According to CCH Incorporated, unscheduled absences can cost up to an average of $602 per employee, per year. This number does not include the overtime costs or the cost to morale and productivity. A prevalent attitude toward sick leave that I have witnessed is: “I earned it so I can use it how I want”.
What is it purpose of sick leave? I believe that our generous sick leave was intended to be used like short-term disability insurance, family medical leave, and illness. Is sick leave used excessively or for reasons other than what it is intended for? The only way to answer this question is to evaluate the situation. One question to ask is this: Is sick leave being used as soon as it is accrued? If it is, it might be being abused. Re-evaluating and reformatting leave accrual could be a cost saving and morale boosting opportunity.
How to re-tool the leave program:
A committee organized to examine this issue would be great! But in the meantime here are my thoughts:
First Idea: Look at implementing a tiered bonus program that awards employees for proper use of sick leave. How would it work? Each employee would start the year at the top of the bonus tier. Each unplanned absence would lower an employee on the tier to the point of no bonus and the potential for disciplinary action for extreme use of sick leave (which would need to be clearly defined).
Second Idea: When an employee reaches a certain level of accrued sick leave, allow a certain percentage of the sick leave to be converted to annual leave. The opportunity to convert sick leave to annual leave may be motivation for someone to save sick leave rather than use it how they like.
These are just two ideas. I am sure a committee could brainstorm many more. Potential results of a re-tooled leave program could include increased productivity (people who are at work generally work), increased morale, and decreased overtime (the cost to cover short staffed areas).