Personnel e.bulletin – December 2012

Preventing Leave Policy Abuse 

Prepared for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc.

You know the old phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.   Let’s see how it helps us think through how to prevent employee leave abuse.  Research tells us that the more invested an employee is in the company, the less sick leave abuse that occurs.  Your ultimate goal is for your employees to be motivated to come to work and to produce, not to spend time scheming up their next excuse for calling in sick.

Investment Strategies
Investment is a two way street.  In order for your employees to be invested, you need to make investments in them. There are lots of programs/events that help to make employees feel valued:

– Recognition and Reward Programs
– Employee Assistance Programs
– Giving Employee Perks (gym memberships, parking, etc.)
– Events (holiday parties, company picnics, etc

While programs come with various price tags, they are often worth it compared to lost productivity as a result of leave abuse.  Before making any investment, check with your employees to understand what programs and events would be of greatest interest to them.  Involving your people in the decisions you make about them, in and of itself, will go a long way.

Some of the most impactful strategies for raising the level of investment your employees will have in your company are less programmatic and more behavioral.  You will enjoy significant gains from:

– Treating them with respect
– Being open, honest, and transparent in your communications
– Giving them on-going feedback
– “Walking your talk”

From a policy perspective, many companies have moved away from sick leave in favor of Paid Time off (PTO).  Instead of having a separate sick bank, all time off is considered PTO and it is up to the employee to use their allotted time as they want and need to. Your people will enjoy the flexibility and you will enjoy the added control you have over leave abuse.

Sick Leave Policy
If you decide to stick with a sick leave policy, ensuring the following will result in less abuse of the policy.Your sick leave policy is clear and understood by all.

Your employees need to know:

– How many approved sick days they are allowed on an annual basis.
– How to report sick leave (how and when to call in).
– If medical excuses from a doctor are required and if so when.
– That sick days should not be used for personal days.
– That you will not tolerate abuse and what the consequences of abuse will be.

If you know sick leave abuse is happening, then take action.

It is important to know if abuse is happening and to treat abuse consistently. However, do not automatically assume an employee is being abusive with sick time. Talk to your employees and their supervisors to find out causes and possible interventions. If there has been a violation, take swift action. It will send the right message to all of your staff.

Time off is tracked fairly
Track all time off. A simple but effective method of tracking who is taking time off will help to ensure that everyone is fairly accounting for the time off they take. Look for clues that can indicate sick leave is being used for other purposes. Are there patterns in these requests off, such as every other Monday? Are there other patterns that can indicate a reason for the abuse?

If you want employees who are dedicated, treating them with respect, showing them you care about their well-being and having policies in place that are applied fairly, have long lasting effects on how they will treat their employer and the leave benefits offered to them.

This content was developed for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc. ( Please consult your HR professional or attorney for further advice, as laws may differ in each state. Laws continue to evolve; the information presented is as of November 2012. Any omission or inclusion of incorrect data is unintentional. Please note this article is not intended to provide legal advice or to substitute for supervisor employment law training.

The PHCC Educational Foundation, a partnership of contractors, manufacturers and wholesalers was founded in 1987 to serve the plumbing-heating-cooling industry by preparing contractors and their employees to meet the challenges of a constantly changing marketplace. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting the Foundation by making a contribution at

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