Monday, December 05, 2005

Unlimited sick leave

I have seen that different companies have different sick leave policies. The number of days of sick leave offered is based on the employee's number of years of service at the company, or it is based on the employee's total work experience, or it is accrued every year, or it is unlimited. Some even offer no sick leave at all!

Each offers its own pros and cons (for both the employer as well as the employee), but I feel that unlimited sick leave policy is the best, in the tech sector. Note the italicized text.

Consider a company with no sick leave. This increases the chance of spread of infection, which costs the company more in the long run. You won't want to use a personal day for a cold, however bad it is, do you? So, you end up going to work, and sneezing on everyone in the meetings/halls, and potentially spreading whatever is brewing inside you. This decreases employee morale tremendously.

Same holds good for limited sick leave. What if I fall really sick, and I am left with no sick leave? So, better not call in sick for simple illnesses. The definition of simple illness varies from employee to employee. Again, the germ factory arrives at work and makes more people sick.

What if you have been really sick this year and you run out of sick leave? Use your personal leave. But, I have already made reservations to go to Hawaii this winter. Take leave without pay. But, I need the money.

What if I have sick leave left over? Can I carry it over to next year? If not, I might as well use all my sick leave. This leads employees to start thinking creatively.

Unlimited sick leave offers the employee an opportunity to make a judgment call based on how they really feel. There are no strings attached. So, the honest employee weighs the situation and decides whether to go to work or not. Even if this employee thinks that she is not sick enough to take a day off, her boss/colleagues are now empowered to send the employee home, if they feel that this person needs to be at home.

On an average, employees take around 10 days sick leave per year. Just because the company offers unlimited sick leave, people are not going to call in sick every nice Friday. If they do, investigate them and fire them. This is a bell curve, with some people falling sick more often than others. So, in the long run, things even out for the company's and employee's benefit. This increases the employee morale tremendously.

What if employees abuse unlimited sick leave? This is a common concern in the HR department, and that is the reason why they concoct all kinds of sick leave policies. It is a beautiful day, and you are driving to work and you pass your favorite golf links, and you just make yourself sick and play golf for the rest of the day. These are dishonest employees who do not take responsibilities seriously, and they don't belong in your company. If an employee is not challenged or excited about coming to work, their productivity will be low, and there are other things for HR to worry about, than sick leave abuse.

In an organization where employees are challenged sufficiently, and the workplace atmosphere is inviting, there need not be any worries of sick leave abuse. With flexible working hours so prevalent in the industry, unlimited sick leave will boost employee morale, productivity, and benefit both the employee and the employer.