10 April 2008

Calling in Sick...or NOT!

There is a wireless phone advertisement on the different ways you can call in sick using their product. It's a multiple choice question on whether you should text message, use e-mail or use voicemail to let your office know you are taking a sick day. The underlying message is you are not really sick, but want to creatively get a day off and here are some choices on how to do it.

Calling in sick has always been an issue in offices and managers have looked for solutions. I have worked in offices where they use "personal days" as opposed to "sick days" and there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Personal days are my favourite because you can use them for any personal reason, whether you are sick, need a mental health day off or need to stay home because your children are off school. I like them because you are not required to give an excuse. You are given so many days in a year and can use them or not use them. Having personal days are actually an incentive to not take the day off. The decision is left with the employee whether they use the day or not. The bonus in not using them is at the end of the year you get paid for any days you did not use in the year.

Other people prefer having sick days allotted to them each year. I remember when I first joined the workforce the unwritten rule was "you use them or you lose them". You are given so many days in a year, but they do not carry over into the next year so if you don't use them you lose them. I find the incentive is to take the sick days off rather than not.

A co-worker told me they felt personal days discriminated against those who are not as healthy as others. The healthy ones who can maintain a perfect attendance record and not use their sick days will be rewarded at the end of the year by getting the personal day allotment paid out to them, while those who have medical problems and have to use their personal days will not get that benefit. I think they have a valid point. Yes, there is a big problem with those who abuse sick leave, but there are people who get sick more often than others because of age, needing to stay home with sick children or any number of legitimate health-related reasons.

Another disadvantage to personal days is if someone is trying to maintain that perfect attendance to get the pay-out at the end of the year, they may come into work when they are sick with colds and flus and spread the germs to other workers.

But how does it look when you call in sick?

Whether you are really sick or are abusing your sick leave, HR now look carefully at those who routinely call in sick on Mondays or Fridays. I think employees who abuse sick leave are onto that one and now the favourite day to take off seems to be Wednesdays, or any day other than Monday or Friday.

Let's face it, we all sometimes take a sick day off when we are not sick, but may just need a break from a high stressful job. The problem with taking a sick day or a personal day is that it is unplanned. Your co-workers are depending on you and when you don't show up it makes it difficult for those who are at work that day because they are now shorthanded.

If you are healthy and don't need to use your sick days, putting "maintained an excellent attendance record" is a great thing to have on your resume under "Accomplishments".

So think twice before picking up the phone, or texting or e-mailing...Are you really sick today?


A family friend went on an interview and was asked about his high sick leave use. The company had access to his personnel file as it was an internal transfer opportunity. When he told them he had had a kidney stone problem, they all winced (it was an all male panel) and let the question pass (no pun intended)...

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