My employees are always taking sick days

My employees are always taking sick days

So, your employees are always taking sick days. This may be slowing work or causing you to find last-minute replacements. This can be a real issue as workloads are displaced among multiple employees.

If your employees are always taking sick days don’t have a knee-jerk reaction and fire anyone. Use your performance improvement process more commonly called the disciplinary process. First, you must start building trust by having an open and honest meeting with them to talk about the performance improvement process. Second, have them help create solutions for an action plan. Third, address the issue at the organizational level to prevent more issues and build more trust. Finally, could you be part of the problem? Take some time to examine your management and leadership style.

What not to do?

Don’t fire someone for taking sick days because it may be unethical or even illegal in your area. Therefore, be sure to do research on your local and provincial/state laws. Most importantly, you don’t want to create a negative work environment by firing people for taking sick days. Moreover, if you do fire an employee for taking sick days then you will lower morale throughout the organization. In short, this could create fear and a loss of trust with your employees.

What can you do?

As the owner or manager, you need to show true leadership. Therefore, you must always be on the right side of the law. In addition, you should always try to fix an issue and have proof that you did so. Consequently, your hard work to be a good leader will help your organization even if you eventually have to terminate the employment of a bad employee.

The Conversation

First off, have an open and honest conversation with the employee. Let the employee know that they do not need to tell you any health details. To clarify, this is not about any illness an employee has it’s about how they relate to you and the organization about the help issues. Most importantly, inform the employee about the pressure, stress, and hardships that you face as the owner and manager when they’re away unexpectedly.

Fakers Be Gone

This conversation is not about finding fakers but it will put a light on this possibility. So, as you follow the steps below fakers may learn their lesson. As a result, fakers may stop faking or decide to remove themselves from the situation by quitting. Consequently, as long as you don’t mention that you think they’re faking this will build trust with other employees because employees know who the fakers are even if they don’t tell you.

Mental Health Sick Days

Even if an employee is not physically sick they may be having high levels of stress and need a mental health day. In other words, employees taking mental health days are not faking; they need that time off. However, could there be ways to prevent the need for mental health days? Yes, your employees could love coming to work because they enjoy the environment, they feel challenged, they feel fulfilled, and wouldn’t it be great if your employees viewed work as an escape from their business home life. To clarify, find ways to make work less stressful for your employees.

Part of the Solution

The main point of the conversation is to get to the root of the problem and then create a plan to move forward. To clarify, you need to get the employee to help you develop this plan. Therefore, ask them what they need to get back on track. As a result, this plan will have a better chance to succeed and you will build trust with the employee.

A good plan should have a few main parts to help the employee and help the organization. First, make it simple and step-by-step because you don’t want to overwhelm someone that may already be under stress. Second, make sure there is a cover-off plan for all daily tasks that will allow for business continuity if a different employee must to the work. Third, find another employee or multiple employees to learn the vital tasks for cover off. Finally, this plan should have goals and be reviewed at the next Employee Evaluation or about a month. 

The Organization

Now that you have dealt directly with the employee, you need to think about the organization as a whole. In other words, high absenteeism can be a bigger issue within your organization. First, you need to do some internal research and find your baseline. For example, you can conduct an anonymous engagement survey every month or quarter. As a result, you will be able to see over time if your efforts are working to improve conditions. Consider the Gallup Q12 Engagement surveyOpens in a new tab. that has years and a large amount of research behind it.

You need to research ways to improve organizational culture and environment. That is to say, now the hard work really begins as you begin to find ways to improve your organizational culture. To clarify, if you know or found out that you are paying below the market rate for your employees they may not be happy with a pizza party each month. In other words, your solutions must be related to your engagement survey result. For instance, if your pay is low find a way to get more pay to your employees that will not ruin your business. For example, give a cash bonus to employees that do things that help the business to grow.

As a small business owner or manager, you need to get learning about leadership and culture.  I would recommend reading books that can help you grow and get ideas. Books like The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel CoyleOpens in a new tab. from Amazon can give you a leg up on other small businesses. Above all, you need to keep learning to make your employees want to be at work.

The Owner or Manager

Similarly, understanding your own management and leadership style is vital. I know this is a hard pill to swallow but you need to know if you’re directly responsible for employees taking sick days.  For example, it may seem like giving out punishment for wrongdoing or low performance is the key but it is not a long-term option. To clarify, constantly emphasizing the negative will lower employee morale, trust, and enjoyment. 

Along with your quarterly employee engagement surveys from above, you should also be doing quarterly anonymous supervisor reviews. As a result, your employees will help you identify your own weaknesses. Likewise, you should be tracking these results over time and even sharing them with your employees. Therefore, each quarter you will have a team meeting to discuss the survey results and try to get some ideas from your employees. So, by having these meetings and making even one change each quarter you will be building massive trust with your employees.

Employee Trust

An owner or manager should always be working to build true trust with employees. That is to say, trust is what allows employees to work harder and not be stressed out at work. In the case of employees always taking sick days you need to find a way to reward them for not taking them. Naturally, if employees are really sick they should be taking sick days to prevent other employees from getting sick. In other words, you are trying to prevent mental health sick days. To clarify, if an employee is not happy at work they will take more mental health sick days. So, why not give some sort of reward each month for employees that did not take any sick days; and not a pizza party!

Along with improving your management and leadership style you need to work on ways to build trust in your organization. Subsequently, this brings us back to recommending a good book like 10 Laws of Trust: Building the Bonds that Make a Business Great by Joel Peterson and David KaplanOpens in a new tab. that can also be found on Amazon.

Trusting in Remote Work

COVID-19 has shown the world that many jobs can be done remotely. Trusting your employees to work from home will increase employee loyalty! Take some time over the next six months to look at each position in your organization and see what can be done to have more employees working from home. For Example, even if you can get some employees to work one day a week from home that is something. In short, an employee that can work from home sometimes will feel trusted and get a mental health day without having the stress of missing work.

In addition, while allowing employees to work from home you may also have other benefits. First, you can save money on office space because employees can share desks. Second, you can help save the planet by reducing your organization’s carbon footprint because of less travel for employees.

Sick Days Conclusion 

Through my experience, HR issues can be fixed with a management mind shift from thinking employees are the enemy to thinking employees are team members.

This does not mean “rolling over” and giving in to all your employee’s demands. It means taking an honest level calm look at each issue. Then, deciding if a change will increase employee loyalty and output without breaking the bank. Some things you may have to test for three to six months before noticing any changes. However, even a short test will increase employee loyalty and trust; because you tried.

Remember that happy employees create happy customers. Happy customers increase revenue and word-of-mouth referrals. This is the stuff of a great business! If you need more help understanding HR to check out our other post called The Role of Human Resources.

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Ian Hopfe

Ian Hopfe is the owner of LBH Business Services Inc. in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Ian is an Indigenous Human Resources Consultant. He has over ten years experience in HR and over fifteen years experience in management. All blog articles on this website are written by Ian unless a guest writer is indicated on the post.

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