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The beginning of a new year is an opportune time to review your company’s sick day policy. Many employees may have spent the holidays using up their remaining time off, and possibly creating issues with staffing and resourcing. At the same time, being too fickle about your sick day policy can be unattractive to existing or future team members.

Increasingly employees are demanding flexibility and avoiding workplaces where they don’t feel valued. The way you offer time off to your staff can make a big difference in balancing company culture and productivity. Here’s what you need to know:

New legislation
Few laws govern sick days, but cities and states are increasingly enacting legislation to ensure employees have paid sick leave. According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, a total of 37 jurisdictions across the U.S.  have enacted paid sick day laws or will soon ratify them.” The Department of Labor recently promulgated rules pertaining to all federal employees as well.

The bottom line is that there can be legal ramifications for not offering paid sick time to your staff. Work with your HR outsourcing partner to highlight any stipulations and possible legal caveats when establishing or amending a policy.

Feeling sick can make it next to impossible for employees to remain focused.Feeling sick can make it next to impossible for employees to remain focused.

Changing cultures
There are plenty of important reasons to offer your employees paid sick leave beyond complying with specific regulations. Employees strongly value the peace of mind that comes with staying home and resting when they’re feeling ill. Neglecting this can lower morale, especially if a policy is scaled back or removed. More importantly, if your staff members end up working when sick, their output could be severely compromised, and you might create a situation where even more employees get sick.

“Employees strongly value the peace of mind that comes with staying home.”

Some executives or administrators might be hesitant to install or increase a sick day policy. This is because there is evidence that some employees use sick days when they aren’t actually feeling ill. This is obviously not ideal for employers but it also creates an environment full of dishonesty and resentment.

Spend time working with leadership to discuss the merits of your current time off policy. Does it reflect your office culture? How might staff feel about an increase or decrease to the number of days offered? As a benchmark, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that American workers were offered an average of seven days of sick leave each year in 2015, with larger companies allowing for more time off.

Crafting a policy
Young employees in particular may value an established sick day framework, along with having a clear, well-written policy available. This structure makes the entire process more organized and easier to manage. Managers and other leaders should be sure to present the policy to new employees, while also refreshing existing ones. Use this opportunity to make sure staff members understand the true cost of an absence. For example, this can create more work for co-workers or push back key projects. You may also decide that while offering sick days is important, there need to be consequences for possible abuse. If you suspect an employee is taking advantage of time off, look for patterns that could uncover a possible trend.

CPA Practice Advisor found that sick days are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to taking care of staff, and businesses are using sizable policies to attract top talent. These policies often include competitive maternity leave packages or even support when adopting a child. As companies such as Google and American Express continue to build generous time off policies, smaller businesses will likely follow. For that reason, your leadership team should tread lightly when cracking down on a sick day policy.