Employee sickness can be a significant issue for small businesses since absent employees can disrupt schedules and impact workflow. At the same time, however, you want to make sure that you are taking care of your employees and giving them the opportunity to stay home and focus on their health if they need it. By preparing and planning for employee sickness, you can come up with a strategy that works for both you and your employees.
How to Prepare for Sick Employees
Preparing for sick employees ultimately covers three different areas: understanding the laws and regulations, creating a sick policy for your employees, and doing what you can to keep your employees and your workplace safe.
Laws, Programs, and Organizations Related to Sick Employees
Before you create a sick-leave policy, you need to understand what legal requirements you need to abide by, what different programs you’ll need to have, and what entities and organizations exist that are designed to protect and advocate for employees.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects Americans with disabilities against discrimination in the workplace. Among other things, this includes the right to reasonable accommodation when it comes to disability. This means that employees with disabilities may need time off for medical treatment, surgery, rest, recovery, or other reasons. Employers must grant employees reasonable accommodations unless they can prove that doing so would be an undue hardship for the business.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees are entitled to leave if they give birth to or adopt a child, to care for a relative with a serious health condition, or because the employee has a serious health condition, among other reasons. This form of unpaid leave guarantees an employee’s job when they return. Companies with over 50 employees are usually required to comply with FMLA.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
OSHA protects workers’ rights when it comes to work-related injury or illness. OSHA also helps ensure that employers provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employees and keep them informed about their rights.
If an employee is injured on the job or acquires an occupational disease, they may be entitled to workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation benefits can include wage replacement, medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation, and other benefits.
Local laws concerning sick leave can vary from place to place. It’s important to look into any special laws that deal with sick leave in your town, city, or state to make sure that you’re compliant.
Sick-Leave Policy Considerations
When creating a sick-leave policy for your business, there are several different considerations you should be sure to cover. These include:
- How to categorize sick leave;
- Paid vs. unpaid sick leave;
- What qualifies as “sick” and what doesn’t;
- Notification requirements for sick leave;
- Sick leave qualification requirements;
- Sick leave proof requirements;
- Options for telecommuting or remote work;
- Unpredictable aspects of sick leave like COVID-19;
- Health insurance coverage for employees;
- Surety bonds.
How to Handle Sick Employees
When an employee becomes sick, you should handle the situation with professionalism and care. If the employee is at work, you should send them home to rest or to receive medical treatment. If a sick employee’s absence requires that their responsibilities be temporarily shifted to other workers, you should communicate with those employees about picking up the slack, managing clients, and keeping work running smoothly.
While an employee is out sick, you should check in to make sure that they’re okay. When they come back to work, it’s also a good idea to check in with them to make sure that they’re feeling better and that they are caught up with any changes or updates that have occurred while they were absent. Depending on the details of your sick leave policy, you should have a procedure in place when it comes to notifying you of sickness and for proof requirements like a doctor’s note.
When dealing with employee sickness and absence, you should always strive to be respectful and understanding whenever possible. Employees can’t help becoming sick or injured, and you should always approach these issues with care and compassion. Not only with this result in a happier and healthier work environment, but it will also help to boost employee morale and improve employee retention.
How to Keep the Workplace Safe
As a small business owner, there are a few things that you can do to keep your workplace safe and your employees healthy. You can promote vaccines, especially during flu season, or when there are other serious illnesses going around. You can also create a cleaning schedule in order to ensure that your workplace is clean, safe, and sanitary.
Depending on the type of business you run, you might want to consider a variety of different insurance protections. General liability insurance, bond insurance, or surety bonds can all help keep your business, employees, and clients safe financially in case of injury or disruptions to work. If you’re a general contractor, getting your business bonded and insured is often a requirement.
When employees are sick, you should encourage them to stay home and take care of their health. While unexpected employee sickness and absence can be frustrating for business owners on a tight schedule, it’s important to remember that an employee’s health and wellness should always be the first priority.
You should strive to ensure that your workplace is welcoming, flexible, and understanding when it comes to illness, injury, and disability. Flexible sick leave policies will help you to attract great talent and will ensure that your employees are happy and healthy at work and beyond.
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