September 26, 2014  
 
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Employee Handbooks

 

Employee Handbook Sick Day Policy

Sick days. Employees love them and employers hate them. A solid employee handbook can't ignore how sick days are handled in your company. A sick day policy is more involved than it seems and it could even have legal consequences down the road.

So you're on a mission to create an employee handbook.
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Good job! An employee handbook simplifies HR processes and streamlines the orientation period for new employees. With just a little effort, you'll have all of your company's policies and procedures compiled in a single document.

But the way you handle certain HR issues in the employee handbook can be tricky. If a policy is worded improperly or fails to adequately consider all aspects of a topic you could have a legal conundrum on your hands. That's especially true when it comes to the way you handle employee sick days and sick leave policies.

Sick days sound simple enough. When an employee is feeling under the weather, he can stay home and still get paid as long as he hasn't exceeded his annual sick day allotment. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Your employee handbook sick day policy has to address at least three major issues: Paid sick leave, unpaid sick leave and disability.

Paid Sick Leave

You are under no legal obligation to offer paid sick leave to your employees. But most employers do because it is an expected benefit and no one really wants sick workers skulking around the office. The number of paid sick days you offer your employees should be limited (e.g. 10 days per year) and applied fairly. Additional sick days can be earned through years of service and employers can grant additional sick days based on circumstances, as long as they aren't granted in a discriminatory manner. Also, you should take special care to describe whether sick days may be taken for the illness of a spouse, child or other family member.

Unpaid Sick Leave

Unpaid sick days are more complicated because federal/state medical and family sick leave laws may mandate that you grant workers permission to take unpaid time off in certain circumstances. If medical or family leave regulations do not apply, you are free to grant unpaid sick leave at your discretion. Clearly define how many unpaid sick days can be accumulated before the employee is terminated.

Short-Term Disability

Many companies offer short-term disability insurance for their workers. Your short-term disability policy should be coordinated with your sick leave policy in both practice and in the employee handbook. Disability payments are typically limited to several months and may be subject to special tax treatment by employers.

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