sick leave

Emerging from the Cocoon

Who could have imagined in January how much would change this year?  We’re in our seventh month of the covid pandemic which has killed over 180,000 Americans.  Our workplaces are splitting between those who can work from home (generally higher paid) and those who can’t.  

Employers and employees are working through the financial strains caused by the economic fallout from the pandemic.  At the same time, there is a renewed focus on issues of diversity and racial equality as we struggle with the demographic changes in our country.  Overlaying all of these challenges is the most polarizing political election in decades.

It’s time to emerge from our cocoon and accept that we’re not going back to our old routine.  The new “normal” routine is that many people will be working from home permanently.  The new normal also means acknowledging and adapting to the demands for racial equality, gender equality, and sexual orientation protections.

HR policies need to be adapted to the new normal and Q4 is a great time to take a look at what should change.

Paid sick leave

Employers with less than 50 employees were introduced to an FMLA-lite model of paid leave for covid-related illnesses.   Employers with 51 – 499 employees adapted to a two-track FMLA model with unpaid leave for traditional FMLA and paid leave for covid-related illnesses.  Now employers need to prepare for the day when all employers are required to offer paid sick leave for any illness.  Several bills are currently pending in Congress and it’s a safe bet that at least one of them will become law.


Despite the economic slowdown, some companies may now be understaffed as employees (mostly women) have cut back on hours or quit to devote more time to looking after their children who are learning remotely.  To avoid the talent drain, companies may need to offer modified work schedules and job-sharing.  Another option is to hire more workers from the pool of talented people who are currently unemployed.

Demands for equality

Meeting the minimum legal requirements of Title VII may not be sufficient to keep up with the demographic changes in the workforce.  America is becoming more blended and brown. LGBTQ individuals are now protected under Title VII.  HR managers should urge employers to adapt their corporate culture to become a more inclusive workplace or risk losing out in the race for top talent.

Our new normal will temporarily feature a short-tempered, disillusioned workforce that is struggling fear of covid and financial stresses. Layoffs, terminations and business closures will continue until the economy fully recovers.   

But longer term, our new normal will require adapting HR practices in the workplace.  Q4 is a great time to create a strategy for living in the new normal so that your company can start 2021 ahead of the competition.

If your company is struggling with the new “normal”, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you.  We can create or update HR policies that adapt to the new normal and then serve as a resource after the policies are implemented.

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Oh, What I Have Suffered!

Another update from the Jungle…..

Pete is frustrated. His business has been tanking for the past month, and he’s having trouble coping with the mess. The mess began when Cheryl showed up to work with a fever and coughed and sneezed over everyone. She slumped at her desk complaining of aches and pains, but insisting that she couldn’t possibly have the flu because she’d gotten a flu shot.

During lunch, Amber went shopping for disinfectant. She returned with a giant shopping bag and set to work hosing down every surface in the office. The fumes aggravated Becky’s asthma, and she turned blue while searching for her inhaler.

Pete drove Becky to the doc-in-the-box clinic around the corner from the office. The nurse practitioner suggested that Becky should go to the emergency room. Pete dragged Becky back to his car and drove to the hospital. He called her husband to meet them at the emergency room.

Hours later, he returned to the office to find that all his employees had fled for the day. He left a voice-mail message for Cheryl, ordering her to stay away from the office until a doctor signed a note saying she was not contagious. But the damage was done.

The next day, Becky called in sick from her hospital bed where she was undergoing testing for pneumonia. Bob called to say he had whiplash from the violent sneezing fits that had kept him awake all night. Amber showed up but sat slumped at her desk, guzzling cough syrup like it was soda pop.

Within forty-eight hours, Pete’s entire staff was out sick with the flu. Pete huddled at his desk, sneezing and wheezing, and plotting revenge on Cheryl for making everyone sick. Eventually, his employees began straggling back into work in various stages of recovery.

What can Pete do to avoid a repeat next flu season?

  1. He can offer more paid leave so that his employees don’t show up sick.
  2. He can allow his employees to work from home so they won’t bring their germs to the office.
  3. He can shut down his business during flu season and go deep sea fishing until it’s healthy to come back to the office.

This year’s flu season is severe, affecting the bottom line of many businesses. Flu shots help but don’t guarantee that the inoculated person will avoid getting sick, since there are many different strains of flu. Flexible leave policies and work schedules can alleviate some of the disruptions caused by epidemics like the flu.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Did PTO Policies Inspire Paid Sick Leave Laws?

Another update from the Jungle…..

Last week’s story was about a sick employee who would not take time off from work because she didn’t want to burn through all her PTO days. As a result, she infected many of her co-workers spreading misery to everyone. If her company had offered paid sick leave separately from her PTO, would she have taken time off to get well rather than coming to work sick?

Years ago, employers began combining vacation and sick leave into a single category of leave called personal time off (PTO). PTO was administratively easier for employers to track in their HR and payroll systems. As an added bonus employers didn’t have to worry about violating HIPAA privacy because there was no need to verify that an employee was sick. It was easier for employees, too, since they didn’t have to fake symptoms or explain the gruesome details of their illness to justify their sick leave requests.

But PTO policies can be unnecessarily restrictive. A former employer of mine allowed only ten days of PTO a year. The practical effect was that everyone showed up sick in order to save a few days for a paid vacation. PTO restrictions didn’t apply to the owners or senior managers. Not surprisingly, morale was tanked, and turnover was astronomical.

Poorly designed PTO policies raise employer costs through poor morale and permanent recruiting efforts. Not only that, the policies seem unfair to workers. So it’s not surprising that many states are considering paid sick leave laws. Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington now require paid sick leave. Washington, D.C. and a growing number of cities also require paid sick leave.

Tennessee is unlikely to enact a paid sick leave law any time soon. However, Tennessee employers with multi-state operations need to plan how they will address these laws.

  1. They should compare the cities and states where they have operations with those that require paid sick leave and verify they are in compliance with applicable laws.
  2. They should revise their employee handbooks to address paid sick leave laws, either by creating a separate handbook for affected locations or adding jurisdiction-specific addendums.
  3. They could design a company-wide paid sick leave policy to comply with all the jurisdictions where they have operations.

Deciding whether to change a PTO policy to add more days or creating a separate paid sick leave policy depends on a number of factors, notably the company’s corporate culture and the cost of offering the revised benefits.  The worst decision would be to ignore this issue.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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