In addition, watch out for employees burning through paid time off at the end of the year. The employee handbook should be explicit about corrective action taken against employees who misuse the paid time off system, said Dudley. “If employees abuse the system and you enforce the handbook, the consequences should not be a surprise.” It’s important to deal with the situation when it arises by giving the employee the required warnings, then suspending and/or firing if necessary. Ries added that employers should maintain records of all employees’ absences as a matter of course to ensure universal application of the rules and to assist the employer should any claims of discrimination arise.
Explore This IssueSeptember 2012
Nevertheless, it’s critical to determine the reason for absences and tardiness. “If absences are due to a medical condition, the employee may be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the employer may be required to make certain accommodations,” said Ries. “Other protected statuses may also exist, such as pregnancy. Before taking adverse actions against employees, an employer should consult with legal counsel to discuss the facts and determine how best to protect the company.”
However, the benefits of offering sick time typically outweigh the possible negatives. In addition to ensuring that your staff remains as healthy as possible, “sick time recognizes that things happen in our lives,” said Dudley, who used the example of a parent taking a sick day to tend to an ill child. To encourage staff to use their sick time only when appropriate, try offering those who did not use any sick time a bonus of 50 percent to 100 percent of the actual time at the end of the year.
An employee won’t always know ahead of time when he or she needs time off, but all other requests for leave should be approved and scheduled in advance. “Look at the schedule, see who is already off and determine if you have adequate staff to allow for a vacation,” Dudley said.
Even though an employee may be on vacation for a week or two, your practice doesn’t have to suffer. The key to easily navigating the times when an employee is out of the office is ensuring that the entire staff is as adequately cross-trained as possible. “Cross-training your staff means you can move people from less time-sensitive areas to more time-sensitive areas,” such as those requiring patient contact, Dudley said. For longer periods of time off, such as short-term disability, it’s up to the practice manager to determine if it is in the practice’s best interest to hire a temporary replacement.