Too Sick To Work?

As I write this, the U.S. Center for Disease Control is encouraging individuals and businesses to plan in case that the Coronavirus expands to epidemic status (See resources below). But, we should also have established work policies in case should COVID-19 or an old-fashioned influenza virus sweeps through your organization and causes many of your workers to call in sick. 

On a day-to-day basis, you may have sick employees who decide to come to work. When that happens, they risk spreading their illness to their colleagues. When I worked in radio, we kept a can of disinfectant in the studio to, spray our microphones just in case. 

An Accountemps’ online survey, which included responses from 2,800 workers employed in offices in 28 U.S. cities, found that: 

·      One-third said they always go to the office with cold or flu symptoms.

·      Fifty-four percent of those who report to the office with cold or flu symptoms said they do so because they have too much work to do. 

·      Forty percent said they went to work ill because they didn’t want to use a sick day.

·      More employees ages 25 to 40 reported going to work sick than respondents of other generations.  

It is in the best interest of your organization to encourage sick people to stay home. You can do that in several ways:

·      Make sure your organization provides sick time. 

·      Send employees home who come to work, sick. 

·      Model the behavior you expect. If you are sick, stay home. 

·      Give employees the option of working from home if they can. 

·      Don’t make employees feel guilty if they call in sick. 

·      Sponsor wellness program to keep your employees healthy.   

Despite your best intentions to help your employees stay healthy, you might find an occasional worker who abuses the policy. This is why you need to have a written policy that could discourage frequent absences. For that reason, managers should keep records of absences. If someone has a pattern of getting sick on Fridays and Mondays, you need to discuss this with your employee. Your sick leave policy could require a doctor’s excuse for regular absences. Check federal, state, and local laws that may articulate some of the provisions of the plan you adopt. 

So, when should an employee stay home? The CDC says, “All employees should stay home if they are sick until at least 24 hours after their fever” (temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit is gone. The person’s temperature should be measured without the use of fever-reducing medicines (medicines that contains ibuprofen or acetaminophen). They note that not everyone with flu will have a fever. Individuals with suspected or confirmed influenza, who do not have a fever, should stay home from work at least 4-5 days after the onset of symptoms. Persons with the flu are most contagious during the first three days of their illness. Most experts also suggest employees should stay home if they have persistent coughs or sneezing. Vomiting and diarrhea are also reasons to stay home 

As you can see, enforcing a policy on when your employees should stay home is complicated by common sense, medical advice, and legal requirements. Check with your human resource experts and legal counsel for advice. 

I have always found that being an understanding and fair boss will be appreciated by your workers. And, I don’t see as much abuse of those policies as one might think.   


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