because of abuse. I don't know of a single ER practitioner who likes going after anyone for attendance.

  6. "In my experience watching attendance policies get enforced, no one has ever run afoul of the policy for being sick."

    I so wish that were true.

    There are many companies that have a "no tolerance" policy – mainly, those in the retail sector. I've seen this personally at both Meijer and Walmart – it doesn't matter if you have never taken a sick day before, you get written up if you call in sick. 3 instances in 90 days is an automatic termination.

    Now, this sort of policy is usually not prevalent in more “professional” jobs (i.e., those in the business sector, office work, etc), but it does exist and it is more widespread than one might think.

    It’s sad that a few bad apples have ruined it for everyone.

  7. I agree with Taria Shadow. Having worked retail all through college and am now in an office, it seems to me that there is a big discrepancy between those two sectors in regards to time off for the sick.

    I'm not a manager, but it looks to me like this problem has arisen partially due to the transitory nature of many retail jobs. When I worked in a bookstore, the staff was divided between about a quarter who were teenagers, just doing some temporary work (I would put myself in this category, although I'm proud to say I've never missed work) and the rest for whom this was their living.

    Some of the seasonal workers would regularly call out, to the point where it was clear they weren't actually sick each time, while the other group came to work even when they weren't feeling well because, well, this is an hourly wage and they need their paycheck.

    Many (but not all) of the younger workers didn't seem to feel the same obligation to the job as some of the others, whether because they didn't need this money to support themselves (most of them living with their parents) or because it was their first job and they didn't really understand the toll their absence took.

    Since retail often relies on seasonal workers, and does large group interviews at the beginning of each season, firing people for excessive absences isn't necessarily the best choice (my store just seemed to wait out the bad employees until they're next hiring season in a few months.)

    And since, in retail, you really feel it when one of your coworkers is missing, reckless calling out can be a big problem. On the other hand, long-time workers shouldn't have to worry about working through the flu when they're really sick in order to make rent.

    I don't envy the people who have the task of creating a policy that both lets employees get the time off they need and keeps them from abusing the system.

    (Sorry for the long comment, Evil HR Lady – it's just a problem I've thought about often.)

  8. Anon, some people have to take time off when their kids are sick as well as when they are sick. I have two small kids, and we had a couple months where it seemed as though one of them was sick at least once a week. At the time they were in a large daycare center with strict policies regarding sickness, and we had no friends or family to use as backup.

    We essentially had to take turns staying home with them and burned through our PTO pretty quick (we had both just moved to the area and started new jobs.)

    Finally we moved them to a home daycare with many fewer kids and less stringent sickness policies, but that's not always an option for other parents. Thankfully both our companies were pretty understanding about it.

    So, there are two examples of people who missed a lot of work and weren't just lazy bums.

  9. My school district told us in no uncertain terms that we were to stay home if we have a fever and any other symptoms of flu. They told parents that sick kids and teachers would be sent home.

    I was sick for 8 days with H1N1 followed by a secondary infection and told upon my return that my inconsistent attendance was hurting student progress.

  10. JoAnna, it isn't just about lazy bums, though a big part of attendance policies are intended to keep the mental health days down to a dull roar.

    I just know I'm going to get flamed further, but to amend what you just described just feeds into the growing argument that childless employees are mounting: that those of us with children are getting extra bennies, more time off to attend to family life, and they're being shorted for the mere fact that they haven't acquired children.

    I really sympathize with the company at a certain point here. The company needs to be profitable so they can employ people (ideally, people like me!). How many extra heads do they have to employ to cover for all this time everyone wants/needs to take off?

    I'm not saying that all attendance policies are perfect. Hardly. If Lisa had never been sick before the H1N1, for example, what happened is just atrocious and wouldn't have happened under the various policies I've worked under before.

    So I guess the question may be: is there such a thing as a decent attendance policy? One that protects the interests of the employer and respects the employee's needs?

  11. I don't get extra time off because I have kids. If anything, my co-workers without kids have more time off they can use for sick time or vacations because they don't have to burn through it for sick kids.

    I think more employers should be willing to allow telecommuting (where possible, of course — not an option for things like retail or nursing, obviously). I know I would have been willing to do some work from home when my kids were sick.

  12. This happened at a hospital where I worked. They cut staff to the bare minimum, required the scheduling of vacation months in advance, dependent on seniority, and ruthlessly punished people for taking sick time because hiring temps was expensive. We had a woman herniate a disk and was not allowed to schedule surgery because coverage was an issue. She quit, and made the problem even worse.

  13. Well having worked in HR I can understand the Employer's side of it… It can be really difficult when a lot of people abuse the system. Coming from a country so small that everyone knows everyone (Bahrain) and where it is pretty easy to know a Doctor who will write you a fake Doctors note so that you can get some sick time off I get very frustrated with people who blatantly are abusing the system and getting more time off than any other honest employee (not implying that anyone who takes sick time off is so no flaming people :p).

    Thats all for my rambling

  14. JoAnna- your arguement that your single co-workers have more time off to use for sick vacation is part of the issue – I'm assuming they get the SAME amount of time off, they just haven't chosen to have kids, which do eat up all kinds of resources…Although I have kids myself, and I understand the irritation at having to use vacation for less than fun purposes, it was my choice to have kids, and therefore I have to deal with the consequences – not my co-workers, not my employer.

    I do feel sympathy for parents, particularly when there's a bad year, lots of colds, etc. But as HR, I do lose some of that sympathy when I see some employees set up situations like this…taking all their vacation time early in the year, without having some contingency plan for sick days, or even school days off…then complaining to me how unreasonable I am for having them take an unpaid day off, when they "couldn't avoid it." Perhaps they couldn't have avoided it, but they COULD HAVE PLANNED FOR IT. It's part of being a parent, in my eyes.

    Our attendance policy is based on a points system, instituted to help keep unnecessary absences to a minimum. More points for unexcused absences, fewer for excused (dr's note)etc. Works really well. (98% attend in hourly environment) In 2 years, haven't had to fire anyone yet.

  15. Oh, EHRL – plan was created by HR working together with operations manager, line leader. Idea was to reduce absence without being so strict as to have to fire good employees who just had a rough patch. Worked really well. No increase in turnover, 98% attendance in an hourly production environment.

  16. I guess I'm spoiled or something; I get a set number of hours for vacation (varies with seniority) and sick leave (3.69 hours) each pay period and can accumulate them with limits of 960 hours for sick leave and 2 years' accrual for vacation. There are policies in place to address abuse of sick leave (meeting with the sick leave ogre after a certain number of hours of sick leave use and action plans for apparent patterns of abuse.) For catastrophic illnesses there is a shared leave policy so those with high accruals can give you some of their leave (it's usually cancer that creates the requests for Shared Leave.)

    And yes, there are always those employees who have accruals in the single digits, And there are those who have maxed banks. Most people I know typically have a week or two of vacation time and a couple of hundred hours of sick time saved up. I just looked at Friday's paycheck and I have ~400 hours of sick leave and ~160 hours of vacation available. Time for another Vegas trip!

  17. If Lisa had never been sick before the H1N1, for example, what happened is just atrocious and wouldn't have happened under the various policies I've worked under before.

    But if she had been sick before, then she loses her job for getting the flu? Are you READING what you type?

    I'm glad I don't work for you. Geez.

  18. I've worked primarily in the food-service sector, and I can tell you that the sick day policies in that industry are atrocious. I used to work for one particular multi-national coffee purveyor. They had cut the available work hours for all stores down to the absolute minimum, while those in supervisory positions (like me) were scheduled as close to 40 hrs/wk as possible without going over. Any accrual of overtime would be written up. That means that of those few (1-3) people I could call to cover my shift, none of them would be able to, even if they were willing. Furthermore, the company held the originally scheduled employee accountable for their assigned hours. So if the person covering your shift blew it off, you were ultimately on the hook for it. This created a situation where you had to come in no matter how sick you were. Because the alternative was getting fired for a no-show. There's a joke I often share with my fellow ex-food-service friends: "If you take a sick day, you'd better spend it polishing your resume…"

  19. Hi Evil HR lady,

    Yes, I agree there are some crazy sick policies out there. But, I am going to put this into different terms cut to the heart of the problem….. This message is to both employees and employers. Wake up and smell the coffee, policies are not a replacement for good judgment, they are guidelines that are dependant on the circumstances of each event they apply to.

    That said; in my opinion, (and you know what they say about opinions), there are two real problems with policy systems in private business. The first is the minority of employees that abuse policies and then complain about it when they have to pay the price. My take on crazy punishments is this, if the punishment is not illegal, biased, and everyone is held to the same standard, then you probably got what you deserved. If it is illegal, biased, and not equal, find a good lawyer, and the employer will get what they deserve.

    The other problem is that Managers tend to rely to on policies to make decision for them, instead of applying good judgment to the situation and making a good decision. Heads up Managers, you can’t treat everyone like they came out of the same cookie cutter. These are people you are dealing with; every situation is different and must be dealt with on a case by case basis…

    The good thing about this is there is no easy solution to either problem, and that means we will be safely employed for a good long time…..(an evil HAHAHAHA, emanates through the room you are in)

    Evil HR Guy…

    P.S. No, just like Evil HR Lady, I’m not really evil, just blunt and or frank.…..(another, evil HAHAHAHA, emanates through the room you are in)

  20. Anon said: "I'm not saying that all attendance policies are perfect. Hardly. If Lisa had never been sick before the H1N1, for example, what happened is just atrocious and wouldn't have happened under the various policies I've worked under before."

    I have two small children, including an infant who has had two fever this school year BEFORE getting H1N!. I can't send a child to daycare with a fever; they will send him right back home. So yes, I had missed other days.

    Because I have a child less than one year old, I have NO accrued time off. Our district's policy is that maternity leave first empties our accrued leave bank. Between the two prior fevers of my infant and my own 8 days of H1N1, I have now burnt through ALL of my leaved for this year before we are a quarter through the school year. None of this was avoidable and there were no days for me to have saved just in case as my maternity leave burned those up.

  21. Lisa, I'm curious: What do you recommend employers do? Give double the leave time, despite the impact on their productivity? Give special arrangements to parents (not fair to non-parents)? What solution do you see?

  22. There were several times when I was working when parents had to stay home with their kids because it was a rare snow day in Memphis. Fine. Your kid can't go to school so you can't come to work.

    But. We have the technology so you can still do your work. Why was I getting a voicemail that this person was unavailable? Why wasn't she just working from home? She had a laptop. We had projects with deadlines. We had conference call capabilities. Maybe she took a vacation day. I don't know. But it was annoying to be one of the few childless people who made it to work trying to get work done but unable to do so because NOBODY ELSE WAS THERE.

  23. Some of the issues here seem to be not just about unfair/insufficient/non-existent/arbitrarily applied sick leave policies, but also about the freedom sick employees [should] have to meet their responsibilities.

    Annette, perhaps your coworker couldn't work from home because the company policy forbids it. Of course, if one has a major illness or injury, perhaps they can't work. But, for those folks with the flu, or sick kids, or a pulled hamstring, some work could get done at home. So many businesses don't trust their employees to do work outside of the defined work area. Can the majority of adults really not be trusted to type up a technical memo, revise a document, or just empty their inbox while shoveling their kids’ snot? Does all work really cease when one or two employees are out of the office? I’m no statistician, but I suspect both productivity and morale would increase if employees were less restricted in the way they do work, particularly when they are faced with having to take sick leave. This is based on the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) model of business.

    Some will respond that employees will abuse that system, or that all work can’t be done from a laptop. These are valid statements. Workers who will abuse the freedom to work at home likely will abuse other policies and systems. Ditch them; it’s that easy. And, if a particular job isn’t well suited to work remotely, then it just isn’t. But, I tend to believe most office related jobs are or could be with some modification.

    As for the parents v. non-parents issue, I find this baseless and undignified. If a parent wasn’t a good employee, I’d like to think they wouldn’t be an employee. This is a huge cultural discussion that I will leave alone on this post except to say: Many parents must or choose to work; if businesses can’t adapt and embrace new ways of what it means to actually just work (i.e., doesn’t always have to happen in a cube with a manager in the vicinity), then shame on them. No preference in policy administration should be given to parents, but everyone has unique circumstances. Would the same annoyance for frequent leave request be leveled at an employee who was the only caretaker for an ill parent?

    Obviously, I don’t know what the answer is for retail businesses. The on-call shifts mentioned in a previous comment sounds like a good idea. When I a college kid working at a restaurant, one could only wonder how many burgers and pork chops I sneezed in because I had no choice but to show for my shift. Ewww.

  24. We Offer 5 Sick Days per year. If the employee does not use them he/she can rollover 2/3 of the unused time into vacation for NEXT year or they can rollover 100% of the unused sick into a "Sick Savings" account to be used in the event of a serious (STD-LTD) illness.
    We have seen a lot less sick time in December from those that used to view sick as a "use it or lose it" benefit. Now the younger employees (who never fear disability issues) can rollover at least a portion to use (legitimately) as vacation next year and us more "mature" employees can save it in a bank in case of disability.

  25. Anonymous, it's not just parents who sometimes have to use their sick days to take care of ill family members. Adult children need to care for elderly parents. Spouses might need to take time to care for a husband or wife recovering from surgery. Framing it as a parent v. non-parent issue is counterproductive and only stirs up ill feelings.

    What I'd like to see is a sick-leave policy that recognizes that most adults (whether parents or not) have family responsibilities and that assumes that most employees are good workers who are not out to abuse the system.

  26. Evil HR Guy,

    Hooray! I agree wholeheartedly with your statement, "Managers tend to rely to on policies to make decision for them, instead of applying good judgment to the situation and making a good decision. Heads up Managers, you can’t treat everyone like they came out of the same cookie cutter. These are people you are dealing with; every situation is different and must be dealt with on a case by case basis…"

    HR had to create these ridiculous policies to try and handle every situation because Managers don't have the experience or the training to deal with employees on an individual basis. I understand they're afraid of being accused of discrimination, but please treat these like people.

  27. We are a production facility & have a pretty strict attendance policy. We have no sick days, all paid time off is lumped into the same category. I have terminated countless people for attendance violations. In fact, I would venture to guess it's our #1 reason for discharge. That said, I am very confident in saying 99% of those people were abusers of the policy & we do follow a 4 step disciplinary process. So, they have certainly been warned before termination is handed down.

    My biggest problem is the trouble I have getting the executive team on board with differing policies for different departments. I actually understand the need for a strict attendance policy in our production area. We are at bare bones with staffing numbers so 2 or more people gone can really hurt us. On the other hand, in the office for example, several people are cross-trained and there is always someone to do the basics of another's job when they are gone. My belief is they should have different policies. The rebuttal is "what we do for one, we have to do for all…"

  28. Anon – Your exec team honestly beleive that "what we do for one, we do for all"? So no executive perks like bonuses or stock options? And no distinctions between exempt and non-exempt employees? Obviously no pay-for-performance, either, because if we give one person a pay rise, we have to give them all the same.

  29. Anonymous said…

    Lisa, I'm curious: What do you recommend employers do? Give double the leave time, despite the impact on their productivity? Give special arrangements to parents (not fair to non-parents)? What solution do you see?

    Charge me for a sub, EXCEPT if your policy is what keeps mr home,

  30. But not all jobs have subs. That might not be practical for your position, and you might be putting your employer in a position where they're suffering because you're not at work as regularly as they need.

  31. To back up Christopher, just heard an NPR story about food servers coming to work sick – happening now and all the time.

    It's difficult for people with public-facing work who are on an hourly wage. You don't show up, you don't get paid.

    Much easier in Silicon Valley – everyone telecommutes or does meetings via phone anyway.

  32. Human wrote:

    "But if she had been sick before, then she loses her job for getting the flu? Are you READING what you type?

    I'm glad I don't work for you. Geez."

    I AM reading what I type, and I'm doubly glad you don't work for me. Attendance policies drive one thing: availability for work. If you can't be at work reliably, it's not the employer's duty to subsidize you.

    I know it sounds harsh, but companies don't usually exist for their employees' convenience. They exist to enhance the wealth of the stockholders/owners.

    Someone who has exhausted all their sick time prior to contracting H1N1 should have to deal with the resulting issues that arise from the application of the company's existing policies.

    So I stick with what I said: if Lisa had never had an occurrence of absence prior to contracting H1N1, threatening her job for one occurrence is atrocious. That's a poor policy.

  33. I honestly feel for both sides of this issue – I try to give my people whatever time they want/need off – but with our small staff, someone will always be under the gun. At the end of the day, what can you do? "You" can't force someone to work if they can't/don't want to and "you" can't always cover everything. It's a tough call, and I know perfectly well that I've been very lucky in how absences work out.

  34. We have a policy that works pretty well. All employees accrue Paid Time Off (PTO) at x/hour, starting with the first hour worked. From 0-5 years of employment this rate works out to 10 days/year at 40 hrs/wk. From 5-10 years the rate is increased to work out to 15 days/yr. 10+ yrs earn 20 days/yr.

    Not working — mental health, sick, caring for another, etc. — is ideally scheduled, but we understand if its last minute. It is unpaid unless the employee chooses to use PTO (in 4 or 8 hour increments). Employees can choose to go unpaid or alter their schedule to 'make up' the hours in that week.

    Yes, we have the most flexible work schedule 'policy' I've ever heard of. Some people work 10-6, others 6-2, as well as other variations.

    This flexibility is consistently rated by employees as one of the best benefits of working for our firm. It has been abused, but that just showed mgmt where to watch for future abuses (and that employee is no longer with us). Most employees 'get' that it is a benefit that could be taken away if consistently abused.

    (Note: our company is privately-owned and just under 20 employees in size)

  35. I had a miscarriage earlier this year and followed by a hemmorhage three days later that nearly killed me – I missed a week and a half of work as a result – covered by sick and bereavement leave. That was in May. Then, in September, I caught H1N1 and was out for a week with a 105 F fever. Neither of these were planned or preventable occurences.

    According to Anon this makes me a bad employee?

    Oh, and for all of the HR people or childless workers that want to be angry at parents who have to take time off of work to deal with sick children, snow days or school closures due to flu outbreaks, brush fires, etc: Then help fight for an alternative to allow these parents to work from home or provide an alternative child care option. Last I checked, it was illegal to leave your kid at home alone or in the car and I am NOT a bad employee because I have kids.

  36. There are a dizzying array of Anons out here now, but I'm one of 'em, so I'll take a crack at the post from Anon 12:07:

    A decently-composed attendance policy is about availability. It doesn't get into WHY anyone's out, with the exception of bereavement, holidays, jury duty, and regularly-scheduled vacation, and blessedly so: who wants to have to decide if recovering from cancer surgery is more 'okay' attendance-wise than recovering from a miscarriage?

    A decently-composed attendance policy doesn't talk about "preventable," but it does talk about "planned," or "scheduled," as too many instances of unscheduled time off can kill a carefully-arranged schedule with minimal employees.

    A decently-composed attendance policy speaks to occurrences, not days. One day out is the same as six days out, in recognition of the fact that different reasons for not being at work result in different recovery times. At that point, the person who calls in six individual days throughout the year is going to get treated differently than the person who calls in sick one time, but needs to be out for six days. And rightly so.

    Being absent from work twice in a year doesn't make anyone a bad employee, and no one here ever said so. But companies need to have employees reliably on deck working for them. Not every job can be done from home; not every job can be put on hold for an unpredictable number of days.

    As far as the children thing goes, you've lost me. If I'm trying to keep revenue going through my company so I can satisfy my obligations and pay ALL my employees, not just you, if you're unreliable (and that means calling in more times than my beleaguered schedule and headcount will allow) I don't care if you're calling because you have a cold or your child has strep. To ask me to allow more occurrences because you have children added into the mix is the same thing as saying that people with children should get more PTO, and I don't think that's right. There have been a plethora of laws passed in this country, most notably FMLA, to cover chronic illnesses and dependent care. USE THEM.

    I just don't understand how so many people think their employer owes them a living. We work for employers to *earn* our living, certainly, but it's not an entitlement.

  37. Anon 1:30 back again to add:

    Yes, it would be marvelous and very forward-thinking for employers to dream up ways for me to work at home or provide alternative childcare options. I bet an employer like that could quickly become an employer of choice really fast.

    But it is, first and foremost, MY responsibility to work my life around my job. Not my employer's.

    I have children. Several of them. I have had to scramble and tapdance and figure something out when they were sick, and I was doing it before anyone really could telecommute, because we didn't have things like email or remote connection to servers.

    You had the kids; you figure it out, and don't put the onus on your employer to do it for you.

  38. I think the posting from Anon 11-06 1:30 a.m. was very wise.

    I'm only going to quibble with one point: the concept that six one-day absences is worse than one six-day absence.

    I think that depends on the job and the employer. For me, I can easily accommodate one-day absences here and there, no problem. But a six-day absence? Much bigger ordeal.

    So I would disagree that a well-composed attendance policy necessarily speaks to occurrences, not days.

    Other than that, I found the comment brilliant.

  39. Anon 1:30 back to say: Thank you, AAM! My feet won't touch the ground all day today. 🙂

    Regarding days vs occurrences: I've only worked under/with occurrence-based policies, hence my bias. The rationale in these companies (dealing with either healthcare workers or call center or fleet drivers) was this:

    If I cobble together a schedule with just a few heads covering it, and you call in with unscheduled time off on six different times during the year, that's six different times I have to scramble to cover for you.

    If you call in once with say, swine flu, I know you're going to be out for a few days, and I scramble once.

    I will agree with you on one thing about your quibble: different industries demand different availability.

    Thank you again!

  40. angry at parents who have to take time off of work to deal with sick children, snow days…help fight for an alternative to allow these parents to work from home

    In my case, we were "allowed" to work from home. We were professionals. We took our computers home. We had company-provided cellphones and company-provided internet. There was no reason for all these people whose input I needed to get my job done not to be working even though they had to be home with their snow-day kids.

    Now, they very well may have taken a vacation day. I don't know. But I needed them (I was leaving voicemails and sending emails) and they were not there and there was no backup plan. No need, really, for a backup plan, as there is about one snow day a year in Memphis, but still very annoying to be one of the few people who made it into work only to end up twiddling my thumbs.

  41. Would love to weigh in here, especially to the "I couldn't get anybody on the phone, and I was at work all alone, and Johnny took my red crayon and its not fair!" and "Employees exist to serve the Collective, now get back in line, 6 of 9!" crowds…

    But there's a more pressing issue:

    We need an air traffic controller for the number of anons here. Can you people just break down and get a ridiculous, triple-fake username? I don't care if your handle is BigPinkFuzzyWuzzyBear. Get one.

  42. My company recently started a new program of surveying who has internet access, what computer, etc to enable employees to work from home. If there is widespread illness they plan on shutting down office work, and mandating a work from home. This is also great because we get really bad weather in the winter, and the commute can be treacherous! While not realistic for everyone, I think that the plan solves a number of problems, and puts in a better standing should something happen. Less time to recover…

  43. it's not fair

    I didn't say anything about fairness; I just wanted to get my work done.

    I couldn't care less about who takes a sick day or whatever. (Unless I am expected to cover for someone who has to leave early because Johnny has a soccer game and I do understand, don't I, because I don't have kids! so I have time to work and Mummy doesn't!)

    And I can't get my work done without the cooperation of my fellow workers. So please cooperate, OK? Answer my email and my phone call.

  44. Anon 1:30 — to my knowledge, FMLA doesn't do diddly unless you need an extended absence (e.g., 7+ days) to care for an ill family member or unless you're on maternity leave. It doesn't offer any kind of protection for parents with small children who are frequently getting sick.

    Back-up plans are great, but some parents are in a situation where there ARE no feasible back-up plans. Most (reputable) daycares won't take sick kids. There are some places that have "sick kid daycare" but they're few and far between (the only one that I knew of in our area recently shut down). If you have relatives or neighbors that can help in a pinch, great, but no everyone does (most of our relatives in the area also have to work during the day, as do our neighbors).

    We were EXTREMELY lucky in that we were able to find an inexpensive but good home daycare that's willing to take the kids even if they're sick, which has significantly cut down on the days I or my husband have had to miss due to kids' illness. Not everyone is so fortunate.

    I'm not saying that employers need to cater to parents, but rather that a "one size fits all" or "zero tolerance" attendance policy is a bad idea, and it'd be a waste to fire an otherwise good employee who has to miss days because s/he has legitimate family obligations. Fire the ones that abuse the system, by all means.

    My job is one where I could easily work from home, but it's only allowed for certain employees. Apparently it used to be allowed for most employees, but some of them abused the privilege and so it was revoked for most of us. I think that's a crying shame — they fired the ones who were abusing the system but still took the privilege away. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

  45. JoAnna: There's something called 'intermittent FMLA' that is useful when dealing with an ongoing situation that requires time away from work, for the employee or the employee's family.

    I still do not understand why your situation is something your employer or your coworkers need to solve.

    As I mentioned before, a forward thinking organization may choose to position itself as family-friendly and one that will try to solve those issues for its employees, but as a fellow parent I resist any insistence that all companies MUST make decisions with my scheduling needs in mind.

  46. My husband's company has an awful 'unwritten' sick time policy/mindset. Officially, they are allowed 40 hours of sick time. After that you get 'counseled' and I think it is documented in your record. Their vacation time isn't very generous either. He had about two weeks of vacation for a job that required rotating nights/weekends/holidays/on call time, much much overtime.

    But the culture at the company has people afraid to even use the sick time they are clearly entitled to. A few years ago hubby had spent the morning in the ER with a horrible stomach virus. He was hooked up to an IV, getting fluids and pain meds. When we got home, he called in and said for them to put it down as vacation time!! I don't normally interfere with his job, but I pitched a fit and made him request a sick day. In no way is barfing so much you lose 15 pounds in a day and having an IV in your arm a vacation! I think he'd already taken one other sick day that year previously and was afraid to take another.

    He has always tried to call in in advance but some things can't be planned for.

  47. We are getting lots of comments about discourteous co-workers who hack their germs all over everyone.

    And companies that tell people to stay home when sick, but then penalize them for following corporate swine flu policy.

    I am happy to see Congress considering some mandatory paid sick day legislation because clearly corporations can't manage these situations equitably on their own.

    Swine Flu at Work

  48. Dear Evil HR Lady – since you asked for it. As a long-time HR professional, sick leave has always been a philosophical sticking point with me. If someone is sick they should be allowed to take care of themself (with pay)and then come back to work. I worked at a company (defense contractor) that had a very high percentage of professionals on staff. We changed our sick leave policy from 5 days per year to the following – "if you are sick please take the time you need to get better." Our average sick leave useage went from 4.3 days per year to 3.1 (just about what a person needs to take care of the annual cold) and confirmed who are abusers were. Right now I'm thinking of adding one mental health day where the employee just calls in and says I'm not comming – but I think I'll make them give an outlandish excuse like one of those you highlighted. JR

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