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Coronavirus Pandemic: Time to Assess Your Sick Leave Policy

The coronavirus pandemic has already caused immense suffering and sent economic shockwaves around the world.

COVID-19 is the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus which was first reported in late 2019. New cases are appearing daily, with continuous updates provided by the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University. 

The pandemic has also forced millions of people to work from home and many businesses to close their doors altogether. 

But even before the current public health crisis, employee illness was already a major headache. U.S. employers lose between $15 billion and $64 billion per year to seasonal flu alone, while noninfluenza respiratory infections clock in at around $40 billion. A 2018 study found that illnesses cost $530 billion in lost productivity annually. Retailers are especially susceptible to outbreaks because their employees have so much contact with the public. 

Now more than ever, employers must do their part to reduce the spread of communicable diseases. That includes reassessing your sick leave policy and establishing a clean, safe workplace environment.

“Toughing It Out” Is the Worst Policy You Can Have

Illness, injury and medical appointments are the most common reasons for missing work, and absenteeism spikes every year during cold and flu season — and that’s before the current pandemic happened.

Absenteeism costs more than just the wages paid to sick employees. It also hurts productivity, product and service quality, team morale and even workplace safety. But what about the 90% of employess who admit coming to work sick at least some of the time? So-called “presenteeism” — when workers show up at less than full strength — actually does more harm than good. Sick workers are ⅓ less productive than when they are well. They are at greater risk of an on-the-job injury and, of course, they can infect co-workers and customers.

Crafting an Effective Sick Leave Policy

The Federal government doesn’t require paid sick leave, but some states and cities do. The Family Medical Leave Act does mandate 12 weeks of unpaid leave for eligible employees who get sick or who must care for a family member. 

Even if it’s not required, paid sick leave is one of the best investments you can make in your business. Don’t want people coming in when they’re under the weather? Paid sick leave communicates that with money and not just words. 

Want to recruit and retain top talent? Paid sick leave attracts the best candidates to your organization and reduces turnover by up to 50%

What does a good sick leave policy look like? 

  • For starters, clearly specify the time available. Many policies allow workers to accrue more sick time the longer they work. 
  • Decide whether employees will be allowed to carry over unused time into the following year, or whether they can donate leftover sick days to a co-worker. 
  • Determine whether employees may use their sick time to care for a family member. 

Protecting Workers and Your Customers

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, more states and cities are issuing stay-at-home orders.  Many businesses have no choice but to close their brick-and-mortar locations. If your business is still open, anyone who can work remotely must do so, and every effort must be made to facilitate social distancing for those who do come in.

But hopefully you’ve been investing in a clean workplace before now. Keeping surfaces disinfected and encouraging good hygiene doesn’t just reduce the spread of germs. It also creates a more appealing business environment.

Best practices include routine deep cleaning, especially high-touch surfaces like doorknobs and elevator buttons. Provide no-touch trash cans. Keep your supply room well-stocked with tissues, hand sanitizer and wipes. Educate employees on proper handwashing and cough and sneeze etiquette.  

To help our clients who are implementing social distancing practices, Hire Well Now offers a virtual interview solution. It lets you talk to applicants in a safe, secure and healthy format.

Reach out to us today for more information on recruitment, onboarding and retention solutions during these unprecedented times and in the future.

Picture of Jonathan Bergman

Jonathan Bergman

CEO of Hire Well Now, leads a team of dedicated, knowledgable and relentless recruiters and hiring experts that focus on Faster Hiring and Longer Retention for clients across the United States.

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