woman with a coldThe climate is changing and flu season is right around the corner, so there should be no surprise to hear employees coughing and sniffling in the office. What is surprising is the attendance of employees who show up for work when they should really be at home. An employee who is sick is potentially contagious and most certainly not performing their best.

So, why do employees go to work when they shouldn’t be?

Denial. People have different perceptions of what it means to be “sick” and certain employees may be convincing themselves that while they’re not feeling their best, they are still well enough to go to work.

No telecommuting options. Not all companies are able to offer telecommuting options to their employees. It may be due to the nature of the company or the job requirements of the employee, but sometimes an employee just has to be physically present to meet deadlines.

Lack of paid sick days. Sometimes people just can’t afford to take an unpaid day off from work. Paid Time Off (PTO) can be treated as sick days, but most employees treat PTO as vacation time. Because of this, people would rather go into work sick instead of using up their vacation time.

Job Protection. Some employees show up to work sick out of fear that they may lose their job or will be penalized for missing work. Although employees are entitled to days off (paid or unpaid), they may be showing up for work when they shouldn’t be to protect their job.

What can employers do to encourage employees to stay home sick?

The most important thing an employer can do to encourage their employees to stay home sick is to create an environment where the employee feels comfortable. If an employee does not feel comfortable in their decision to stay home, they won’t. Employers have options when it comes to their course of action to encourage employees to stay at home when they’re sick.

Make your sick policy clear. First and foremost, there should be a written policy in the company handbook that discusses what an employee should do when they are sick and the options that they have. It also doesn’t hurt to reinforce the policy with your employees before the flu season arrives, or if it seems as though a lot people in the office are getting sick. It must be made known to employees that you would prefer that they stay home if they are sick.

Offer paid sick days. If you don’t offer paid sick days already, it may become an employer requirement in some states after the November elections.

Allow employees to work from home. If employees are given the option to work from home, they will most likely take advantage of this option if they are sick.

Cross-train employees. Tending to the issue of job protection, employees may feel more comfortable staying at home sick if they know that there is someone available to replace them.

For more information on how to encourage sick employees to stay home, please reach out to Genesis HR Solutions at AskUs@genesishrsolutions.com or 800-367-8367.

Genesis HR Solutions is the premier PEO provider for Massachusetts based businesses.