Wednesday, December 6, 2006

sick days

I was recently under the weather and had to take a couple of days off of work to get better. I realized a flaw in the system.

On Sunday I went to work but was feeling sick. I was weak and did not do much most of the day. I decided to stay home on Monday to get better.

I slept most of Monday and by the end of the day was feeling about 70% better. Tuesday I was still not feeling great, but I was feeling good enough to go to work and make it through the day. There was only one problem.

My company, as do most if not all, requires a sick note from a doctor for any "sick days" taken. If I would not bring in a sick note, I would have a vacation day deducted from my balance.

I did not go to a doctor on Monday. I slept. I knew there was nothing a doctor could do and I did not want to spend an hour or so in line with a bunch of other sick people. I wanted to lay in bed and sleep.

Had I gone to the doctor on Monday, I probably would have had to take Tuesday off. If I did not go to the doctor on Monday I would lose a vacation day.

That is the problem with the system. Tuesday I could have gone to work, but did not because I needed to get a note from the doctor. My employer lost an extra day of work from me because of this policy.

What can be done?

I understand the need for the sick note. If there is no form of assurance that an employee is sick and all the employer can do is take his word for it, that opens things up to abuse. Employees will take off days and call in sick. The sick note means the employee actually went to the doctor who vouches for the patient and confirms his status as being sick.

However, think of this. How difficult is it to get sick note? Usually the patient already has some sort of relationship with his doctor. it is not like I am walking in off the street to some random doctor and asking for a note. I walk into the doctor and say, "I have been sick the past couple of days and am now feeling mostly better, can you please check me and, oh yeah, by the way, can you also give me a sick note."

The doctor will always give the sick note.

In other words, the doctor is just taking my word for it that I was home in bed sick and not on the golf course or at the movies all day. If the doctor is taking my word for it, and the employer is taking my doctors word for it, the employer might as well take my word for it! By taking my word for it, he will even gain, as I will need to take less time off!

I say, in a corporate environment where there is trust in the employee, and the employee works in good faith because he has a good relationship with the management, get rid of the requirement of a sick note.

This obviously would not work in a large company where people might be removed from management and have to answer to faceless HR people. The immediate manager might not have the authority to say I know you were sick forget the note. The HR people see names and lists of hours and they do not know who is or is not trustworthy.

This would only work in a small to medium size company where the corporate structure is not quite so rigid. The manager, and even the boss, would likely trust the employee to say he was sick. The employee would then not be forced to take the extra day off to go to the doctor. In a case where the manager feels an employee is not trustworthy, he could then insist on the sick note.

Get rid of the requirement for a sick note and everybody gains. There is no real need for it anyway most of the time.