Is It Time to Rethink Your Sick Leave Policy?

by Stephanie Faris on January 25, 2013

Four out of every 10 American workers do not have access to paid sick leave [PDF] — and, when it comes to those employed by small businesses, that number increases to nearly seven out of 10.

If these employees get sick, they must either take time off work without pay or show up while they’re fighting, say, a common cold or the seasonal flu. The former may not be financially feasible for the employee, and the latter isn’t healthy for your small business.

Here are four reasons you should rethink offering paid sick leave, so that your staffers will stay home when they aren’t feeling well.

  1. Sick employees are less productive than healthy ones. When employees aren’t feeling well, their productivity drops. Their senses aren’t as sharp, and their reflexes are slowed as the body struggles to heal itself. As a small-business owner, you may end up paying full price for half the usual work — and your customers may not be thrilled to see a sniffling employee behind the reception desk.
  2. Co-workers can get distracted, too. That sneezing, hacking, coughing employee is a distraction for other workers as they try to focus on their daily duties. What’s more, they may resent the fact that their co-worker came to work sick, putting them (and perhaps others, including your customers) at risk of getting infected.
  3. The illness may spread. Do you really want your small business to go from having one stuffy-headed worker to two or three? What if the illness spreads slowly, taking down a couple of workers every few days? Consider that you aren’t immune, either. If you end up under the weather, too, you may miss valuable time on the job.
  4. The illness may drag on. A sick person who never takes time to recover may find that their illness drags on much longer than it would have if they’d gotten even one day of solid rest. This makes the worker less productive over a longer period of time. (See #1.)

Although offering a few days of paid sick leave each year may seem like an unnecessary expense, small businesses may actually be losing much more by not encouraging employees to stay home when they are sick. Yes, some employees could abuse your policy. But, for most people, being offered just five sick days per year makes them feel appreciated and increases their loyalty.