I believe that my employee is making up excuses to take sick days. We take a pretty casual approach to time off and allow employees a day off here and there if they need to recharge. But this employee has been calling in sick for questionable reasons five times in the last six months, conveniently on Fridays and Mondays. Now they said their cat died and they need time off to grieve. I really want to call their bluff, but I don’t have any concrete evidence. I also don’t want to be taken advantage of, especially since my other employees are honest and hardworking. What can I do about this?
THE ANSWER FROM CARINE LACROIX:
Employees calling in sick on Mondays and Fridays show a questionable pattern. But as you imply, reaching a hard conclusion without evidence does not work. A manager who wants to hold the team dynamic in check should speak with the employee. This is what I recommend:
Before speaking with the person, check their records and use common sense when addressing the situation. Prior to six months ago, what was their average number of sick days taken? Was it always on a Monday or Friday? If their behaviour changed six months ago, was it due to specific circumstances inside or outside the company? See what they have to say.
Make the employee aware of the organization’s sick-leave policy by assuming that all their sick leaves were valid. How many sick days are they entitled to per year for personal illness or that of family members? How many days have they used so far and what could happen if the
pattern continues? Might proof be required for some circumstances not related to the employee’s health (e.g. death of a pet)?
Address the impact of their pattern (e.g. Is there any impact on team performance?) The intent should be to facilitate the employee’s desire to show up at work, not only because it is their responsibility but also because they are valued and appreciated. Also, communicate this without making them feel that you don’t value their health and well-being. In other words, sincerely praise the employee’s valuable strengths that are missed when they don’t show up, and use “and” instead of “but” when talking about the impact of their unexpected absences.
Finally, hear what your employee wants to share. This will help you decide what to do. If the recurrent pattern continues after a while, contact an employment lawyer for guidance.