my employee keeps calling in sick right before and after the weekend

A reader writes:

What is the appropriate way to talk to an employee who tends to take Thursday afternoons and Fridays and Mondays as sick time? I would think some of these are legitimate, but the pattern is somewhat obvious and my boss has even noticed and is wondering if this employee is really just taking vacation time.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 270 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Bow Ties Are Cool

    I wonder if “Jane” has small children. All the parents-of-toddlers I know seem to get sick on weekends, because whatever bug the little darlings pick up a Germ-O-Rama Daycare early in the week comes to fruition in the parents sometime between Thursday and Sunday.

    Reply
    1. Dan

      This is an interesting thought, I’ve definitely done this—though I’m always sure to tell my boss and team that I am out because I had to stay home with the kiddo.

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      1. Nita

        Hahaha this is strange but true! Why is it mine always get sick on the weekends? And it’s never clear if it’s just a little cold or something that needs a doctor until it’s Monday! And of course, if they give the bug to the parents, it rears its head right around next Friday…

        Reply
        1. Wendy Darling

          For some reason the traditional time for me to get so sick I need a doctor is 6pm on a Friday right after all the doctors have gone home for the weekend. My immune system is apparently a bit of a troll.

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          1. many bells down

            I got a killer sinus infection … late Christmas Eve. I wasn’t going to go to the ER for that, so I had to wait until Urgent Care opened on the 26th.

            The dog always likes to get sick Friday evenings too. Fortunately my vet is open on Saturdays now.

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      1. ggg

        Yep. Weekends are concentrated kid time and I get exposed to a ton of germs. The guilt about being sick on a Monday just makes it worse.

        Reply
  2. Hershey

    I would document and keep an eye. We had a person who did this constantly (but when it rained or there was something on the calendar she did not want to do- she did not have kids) and it took far too long to call her on it because no one documented it.

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    1. Enough

      Husband worked with a guy who was almost always missing when there was something due or an important meeting he had to attend.

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      1. That Would Be a Good Band Name

        I had a boss that would always be out if there was a group meal planned. She would even do this if she was the one who had planned it for our team. I’m assuming she had anxiety about eating in front of people, which I could understand. I didn’t understand why she’d plan an event that she wouldn’t/couldn’t participate in. It was strange.

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      2. Susan K

        I have a coworker who always calls in sick on the worst possible day — when there’s something extra on the schedule that he doesn’t want to do, and we’re already short-handed because someone else is on vacation. Also, if he works overtime on the weekend, he almost always takes a sick day during the next week.

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        1. Jamey

          I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with taking a sick day after working overtime. Some people really need time to recharge from the work week. If you don’t get sufficient time for that during the weekend, it makes sense to me that you might have trouble handling another full week right after. That seems like a pretty legitimate use of sick time.

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            1. Koko

              It really depends on your company’s sick leave policy. At my company we’re encouraged to use sick leave this way by our own managers – if I have to work a nighttime event and getting to work on time in the morning would mean not getting a full night’s sleep, I’m encouraged to take sick leave for the morning because it’s health-related and it was the company’s fault that I couldn’t get a healthy amount of sleep.

              I’ve worked in other places where we were encouraged to use comp time in a similar fashion, taking the next morning off after a nighttime event or the Monday off after working a weekend. Where I work now doesn’t really have a comp time policy, so I think that’s why they tell us to use sick instead. We have such generous sick leave that most of us who have been here a while have several weeks banked.

              Reply
  3. Blossom

    Thurs PM, Fri and Mon covers 50% of the working week. And the employee only “tends to” take those days, so presumably has taken sick leave elsewhere in the week too. If anything, it sounds like they just take a lot of sick leave – and whether that’s down to an ongoing health problem, a run of bad luck, or any other reason, I don’t know.

    Reply
    1. Mike C.

      Seriously, I’m not seeing any sort of trend analysis going on here. It’s easy to find patterns where none exist.

      Reply
      1. Sasha B

        Funny how everyone becomes an armchair statistician all of a sudden when they want to control their workers’ lives within a frickin’ millimeter, huh?

        Reply
      2. JM60

        This is partly why documenting everything is important. It’s not just helpful for getting rid of an employee who is abusing sick leave; It’s also helpful in objectively assessing how likely the employee is abusing sick leave. Maybe it seems like they’re sick every other Monday or Friday, but it turns out that they’ve only missed 3 Mondays and two Fridays in the past year.

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          This – I’ve been asked a number of times by managers for reports of all of one of their employee’s sick usage for recent months or the current year, which is usually in connection with wanting to document what they think is a pattern of overuse. About half the time, when I pull it and glance it over before I send to the manager, it’s within perfectly normal usage parameters. Having the ability to take a step back and review cold, impartial data can be a great reality check if it’s a manager’s (very normal and human) resentment of having to cover for an employee making them exaggerate the absences or create a pattern of them in the manager’s head. Sure, sometimes we discover there’s a real problem – but just as often, the manager has been mentally blowing things out of proportion and there’s no real issue to address.

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          1. JM60

            That’s assuming that the Mondays they’re taking off sick aren’t following a Friday they’re taking off sick. And if they take them on thee same weekend, would you look at that as more suspicious (even though many illnesses take several consecutive days to pass)?

            A “month of long three-day weekends” may sound like a lot by the standards of most American employers, who tend to not be very sick-friendly. However, it’s far from often enough to conclude that someone’s lying about being sick, and it’s probably not often enough to have a serious impact on their overall performance. There are a total of 105 Fridays and Mondays in 2018. Being sick on 5 of them is a rate of less than 5% (1/21 more accurately), which is bit on the high side. But it’s not so high that you can safely say that the person must be lying, that it’s worth losing otherwise good employees over, and that it’s worth risking the health of other employees over. If people feel like they can only take a sick day up to 1 Monday or 1 Friday a year, they’re much more likely to come to work sick and get others sick too.

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    2. paul

      Yes, that’s a huge chunk of time.

      And frankly, I’m a lot more willing to call in on Fridays because major reports for me are usually due on Mondays or Tuesdays, we rarely have major meetings on Fridays, and it’s generally a bit slower overall. So if I’m feeling crappy but could maybe come in, maybe not, I’m more likely to say not than I would be on any other day.

      The flip side is Monday is an *awful* day for me to miss so I’ve come in dog sick on Monday a few times :/

      Reply
      1. designbot

        This! Plus, if I start to feel bad on a Wednesday (my worst, most meeting-heavy day), I try to see if I can power through the week. I usually do a decent job of it on Wednesday, am feeling crummy on Thursday, and by Friday I give up and call out knowing that I’ll have three solid days to rest up.
        So, the weekend may influence it, but that doesn’t mean she’s not sick.

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        1. Julia

          Same! Once I didn’t because I thought it would look bad, and ended up so exhausted I almost fainted on Friday and was carried off to the emergency room. If you have stuff all week, but slow Fridays, it makes sense to take Friday off to recuperate for three days so you’re fit the next week.

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      1. RobM

        That was my first thought.

        There are times where I might fall ill and power through the week and be flagging by the weekend. There are times where it’s legitimately more difficult to come into work knowing what kind of work is waiting for me… if the day is one that’s going to drag and be awful _anyway_ then contemplating doing that while ill can genuinely make me feel unable to cope with working that day.

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    3. Seriously?

      That’s what I was thinking too. Alison seemed to interpret it as taking all those days off in a row, which makes more sense. On first read I thought they were taking one of the days off. As in one week they took off Monday and then a few weeks later they take off Friday and another time they left early on Thursday and then took Friday off as well. I get sick often and when I do it is for a few days, so leaving early on Thursday and then not coming in Friday seems like they could just be sick.

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    4. Raider

      Mmmm, I’m going to disagree. Everywhere I’ve worked, people have actually gone out of their way not to take Mondays or Fridays as sick days — it stands out like a sore thumb, that you’re taking a long weekend — unless genuinely ill, of course. It’s pretty much always noticed if you start making a habit of it.

      Reply
      1. Bigglesworth

        This might be a work culture thing though. At my previous workplace, we were encouraged to use our sick time on Fridays and Mondays, especially if we had trucked through the week not feeling well and just needed a few days of sleep to get better.

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      2. Blossom

        What do you mean, “unless genuinely ill”? Were you all cool with taking sick days Tuesday to Thursday even if you weren’t ill?
        I don’t mean to be snarky, but I’m sceptical that everyone at all your workplaces has had their sick days dictated by paranoia.

        Reply
        1. Ego Chamber

          “I’m sceptical that everyone at all your workplaces has had their sick days dictated by paranoia.”

          I’m not.

          Most of the truly shitty places I’ve worked have discouraged taking “fake sick days” to get a long weekend, either by calling multiple times during the sick days “to make sure you’re really sick,” accusing people of taking fake sick days/trying to guilt them to come in anyway when they were trying to call out, or requiring a doctor’s note if you took off a day before your usual days off—because 3 days sick = doctor’s note, even if 2 of those were your usual days off for some reason.

          The only people who weren’t subjected to this (truly shitty) behavior were people who were showing obvious and serious symptoms the day before they called out—and of course management, because management would never do something so unethical. O_o

          (I also don’t mean to be snarky, I’m just adding my experience.)

          Reply
    5. Imaginary Number

      And there’s probably a tendency to want to put off sick days until Friday, depending on the workplace, which should be considered. If I’m feeling like crap all week and there’s a lot going on at work, I might try to “hold out.” Taking a Friday afternoon to go curl up in bed with a bottle of nyquil is going to have a lot less impact than taking off in the middle of the week.

      Reply
      1. Former Retail Manager

        Precisely what I was thinking. If something important is going on or someone else is depending on me, I am going to hold out as long as I can so as to limit the impact my absence has, which would typically mean holding off until Friday at many jobs.

        Reply
      2. Koko

        Yes, there are so many reasons for this. Aside from the “Monday and Friday are 40% of the workweek” where you’d expect almost half of sick days to be that way just from random distribution, there are forces that make Monday and Friday more likely.

        * You can often tell when you’re getting sick before it gets really bad. If I start getting sick on Thursday-Saturday, I can stay home and rest that weekend and sometimes prevent the illness from happening at all, or at worst only need to take Monday off. If I start getting sick on a Monday-Wednesday, I can work some extra evening hours and reshuffle projects before it gets really bad so that if I do get worse and have to miss Friday or Thursday/Friday, I’ve already met my deliverable deadlines and I’m inconveniencing the fewest people possible.

        * Friday is also the day when my coworkers are most likely to be out on vacation or leaving early so there are fewer people around who might need me.

        * It’s way more common to get a request at 4 PM Wednesday that needs to be completed by before 9 AM Thursday than it is to get a request at 4 PM Friday that needs to be completed before 9 AM Saturday. If I’m out on Friday and get requests that are due by Monday morning, I have all weekend to recover and still get the request done on time by doing it Sunday, so it’s again less likely to disrupt anyone else’s work if I’m out on Friday compared to another day.

        * Plus, most people are probably a lot more likely to be exposed to novel germs on weekends, when they’re more likely to be in public spaces with strangers than during the workweek when they’re mostly just moving back and forth between home and the office all week.

        Reply
    6. The OG Anonsie

      Right? This is basically saying “I’m suspicious that this person doesn’t only sometimes takes sick days on Tuesday and Wednesday.” Sounds pretty goofy when you turn it that way.

      Reply
  4. RabbitRabbit

    Reminds me of the fake statistic that 40% of sick times are right before or after the weekend (aka, there are 5 days in the average work week, and Monday/Friday are 40% of that time).

    Reply
      1. Blossom

        It’s not literally “fake” but it’s usually reported as satire, the “fakeness” being that some cartoon executive has taken this seriously as an alarming statistic, not realising the maths. Does it come from Dilbert, or is it older?

        Reply
    1. Seriously?

      There is a great book called “How to lie with statistics” that shows how to twist true things around to imply something not true. This reminds me of it.

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      1. Jesca

        Yeah, I have read it! Sometimes I actually email huge media companies when their news “reports” a stat missing very key information (like they care! haha). Frankly, I have caught them all doing it, but that’s for another time.

        But yes, unless people understand stats and all the ins and outs of how data works, they likely miss a lot of misleading statistics. This employee probably just calls out and maybe it is noticed for other reasons and then that particular date just happens to be marked in the managers head.

        Best to just collect the data and see what the numbers are actually saying.

        Reply
  5. k.k

    I’ll admit, I’m one of those people that calls in on Mondays a lot. I have a chronic stomach issue that likes to act up after the weekend. I think it’s because the weekend tends to have more non-routine food (eating out, family events, etc.) so there are more opportunities to trigger a flair up. I know some people probably suspect I’m just playing hooky, but there’s really no way I could be in the office those days.

    Reply
    1. krysb

      Same here. Sometimes Mondays and my stomach do not agree, thanks to my stupid body that can’t function without my gallbladder.

      Reply
    2. SimonTheGreyWarden

      This. It seems like my pain issues flare worse on Saturdays/Sundays, I think because I have more disrupted sleep (I take on more childcare duties then because my husband does more during the week) so Mondays are hard to get back in the routine. I’m late often on Mondays; luckily in my line of work that isn’t a huge issue and I have a wonderful boss.

      Reply
    3. Rat in the Sugar

      I had that exact issue, and my boss did have a talk with me that I was missing too many Mondays during busy periods. I was a bit miffed at first since I couldn’t help wondering if she thought I was just playing hooky, but she was right that it was impacting work. Thankfully my digestive issues are mild enough that I was able to make some changes and started getting sick on Mondays less often. It was annoying and occasionally inconvenient to have to sometimes pass on party food, meals out, special treats, etc., but after a while it got to be habit to ask myself, “Am I going to be feeling this on Monday?” and didn’t feel so burdensome.

      Of course, if my digestive issues had been more severe there might not have been anything I could have done about it. In that case, I guess I would have gone back to my boss and discussed working from home or changing up the work schedule so that there was less impact from my absences.

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    4. Brett

      I was also just coming to mention that weekend food tends to make my gallbladder go crazy. (For those wondering, an inflamed gallbladder feels just like getting punched in the liver, except the pain takes hours instead of minutes to go away.)
      Sleep/schedule disruption is a factor too. My spouse works until 10pm on Thursday nights, meaning we have a midnight rations meal that night and so I am a lot more likely to have a gallbladdar attack or related issue after 5am on Friday.

      Reply
      1. krysb

        I had my gallbladder removed a couple of years ago. Most people bounce back with some dietary restrictions. For me, everything makes me sick. I take a medicine to bind with my bile (because that’s what’s making me sick), but I have to be careful about it, because it will also bind with my other medications.

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        1. Zip Silver

          I’m sorry to hear that. I had mine taken out at 13 and never ran into any digestive issues again. But before that? I couldn’t hardly eat, for months!

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      2. pcake

        I’m glad to see someone brought this up. Before I was diagnosed with a wheat allergy, I was often sick on Mondays because weekends were a time for pizza and other wheat-based snacks.

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    5. Raider

      But this is exactly why Alison asked the OP to first ask, and listen, because there could be a legitimate reason. And then if not…

      Reply
    6. TardyTardis

      I have to admit that I became ill on vacation and came in the Monday after with a monster cold, because I was fairly new and didn’t want people to think that I had had too much fun. Of course, that was also the trip we hit a deer on the way down and had to go the rest of the way on a bus. It was exciting in many different ways.

      Reply
  6. Mustache Cat

    I think a lot of people are more likely to take Fridays as sick time, not just because they want the long weekend, but because there often is less vital stuff that needs to get done on Fridays. I have standing, somewhat important meetings every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, so if I’m in the “I could technically drag myself into work but really don’t want to” state, I’m more likely to suck it up on a Wednesday but then call in that Friday.

    Reply
    1. RabbitRabbit

      This is true. My colleague next to me was dragging herself through Thursday (had stuff to deal with from the previous day’s meeting) and was discussing our walk-in clinic here and whether she should go. Friday, she called in. (Now my throat is sore and I’m evaluating my upcoming work week and whether this will progress or not.)

      Reply
    2. Yolo

      It does seem odd that conversations about sick days seem to assume that there is an absolute sick-not sick threshold. There are multiple factors involved in answering “is taking a sick day the best option today?” and workload is one of them. Not that any low-workload day should be taken sick, of course, but if I was feeling crappy and had a huge deadline, it would be very different from feeling crappy and knowing the day would be slow.

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      1. Sally

        Yes, this. I am more likely to take a sick day on a Friday or Monday because those are my most meeting-free days, so my threshold is lower. I also schedule my doctor’s appointments on Mondays and Fridays. Obviously, for the flu, you just take the days when you need them, but for a common cold, a lot of time you just need an extra day of rest when work is a little slower.

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      2. myswtghst

        Agreed. Some mornings I’m on the fence about whether it would be better to stay home to rest or to suck it up and muddle through, so I’ll look at my work email and calendar (and often the weather, because my commute is no joke) to make my decision. As it turns out, Mondays and Fridays are the days on my calendar most likely to be the ones where my absence won’t impact others, so they’re the days I’m least likely to suck it up and go in if I’m on the fence.

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      3. nonymous

        And if workload is a concern, it makes that much more sense to have a robust work-from-home policy. It is so much easier to power through that skype meeting when sick if one can sleep in, instead of commuting, and then take a nap before the next one. Plus fuzzy slippers and a cozy afghan during report prep. All without potentially infecting coworkers.

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        1. Koko

          Yep. I have weeks and weeks of sick leave banked because I can work from home through 95% of illnesses I get. The only time I can’t is when I’m so sick that I can’t leave the bathroom, or I’m taking heavy medication that either conks me out or puts me in a state you wouldn’t trust my work output, or that one time I got a concussion and was not to not look at screens for 3-4 days (“luckily” it happened on a Thursday night so I was back to work by Monday just taking 20 minute screen breaks every couple of hours or if I started to develop a headache).

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    3. Murphy

      Also, sometimes you feel like you can power through until the weekend, then it’s Friday morning and your body has a different idea.

      Reply
      1. Tardigrade

        This is what happens to me a lot. I’ll be sick in the early week but will muddle through until I can’t handle it anymore by Friday, in addition to not usually being as busy on Fridays.

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      2. Wendy Darling

        I thought I could power through my work day after a fairly major dental procedure but then I got to 2pm and my body was like, NOPE. I ended up telling my boss I’d make up the hours over the weekend and going for a nap.

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  7. Anonymous #581288

    I have been that person! For years my periods ran naturally on a precise 28 day cycle so I would ALWAYS get the debilitating, call-out-sick cramps right before the weekend. And you couldn’t take half-days sick, just the full day, so I couldn’t spend the morning getting the pain under control and then come in for the afternoon when I felt fine.

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    1. Jennifer Thneed

      Yeah, but that’s monthly, not weekly. It really is quite different. You’re calling out sick 13 times a year, not more than 100 times per year.

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      1. Someone else

        I don’t think the letter implied the person did this weekly, just that when they called in sick, it seemed to always be Fri-Mon with a smattering of Thu afternoons.

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    2. myswtghst

      As someone who gets hormonal migraines and was on birth control to deal with other issues until I got pregnant, I feel you on this. It wasn’t that I got a migraine every single month on the same Monday, but they were much more likely on that day than on any other.

      Reply
  8. Hiring Mgr

    To address part of Alison’s answer…are there employers of adults out there that really require doctor’s notes? Good god..

    Reply
    1. Where's the Le-Toose?

      Our handbook allows us to ask for a note after three consecutive days of sick leave, but we never do. We only ask for documentation when someone has a pattern of calling in fake sick.

      Reply
      1. Former Retail Manager

        Same policy & I am a federal employee. Does my boss always do it? I can’t say, but I have always offered the note on the few occasions that it’s happened.

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      2. Koko

        Same here. It was actually years after I started here that I happened to be looking for some information in the handbook and saw that a note is “required” for more than three days’ absence. I’m not sure I’ve ever missed more than three days in a row, but I’ve definitely never been asked for a note. I’m a manager and I had an employee out two weeks and remote for a third week for surgery and recovery, and it never even occurred to me to ask her for documentation. I trust this employee and she’s a very conscientious worker. The idea that she would have lied about having surgery in order to get 2 weeks off is absurd.

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    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      Yes and they are typically employers who (a) do not offer health insurance and (b) pay minimum wage/barely above.

      Reply
    3. BadReference

      Our business’ policy is that it’s up to the supervisor. Unfortunately, we have one supervisor that requires it for every single sick day. It’s for a department whose members can’t really afford to go see the doctor very often. I wish there was something I could do about it, but there’s no interest in changing the policy.

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    4. Naptime Enthusiast

      Not exactly the same but after an accident I couldn’t see an orthopedist for almost a week to get a cast, I was in a splint from the ER and couldn’t type or drive. My manager and medical asked me to bring a doctor’s note clearing me to return , but not to prove I was actually “sick”. I think it was because we have technicians and operators that could not safely perform their jobs in my condition, so they have an across-the-board policy for injuries and illnesses preventing people from being forced to come back before it’s safe.

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      1. Ainomiaka

        Yeah, I have had this, always in places that had more safety concerns than a standard office. And I do get where the concern is coming from. So many doctors expect the other, though! I have to explain multiple times that I need you to say what I can do, not that I was here.

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      2. Detective Amy Santiago

        A doctor’s note clearing you to return makes perfect sense depending on the type of work you do and the nature of your illness/injury.

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        1. Naptime Enthusiast

          Oh absolutely, I’m glad that it is the policy. It was just surprising that I needed a note to come back to my desk job where the heaviest thing I have to lift is a ream of paper.

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          1. Elizabeth West

            I worked for a manufacturer and after gallbladder removal, they did ask me to show a doctor’s release that I was okay to come back to work even though I worked in the office. Sometimes it’s a cover-your-ass thing.

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            1. Detective Amy Santiago

              Workers comp insurance is expensive. Employers don’t want to take a risk that you’re not fully healed and more susceptible to injury.

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    5. Elmyra Duff

      Not only did OldJob require a note from the doctor if you were out sick for just a day, they also wanted my grandmother’s doctor to document that I was there in the hospital with her every day for two weeks while she was dying, then a note from the FUNERAL HOME DIRECTOR saying that, yeah, my grandma was dead and I was there at the funeral home for all of the visitations and the funeral itself. And then they asked if I could come in after the funeral.

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      1. Pollygrammer

        Wow. You’re OldJob was not just terrible, they were cartoonishly terrible. Some people just don’t know how to human, I’m sorry.

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        1. Elmyra Duff

          Me too. That place was a nightmare. CurrentJob is like, “Hey, you got sniffles? Work from home this week and take it easy so the rest of us don’t get sick and you don’t get sicker!”

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          1. TardyTardis

            My CurrentJob is like that, too, though one person is kind of pushing it and not calling in till the last minute before her shift. Still, we do taxes, and don’t want to get the rep of Plague Central.

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    6. Lily Rowan

      I just heard about a job where they would have required a doctor’s note if my friend had called out sick on a day it was snowing!

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      1. Anon for this

        I’ve heard our local court is going to a similar system. The court does not take snow days. However, that doesn’t stop 90% of the staff from calling out sick on a snow day. Being willing to drive in the snow is a requirement for that job. Since they can’t get people to come in, they are going to start requiring proof that their staff was really sick.

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        1. Mara

          How? If there is a lot of snow wouldn’t the doctor’s be closed as well?

          I live in a country where snow is not common…usually two or three days a year and often everything closes. I suppose depending on where you are it could be different after all I doubt Canada and the Northern USA shut down all winter just because there is snow but seeing how you said “snow day” not “winter” I assume you do not live somewhere like that.

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        2. TardyTardis

          Around here, you just invest in studded tires (and nobody takes them off as early as the rest of the state says to, and the local cops keep them on longer, too–one guy got tickets for them in July, but everyone agreed that he was asking for it).

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    7. Scotty_Smalls

      My dad works a Union job and they require doctor’s notes for any sick leave taken on a Monday or Friday. Can’t quite believe the Union puts up with that, but maybe it was a compromise somewhere else. Luckily, he has Kaiser so if he just had a bad cold he could get a phone visit. I actually need to make sure he knows that so he doesn’t go in when he’s sick just cause it’s a Friday.

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    8. Bea

      Thankfully even my worst boss never did but my dad had a helluva time years ago with this kind of meddlesome stuff. Good thing he had great insurance though, that was fully funded by the company.

      Meanwhile the lowlives who don’t pay for insurance but require notes…since its about $75 for an office visit for that note that says “he’s got a gnarly headcold and he’s on bed rest and clear liquids.” gaaaah blaaaaah

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    9. Cat Supervisor

      We require it only if you’re out 4 consecutive days and it has to be via a “Return to Work” form. This is to help employees possibly start the FMLA process if needed. These forms are never seen by supervisors or management and go in the staff member’s employee health file. In fact, we are told specifically to not accept doctors’ notes if someone has been out, and if I receive one on my desk, I send it to Employee Health. I’d be really nervous keeping what is essentially a medical record in an employee file.

      Reply
    10. phedre

      Mine requires a doctor’s note if you call out for 3 days in a row or the day before or after a paid holiday. The paid holiday callout rule is a newer policy and it came about only because too many people were calling out the day before/after a paid holiday. It’s a little annoying because I hate going to the doctor for just a cold only, but I understand why they do it.

      And one time that rule actually helped – I was convinced I had a cold but went to the doctor because I called out sick the Friday before Christmas, and it was actually the flu. It was too late for me to get Tamiflu, but thankfully my husband was able to get it on the first day he showed symptoms. I was in bed for over a week and was just miserably ill, and my husband was fine within 36 hrs of taking Tamiflu.

      Reply
    11. KK

      We’ve begun to enforce it for those who we’ve caught lying about sick time, requests to work from home when they claim not to feel well & caught lying about that too.

      Reply
    12. Annette

      I’m so glad my employer doesn’t require doctor’s notes. I’m out for migraines and what I need is to lie in a dark room, not try to drive across town for a futile visit to my doctor.

      Reply
    13. zora

      Our company has a policy that they *can* ask for a doctor’s note if you are sick for more than 3 days in a row, but I haven’t heard of anyone actually being asked for one. I was out for a week and a half, and no one brought it up.

      Reply
    14. J.

      Mine requires a note if you’re out for more than 4 workdays in a row (essentially if you need to take a full week or more).

      Reply
    15. WillyNilly

      I worked at a great corporation that had an onsite nurse practicioner, no fee/co-pay, so employees who just needed a quick Rx or diagnosus, etc.
      I went to her once and was diagnosis with a bad case of broncitous, she told me to take 3 days (the rest of the week) off. I guess the look of panic on my face prompted her to ask “do I need to call your manager?” Despite the interoffice caller ID showing it was the nurse, in addition to her introducing herself, my boss tried to find out my diagnosis (nope, HIPAA violation) and I could hear through the reciever, try get the nurse to drop it down to that afternoon only, and have me come back the next day. At that, the nurse said “I am not even sure if she will be recovered by Monday, perhaps she should be out next week too!” My boss relented and allowed the sick days.

      Reply
    16. AsIsIt

      Yes. For anything more than one day. (We get paid sick leave.) A cold will be over in a few days, but we still have to drag ourselves to a doctor to get a note. :(

      Reply
    17. It's-a-me

      My office requires sick notes from doctor or pharmacist on Mondays and Fridays only, or more than one day of sick leave.

      Not sure if it makes a difference, but we get paid sick leave.

      Reply
  9. Turquoisecow

    I want to emphasize the first part of the answer here: make sure it’s an ACTUAL pattern, not just a perception of a pattern (ie: “optics”).

    I worked in a place where I would come in late, say, twice, not consecutively, but it happened to be on days where the VP or some other higher up walked through the cube farm at five minutes after I was supposed to be there, and I got in six minutes later. Having noticed this “pattern” on two days (!), VP mentions it to my supervisor, who pulls me aside and tells me to make sure I work on getting to work on time. (Never mind that I usually stayed 15-30 minutes late, and was salaried.)

    If Employee is actually doing this long weekend thing frequently, OP, then absolutely talk to them. But check the hard data first.

    Reply
    1. MLB

      I hate managers like that. Unless you’re working a job like a CSR in a call center, where you’re required to be at your desk and logged in within a certain time, watching the clock is unnecessary. They care that you’re 5-10 minutes late, but seem to forget that you work overtime as needed, or skip your lunch break or stay late.

      Reply
      1. Turquoisecow

        Yeah, there was absolutely no reason I had to be there at a specific time, and I was sometimes early and often stayed late. But the higher ups tended to walk through around the time when butts were supposed to be in seats, and then got annoyed if said butts were not present. They never walked around near quitting time to see all of us who were staying late.

        Reply
        1. Trout 'Waver

          I strongly believe that the surest sign of an incompetent manager is the fact that they manage by attendance for positions that don’t require it. It means they have no idea what their people actually do.

          Reply
    2. Lisa

      A similar thing happened to me at a previous job. It was incredibly demoralizing because I *never* left at 5pm on the dot, came in on two weekends a year for events, stayed late to meet deadlines, and it felt like all of that was overshadowed because of two late arrivals. I got extra careful about arrival times but had “previous commitments” on evenings and weekends until I found a new job. I’m happy to be flexible for my employer (within reason) if they will grant me the same understanding (within reason).

      Reply
      1. Karen LaVoy

        “I’m happy to be flexible for my employer (within reason) if they will grant me the same understanding (within reason).”

        This is SO KEY. I have a salaried direct report who technically works 9 to 6. She usually shows up around 9:15 or 9:30. I personally don’t love that but you know what? She consistently goes above and beyond her 40 hours/week. So…I say NOTHING. She’s getting the job done. Why would I demoralize that over a few minutes?!
        e
        Note: We’re a small company, so no one else is directly impacted if she’s “late”.

        Reply
    3. Deejay

      I had a manager once who was shouted at by the Managing Director’s secretary for coming in five minutes late. He shouted back “I didn’t see your car in the car park when I left three hours late last night!”

      Reply
    4. Elizabeth West

      I had a job once where we got to leave at 4:00 on Fridays, until the ONE Friday a board member called late in the day and nobody was around. Even though they knew about this, they got pissed off and bitched about it, and there went early Fridays.

      Reply
    5. Former Retail Manager

      Ugh….the worst, those managers. We have one where I work now and I will never work for that manager if I can help it. For that reason and many other nitpicky ones.

      Reply
  10. Where's the Le-Toose?

    We had this with one of my employees, but for us it was much easier. The employee called in to say she was staying home with a sick child with a 105 degree (F) fever, and 45 minutes later, pictures of her with both her kids on a play date in the park appeared on a coworker’s Facebook feed.

    But for the OP, if the absences are generally spread out all over the week, but Thursday pm, Friday, or Monday being the most common, then you want to discuss the issue with concern. If the employee only takes sick days at those times, then express concern and document.

    Reply
    1. animaniactoo

      #1) This is precisely why I am not friends with anyone from work on FB. Not that I am in a habit of lying to my job, but I don’t want to have to deal with any issues that could arise from a misunderstanding or a point where I was not discussing something openly at the office, but made a passing mention on FB to people I am closer to and forgot that there was that one busybody…

      #2) I hope you verified that those images were from that day. It’s a common mistake that people see shots that were recently posted and assume it shows a contradiction, but often it’s the situation where mom had unexpected extra time on her hands and is fiddling around on FB while kiddo is asleep and posts a couple of pictures from last week.

      Reply
      1. Where's the Le-Toose?

        There were from that day. One of our other coworkers was in the pictures as well and we verified that it was posted in real time.

        Reply
    2. WillyNilly

      My 4 year old had 103.1° yesterday, and 102.3° upon waking this morning. I took her, and my toddler, to the playground today.
      Yes she’s legit sick, but she’s also 4 and therefore a ball of energy regardless. I live in an apartment with no options for running & jumping.
      I did make sure it was the small playground that isn’t often used so as to avoid her interacting with other kids.

      Reply
      1. Gazebo Slayer

        Weird! I quite distinctly remember having a 103-degree fever in kindergarten and how horrible I felt (like, shaking chills and crying).

        Reply
        1. WillyNilly

          With all my kids the worst symptom of any illness is generally cabin fever.
          They do definitely take a bit more naps when sick, but yup, still need some running around time.
          So just because a kid (or anyone really) is out & about doesn’t mean they are in perfect health.

          Reply
  11. Colin

    I think the important question here is whether the person’s work is getting done or not.

    At my company we have three different types of days off (vacation, flex, floating holiday) but you can use them all interchangeably. There isn’t an expectation that you give more notice for one over the other, or that you don’t use flex when you go on vacation. There’s simply an expectation that you communicate to your team when you’re going to be off and ensure you’re covered.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      That’s a great policy if you can do that! Unfortunately, at most workplaces you can’t; there’s usually something that needs coverage and that means somebody bogarting Fridays and Mondays would be an issue. So for me this is one of the exceptions to “what matters is if the work is getting done”–if it’s getting done but at other people’s expense, that needs managerial action.

      Reply
    2. A.

      My job is like this and I really do love it. We have sick, vacation, personal and comp time. No one cares which days you use but people tend to reserve the sick leave because that gets paid out at the end of your employment. Personal goes first because that is use or lose every year. I just couldn’t imagine myself caring what my employees used as long as they were getting their work done.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        For me it’s not so much what they use as whether it’s short notice or not. It’s not fair on people who do give advance notice to have to cover disproportionately for people who don’t.

        Reply
        1. A.

          Yes I think it is unfair if you have to cover for people. Luckily in my current job, we are all funded by different grants so that isn’t an issue because we cannot do work outside of our specific grants.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            Yeah, there are definitely jobs where everyone’s just paddling their own canoe and nobody is hurt but you if you’re out unwisely–mine is pretty much like that.

            Reply
      2. soon 2 be former fed

        My job is the opposite. Annual leave (vacation) gets paid out, but sick leave doesn’t. Sick leave can be added to your service time for annuity calculation purposes, but it takes so many hours to move the needle that most don’t bother with stockpiling a huge number of hours.

        Reply
  12. Countess Boochie Flagrante

    Alison, I just want to express my continued appreciation for your firm and unwavering anti-doctor’s note stance. There are so few times I’ve called out that have been for anything doctor-relevant — what is an MD going to do about “I slept like crap and am not mentally competent to peel a banana, let alone place a trade”?

    Reply
    1. Blossom

      Yep, and also, it’s surely not hard to recite a list of unverifiable symptoms to a doctor. I mean, most of the times I’ve been to the doctor for actual illnesses, they just listen to me describe my symptoms and confirm that it sounds rather like what I thought. Many minor ailments or invisible chronic conditions are like that.

      Reply
    2. Seejay

      Me with migraines. :/ I’ve often wondered how I can manage to work when I’m on my medications for them, because I know I’ve worked before while on my meds, but yesterday I realized what it was… I can manage to do things that are routine or relatively easy or habitual, so even things like work where I have to think, if it’s something I’ve been doing for awhile, I can kind of muddle through it, but if it’s something new and creative and I’m going to have to really dig down into my brain to try to piece together something, it’s all out the window. My reflexes are slower, neural pathways don’t connect right, and I’m far more easily distracted at “ooo look shiney things” when I have to think too hard on my meds.

      So the options are either take meds and not think straight, but manage if it’s routine stuff (and be about 50% productive) or don’t take meds and feel like something is stabbing me in the eyeball and probably get 0% done. Work just gets to deal with me being semi-productive at least.

      Reply
    3. Nita

      +1. Or about “I’m 100% sure it’s a stomach bug because my whole family already had it.” Or all these other things that just need a few hours in bed to set to rights. There is no point spending your sick day in a doctor’s office, exposing others to your germs, when it serves no purpose and is actually getting in the way of your recovery.

      Reply
      1. Maude

        Not to mention if you have a high deductible or co-pay and have to pay an unnecessary fee to take a day to recuperate from a cold. I have had managers that have requested notes before and I think they just do it because the guy before them did it and they haven’t really thought it through.

        Reply
        1. Gazebo Slayer

          Or they deliberately do it to discourage sick days in a really gross, crappy way. Especially if the company pays little and doesn’t offer health insurance.

          Reply
      2. Paquita

        I had the stomach bug over the weekend. :( Started feeling bad Friday after lunch but didn’t think to much of it. Got home, ate about two bites of supper. Was sick up until early Sunday morning. Still feel kinda weak. What good is going to the doctor for that?

        Reply
    4. Paxton

      I agree. I am a strong proponent for the ‘hire adults and treat them as such until they prove otherwise’ management method. An adult should be allowed to make independent health decisions without micromanagement.

      Reply
    5. MsChanandlerBong

      Exactly. In my area, another problem is that the healthcare system is SO overburdened that my doctor couldn’t get me in for a same-day appointment even if I was at death’s door. Last time I was sick, I had been coughing for 15 days. When I called the doctor, they couldn’t get me in for another week. So, if I had a boss that made me get a doctor’s note, I’d have to pay the $50 copay for urgent care instead of the $20 copay to see my PCP. Plus, I have chronic health issues, so my PCP would probably tell me to see my rheumatologist, cardiologist, or oncologist if it was an issue relating to one of those specialties, so even if I didn’t have to go to urgent care, I’d still have to pay the higher copay to see a specialist. On top of all that, there’s really nothing my doctors can do for me if I have a lupus flare and feel like someone beat my upper body with a baseball bat, just give me a Prednisone Rx and wish me luck.

      Reply
    6. she was a fast machine

      Yes, totally this! Many of the times I’ve called out it’s been a matter of if I’d have gone to the doctor they would have just told me to get more sleep…which, yeah, I’m working on it, thanks.

      Reply
    7. Bea

      And nothing annoys an over booked doc more than the person who just needs to take some OTC meds and rest with a bottle of 7-up and crackers.

      Reply
      1. anon to protect the nice doc

        My doctor has a really wonderful triage system that’s been helpful. As long as you’ve had a physical and/or he’s seen you in person within the last year, you can call the office and request to have the doctor call you back, which he usually does within an hour or two. If it sounds to him like it’s just a cold and not serious, he’ll write you a note and leave it for you at the front desk to pick up before you go back to work. If he’s worried it’s more serious or wants to see you in person for whatever reason, then he’ll have you make an appointment. But he doesn’t drag you out to the office to spread your germs around to everyone you encounter on the way, to pay a copay and take up a bunch of his in-person time just for some bureaucratic jumping through hoops over a cold.

        Reply
        1. Happy Lurker

          Love your doc!
          Mine used to be like this, until his office was swallowed by the huge hospital conglomerate that has taken over our local area. He and I have lamented about the drop in service to his patients, but the paperwork was killing him. So, I understand, but I miss it.
          I am also so happy to not work somewhere that arbitrarily requires notes. Ugh!

          Reply
    8. Breda

      Yeah, I had a back injury that flared up a lot in college, and the participation-heavy classes often required doctor’s notes. But a) there was nothing they could do other than tell me to take lots of Advil & rest, and b) it was just as difficult to drag myself to health services as it was to get to class. The only thing I was physically capable of was lying on the floor! Just let me do it in peace!

      Reply
  13. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

    Oooff – this specific issue is prob not the case with the employee – but here’s an example of a legit reason for this happening.

    I get very bad migraines. Eventually I realized that dehydration is a major trigger for me, so I started using marked water bottles/tracking methods to ensure that I was drinking enough water throughout the day. I’d still get them occasionally, but it was far less. When I did get them on a work day I would need to use a sick day.

    Boss comes to me and points out that I take a lot of Mondays off and wanted to talk to me about better managing my PTO/sick time. Honestly, I was kind of offended by this – otherwise my work was good, there were no issues, and I *knew* that I was not misusing sick days. No resolution really came from the conversation directly, but I looked over my sick time from the past year and recognized that there were a lot of Mondays, and they were one-offs so they most likely were from migraines. I told boss this – just that most of my recent sick days were from migraines, so while they were one offs, I couldn’t control when they come on. Boss was clearly still skeptical (and that I’m still a bit upset about/think is not really fair), but I offered to get a dr’s note documenting my migraines and boss backed off.

    This did get me thinking (not immediately, but over time) about why I was getting so many migraines on Mondays. Started re-tracking my water intake (I was in sort of routine at this point) and realized I was not drinking as much as I thought I was over the weekends (at least not consistently – I kept my marked bottles at work and just estimated at home over the weekends) so this was probably contributing to my Monday migraines. I didn’t even notice the pattern until my boss brought it up (and I do totally get why she brought it).

    So just anybody dealing with this with an employee – please don’t jump to conclusions and if there is a legit reason, please respect that. I get why my boss brought it up, but her response when I told her why it was happening was really demoralizing. It was clear that she didn’t believe me and that she already made up her mind that I just liked 3-day weekends or partied too much or whatever. Her goal was not to “solve a problem” because my Mon absences weren’t actually causing any coverage issues (as far as I know – I would have done anything possible to work with her on any work-related issues Mon absences caused), her goal was to make sure I was at work every Monday except for a truly freak illness or pre-arranged vacation.

    Reply
    1. SushiRoll

      I am also a migraine sufferer and there are so many triggers – stress can be a trigger, but crappily – absence of stress can be one too. So basically, weekends can be a trigger – the stressful workweek is over and you get a weekend to chill – BAM – headache. Sucks, right? I bet a lot of migraineurs take off Mondays frequently.

      90% of my migraines hit me during the weekend so I am someone that calls off on Mondays. But on those weekends it often hits on Saturday so I spend the majority of my weekend in bed with an icepack on my face in silence. So definitely not taking a 3-day weekend to have fun. Luckily my boss knows this.

      Reply
      1. Liz

        Conversely, most of my migraines hit me on a Friday. I think it’s the stress of the workweek finally catching up to me. I used to just suck it up and try to power through, but now I try to either work from home (with an icepack and dim lights) or take a pre-emptive sick day. I hate wasting a weekend lying in bed rather than spending time with my family.

        Reply
      2. dawbs

        HA, going to post this.
        Changes in stress levels are a trigger for a lot of people. Stress will cause migraines, but so will alleviation of stress.
        So, yes, I’m a ‘weekender’ migraine. I’m on on day 3 of my current migraine and, barring something changing dramatically, I’ll be on day 4 tomorrow (thanks body, needed that). It’s hard to explain to people that essentially I”m coming in on Monday morning with all the symptoms, zero of the fun, of a hangover, but, there you go.

        Reply
    2. she was a fast machine

      I’m so glad I’ve mostly moved past my migranes; they made my late teen years/early young adulthood a living hell, and sadly a lot of people assumed I was just hungover from partying too much or faking it to avoid school, and I got treated accordingly, complete with bosses who assumed I just didn’t want to work. So I empathize with you!

      Reply
    3. anyone out there but me

      Fellow migraine sufferer here. Another trigger can be a change in sleep patterns. For example, if I sleep too late or stay up much later than normal on a weekend, I’ll develop a migraine. That could account for a Monday call-in.

      I can sometimes function with one, but mostly not. The meds make me feel fuzzy and hungover. Also, when I have a migraine, it hurts worse to drive and do things that require focus and concentration.

      Reply
    4. Nita

      I’ve recently developed weird food-triggered headaches that tended to be worse on weekdays. It took a couple of weeks to pinpoint the cause, which turned out to be the chocolate cereal I’d eat on weekday mornings – a non-issue on the weekends when I don’t normally start the day with cereal.

      Reply
    5. jamlady

      I have chronic migraine and I’m a Monday/Friday misser as well. My neurologist said it’s super normal for all of the reasons above due to throwing a wrench in what your body sees as normal. Mine was generally attributed to building stress through the week mixed with binge-eating at the end of the week. Sometimes it hits Friday, more often Sunday, and unfortunately a lot of Mondays (like today).

      Reply
  14. phira

    I want to emphasize Alison’s point about a medical treatment. I used to get infusions every six weeks that would leave me wiped often for an entire week. We’re talking so exhausted that I would usually only get out of bed to use the bathroom, and even then it was only because I obviously HAD to get up. I would schedule my infusions for Fridays (they didn’t offer weekend infusions) so I’d be out Fridays, and often I would be out until Tuesday because of how tired I was. Sometimes if I had infusions earlier in the week, I’d try to go in the next day and I would be entirely useless.

    It can be really difficult to talk to your boss about this sort of issue because it can be embarrassing, or it can sound like you’re a big faker. It’s also frustrating because it really shouldn’t be vacation time, but you’re not acutely ill so you feel like it’s not sick time either. But a good boss should help make arrangements so that you’re not penalized for what’s necessary for you to function and stay healthy.

    That being said, it’ll depend on what happens when you talk to the employee. This might all be moot!

    Reply
  15. Falling Diphthong

    When my son was in middle school, he would pretty routinely get sick on Friday. I am absolutely certain that he was not faking because two days later I would be down with the same virus, knocking me out for Monday.

    So a pattern of hitting near weekends can be all about what cumulative sleep shortage does to your immune system, or to the immune system of people you look after when they’re sick, rather than any enjoyable pattern.

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      I taught high school in the late 60s and it was just totally exhausting work. 6 classes during the day; 160 students; grading papers or planning lessons or both every evening (hell when you are new); grading papers every evening (I had 160 students writing papers about every two weeks not counting tests or other projects. Our program had a big focus on helping them learn to write. I almost never missed a class during the 4 years I did this, but every ‘holiday’ like Christmas or spring break, I would be sick as a dog. I would sort of stagger to the break and my immune system would just give up and the germs that had been percolating would take over. I can easily see a high stress life leading to weekend illness that can lap over to Monday. Still the OP must deal with this and alert the employee to it. It is demoralizing to other employees when the same person seems to always work a short week and most of the time it is probably a slacker. But not always.

      Reply
  16. Tara

    I truly get that employees taking unplanned time off is a hassle. It is for us, and most workplaces. But why oh why oh why can’t all time off be label PTO? Why must it be sick or vacation or personal? You’re setting up employees to lie to you about their time off. I see it all the time. And it’s so unnecessary.

    Reply
    1. Eye of Sauron

      I think there are pros and cons to one bank of PTO. The biggest con is that some people will treat all the days as vacation and either hoard the days or use them up with no forethought to actually being sick.

      I’ve had people hacking and snotting in my office (well just outside of the office because I wouldn’t let them come in) telling me that they would have loved to stay home but they don’t want to use their PTO on being sick.

      I think the vast majority of people can manage one bank, but often companies set policy to the lowest common denominator.

      Reply
    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      This has come up here before. There are strong arguments for both systems.

      I don’t believe in combined sick and vacation time, because that means that currently healthy folks (who tend to be younger and childless) end up with more “vacation” time than do folks who need to use their PTO for sick leave.

      Reply
      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        Also, combined PTO encourages employees to come in sick, since staying home sick depletes their available vacation time. I absolutely would stay home sick more often if I had a separate pool, but I’m not willing to give up my week-long vacation for a common cold.

        Reply
        1. Brett

          At last employer, the experience was completely the opposite.
          When we had separate sick leave and vacation leave, no one ever used their sick leave. There were people who retired at 40 years who used less than a week their entire career. They were paranoid that something horrible would happen to them, and they would run out of sick leave and FMLA leave and lose their insurance. Instead, they would retire with tens of thousands of dollars (sometimes six figures) worth of unused sick leave (which state law requires to be paid out at retirement).

          When we went to combined PTO, everyone made sure to use their PTO for sick days. Since PTO, unlike sick leave, is use it or lose it, and they could no longer be terminated for running out of sick leave and FMLA leave under that plan, they were quite happy to use their PTO for sick days.

          Reply
            1. Brett

              It is more complicated than this, but because sick leave was income and income determined your retirement benefits, it was not legal to make sick leave use-it-or-lose-it for current employees. They could do that for new employees, but instead decided at that time to opt to a PTO plan to avoid the confusion of some employees being on permanently accumulated sick leave and other employees being on use-it-or-lose-it sick leave.

              Reply
          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

            PTO is not automatically use it or lose it (at my organization, we can carry over up to 1.5x our annual allotment). But I agree; I think sick time (and PTO) should be use it or lose it.

            Reply
            1. Detective Amy Santiago

              I think that allowing people to carry over a certain amount of sick time and/or PTO is okay. I mean, if you have a big international trip planned next year, it would be great to roll over an extra week of PTO. Or if you’re pregnant/having a planned surgery, being able to carry over some sick time would be helpful.

              The problem is when the rolling over is unlimited and people can accrue that much.

              Reply
            2. Brett

              The plan you are describing (capped carryover) is what we called use it or lose it. Even though you could carry over some PTO, you would eventually lose an earned week if you never used it.
              Since it was almost impossible to take any PTO your first year (there was an annoying strict seniority system), most people were at the full cap by the end of their second year and for the rest of their career.

              Reply
        1. Bagpuss

          I’m in the UK, where sick time and holidays are separate.
          Sick leave typically re-sets every year, you can’t carry it over. Most people don’t seem to abuse it.
          Holiday time falls into statutory and contractual – the statutory minimum can’t normally be carried over, it has to be taken (I think to stop employers from denying people their leave entitlement under the pretext of carrying it forward) – contractual leave depends on your contract (where I work, unused leave can only be carried over with permission, and normally you would be required to use it up rather than ‘hoard’ it

          Reply
      2. Legal Beagle

        Interesting! I also like having separate pools, but I hadn’t even thought of the imbalance issue. When I was pregnant, I had 40 hours of sick time and I used it all up on prenatal care appointments.

        Reply
    3. KarenK

      Theoretically all our time away from work is PTO, but when it’s being entered on our time sheets, it’s differentiated as PTO-Scheduled and PTO-Unscheduled. Guess which is vacation and which is sick time?

      Reply
      1. Doreen

        I know what you mean- but that’s not always going to be the case. I have separate banks of time for sick, vacation, and personal leave and there are six separate sections on my timesheet , so I have to differentiate between pre-scheduled and unscheduled for sick, vacatin and personal leave. But if I just had PTO scheduled or unscheduled like you do, it would be impossible to tell how many days I was sick. In most years, my unscheduled absences are not due to being sick , but because I had car trouble or my cable went out or … and my scheduled absences are for full-day medical appointments a few times a year.

        ( I have a real talent for getting sick Friday night and recovering by Monday morning. Goes back to when I was a kid and got chicken pox over Christmas vacation- didn’t miss a single day of school)

        Reply
    4. Naptime Enthusiast

      Slightly OT but we have a bucket of time I like to call “Oh Sh*t” time. It’s for volunteering, extending bereavement, attending conferences, meeting with the plumber when your pipes burst, closing on a house, basically anything that’s not planned vacation but also not sick time. Very rarely do people use all 5 days in a year but it’s available to everyone to use.

      Reply
    5. Ledgerman

      I want my buckets separate!! Of course, I have unlimited sick time (with caveats that you have to talk to somebody about short-term disability or family leave if it’s going to be more than 5 consecutive full workdays, etc.)

      Reply
  17. Contracts Killer

    If the employee in question references migraines, this really could be a weekend thing. If you search “weekend” or “let down” migraines, there are many articles about how migraines can manifest AFTER a stressful period – i.e. a tough week at work. Unfortunately, I call in sick on Mondays more than I would like, but my migraines usually fall the weekend after a crazy week at work.

    Reply
    1. Lynca

      This. Most of my migraine days are on the weekend- but I get them occasionally starting Friday/dragging through Monday.

      I’ve got a flexible schedule to help with this and it’s honestly super helpful.

      Reply
  18. Earthwalker

    Friday sick days can be abused, of course, but Alison is right that sometimes there’s a legitimate reason. One of my coworkers took every Friday off because she was tired. We were all sick of picking up the slack for her laziness and our manager put her on a PIP. And then we found out that a doctor had finally diagnosed why her energy ran out each week on Thursday: she had hepatitis. So much for making assumptions.

    Reply
    1. Kate 2

      Gosh! I have a relative who suffered similarly. Their symptoms were extremely mild and vague, but never went away. Think symptoms like irritability and constant weight gain. Doctors dismissed the symptoms and assumed she was lying about her diet. 10 years later, she finally gets diagnosed with a condition that can be really serious if untreated. Luckily hers had been getting worse slowly, but thinking about what could have happened to her is scary!

      TL;DR Lots of illnesses have mild or vague symptoms when first starting, even for a long time after, when you get major symptoms the illness is usually very bad by then.

      Reply
    2. Student Engineer

      This was my experience with developing coeliacs disease as well. I would often be sick by friday simply due to an accumulated week of not sleeping and feeling vaguely crap, but it came on so gradually it took a long time to spot what was happening.

      Reply
  19. spinetingler

    My employer makes it kind of a PITA to use regular leave on short notice, so if I suddenly need to be out the next day it’s going to be sick leave no matter the reason. (SL only requires notification(email or phone) one hour before you are scheduled, while annual leave requires at minimum 24 hours notice (and they prefer more) and paperwork)

    Reply
    1. k

      I was wondering if this employer makes it hard to take planned time off, or is known to frequently deny PTO requests. I had an employer once that was didn’t like to approve days. If you called out on a previously denied day there were serious consequences, so people just stopped asking in advance and just called out. Always had lots of people “sick” near the weekend, holidays, vacation season.

      Reply
      1. Let's Talk About Splett

        Or a job where you have to find your own coverage if you want to take a planned day off and no one wants to cover for you.

        Reply
    2. Bea

      We require paperwork for all timeoff, it’s not good SOP to let people not even sign off on using their sick leave o.O It’s all the same paperwork with a check box involved to say you want paid for the time out of the office.

      It’s due to gloriously tight regulations when they start digging in your payroll records to show consistency.

      Reply
  20. Purple Rain

    I am type 1 diabetic. Can’t kick anything in one day, so I’ll work at half mast until Thursday, call in sick Friday, spend Saturday and Sunday in bed, to get back at it fresh on Monday. I’m in management and have arranged my schedule to be meeting free on Fridays to minimize the effect of my absence on others. Chronic illness.

    Reply
  21. Risha

    I worry about this! I have a crap immune system, so I tend to take much more than the average person’s sick time anyway, and I have noticed that I tend to be out on a lot of Mondays. It’s all for legit sickness reasons, though I’m making more of an effort these days to keep to something approaching my normal sleep cycle over the weekend, which I suspect was contributing. But I still intermittently worry that maybe my boss thinks I have a drinking problem or something.

    Reply
  22. KatieHR

    My company doesn’t require a note but they don’t have sick time either. If you are out sick then you have to use your PTO. It really sucks and makes a lot of people still come to work when they are sick. Unfortunately, I think companies have come to this because so many “adults” have abused the policy so much. Maybe I just need to find a better company but the 4 large companies I have worked for have all operated this way. I come to work all the time when I am sick because I don’t want to give up my vacation time.

    Reply
    1. Gilmore67

      Our company gives plenty of PTO time that is suppose to be for everything. In a year an employee has about to 2 weeks by their first year.

      We have a pretty generous call in policy and one won’t even get written up until their 4th call in. ( Verbals only) We have a rolling year call in policy. Bascially, if you call in lets say April 9 2018, next year today, it falls off. You can accrue more call in’s during that time and if you go over 7 call in’s you are termed.

      What people do though, is wait until their ” fall off ” date comes and then call in again after that day or so after. So they are always ” safe” from being termed because they time their call in’s after the next date to fall off their record and they stay under the 7 times. Or so they think.

      If there is a pattern of that, if they are at their 6 or 7th all the time and one falls off and then they call in again, we can talk to them about it.

      So, in our case, in my opinion they have a lot of room to call in, a lot of PTO and we expect them to be mindful of what they are doing. They have to work every other weekend and yes if they consistanly call in on a Friday or Monday when they were off that weekend, to give themselves a 3 day weekend, eye brows will rise. Or holidays as well.

      But, we do know our staff and do not just jump to a conclusion of them pulling a fast one just to take time off.
      You know the ones trying to pull stuff.

      It needs to work both ways, companies need to provide the time for staff to call in and be believed it is legit. But employees also need to not abuse the system.

      Reply
      1. Atalanta0jess

        That does not seem like a generous amount of time to me. And you get in trouble for more than 4 call ins per year? That strikes me as really strict!!

        Reply
      2. Anon for this

        How is getting written up for calling in sick a generous policy? This means that people could get written up for legitimate one-off illnesses. Am I misreading this somehow?

        Reply
        1. Gilmore67

          If someone calls in more than 4 times with a year yes you start a write up procedure. If you do not call in lets say for 6 months after that and one or more of your call ins is within that time they fall off. So it is not like people are being termed all the time. That is the rolling year.

          We are in healthcare and attendance is essential. I mean like really essentional. The call in’s make a huge negative impact on patient care.

          There are plenty of staff that do not call in , so they do not need to worry. There are plenty of staff that call in all the time and abuse the policy like I descibed in my original post.

          There is one person who did not get termed when they had every right to do so. They gave her a break like 2 times for her abuse of call ins. And guess what…. she is now back to calling in all the time. She also wanted the supervisor to change the schedule so if she called in the next day, she would officially ” be off” so her call-in wouldn’t be a call-in. I mean really? That is not OK.

          Companies have to have some sort of policy for this stuff. And they have to look at individual cases which we do so there is some play room for individual situations, which we do. But the employees can’t
          consistantly call-in and not expect, at one point some action.

          Reply
          1. Ledgerman

            Seems like having sick healthcare workers would also be a big negative impact to patient care! This policy doesn’t seem generous at all, or even addressing best patient outcomes.

            Reply
      3. Gazebo Slayer

        Yeahhh, that’s…. actually not generous at all.

        See the discussion from a few days ago about how crappy and abnormal American labor laws and workplace norms are.

        Reply
  23. justagirl

    How timely! Just today I started developing concern about on of my employee’s pattern of sick day use. I usually don’t track it very closely (our admin keeps official track), but when he called in sick today after being off on Thursday and Friday, it occurred to me that most of his sick days seemed to be before or after weekends. I pulled the logs for last year and this year, and 4/5 days were a Friday or a Monday, with the 5th day being a Thursday of Thursday/Friday back to back sick days

    We are allotted 5 sick days in a year (which runs July-June), and this employee has been here less than a year and now has drained his sick day allotment. My gut instinct is that this is the point to at least have a conversation with him about the pattern (now that I’ve noticed it)- but I also don’t want to veer into appearing to police sick time. My question is- how much of a pattern is a pattern?

    Alison is spot on that I also have other performance related concerns, which I’ve already been addressing head on all along, but as Alison mentions this still feels like a separate issue that I’d want to address even if he was a high performer. Is 5 instances enough of a pattern?

    Reply
    1. I'm A Little TeaPot

      If I read that right, every sick day has resulted in a 4 day weekend. I’d say it’s worth the conversation.

      Reply
      1. justagirl

        2 of the sick days resulted in separate 3 days weekends.

        2 of the sick days (used consecutively on a Thurs/Fri) resulted in a 4 day weekend.

        1 sick day resulted in a 5 day weekend (but Thurs/Fri prior were scheduled vacation).

        Hopefully that makes it a bit more clear- I described it confusingly above.

        Reply
        1. Someone else

          My company has a policy that you can’t use sick time adjacent to vacation time, which sucks if you get sick while on vacation and come home and aren’t allowed to use the sick day…or if you had a scheduled dr appointment the day before going on a trip, both of which have happened to me in the past. Still, I imagine the purpose of the policy is to avoid the 5 day weekend you just described.

          Reply
          1. Perse's Mom

            I don’t think mine has anything about scheduled vacation, but they’ll revoke “free” paid holiday time and make you use PTO for it instead if you call in the day before or after a paid holiday.

            Reply
          2. Julia

            At my first full-time job, after I had taken my first long weekend, I came back on the last day of my PTO and developed a fever for some reason, so I had to call in the next day. After my first ever time off in that job. Luckily I still looked kind of sick the next day (I’m a very pale person), so I don’t think anyone suspected me, but boy was that scary.

            Reply
    2. animaniactoo

      Eh. For a total of 5 sick days, that could be really coincidental. Where I would raise it is if he needs to use another day before the turnover in July.

      Reply
    3. Joielle

      Honestly… five sick days in a year seems so low to me that even if every one is adjacent to a weekend, who cares? Do those five days make that big of an impact on workflow? If yes, then totally fair to address it… but if not, maybe just let the employee use his meager sick time allotment in peace. (I get almost three weeks of sick time per year, though, so maybe I’m the one whose expectations are out of whack. Working for the government has its non-monetary perks.)

      Reply
      1. justagirl

        Yeah I agree it’s low allowance, but I’m glad it’s at least separate from our other PTO pools.

        We used to have unlimited sick days, but when the local government instituted a policy requiring a minimum number of days paid sick days per year (targeting low wage workers who would get no paid sick days), they switched us over to be in line with that government mandated minimums.

        As I said in the earlier post, I generally don’t pay any attention to sick time use at all, but there’s been a pattern with this guy of not always acting in trustworthy ways, so his goodwill bank account with me is rather low. But I appreciate the opposing point of view, as it’s helpful as I try to sort out the right course of action (or non action).

        Reply
    4. she was a fast machine

      Woah, only five sick days since July? That’s amazing that you only get that few days, I would never be able to cut it with that few days, they’d be gone in just a couple months. If it’s really uncommon for your employees to use all five days you could have a talk with him about your work’s culture towards taking sick days and make sure everything was okay with him, but five days off in nine months doesn’t sound that egregious.

      Reply
    5. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

      I’d agree that what you described does seem to constitute a pattern – but that still doesn’t mean that the employee is misuing this sick time. There’s a bunch of posts here explaining legit medical issues that cause a pattern of taking off Mon and/or Fridays.

      Now – yeah, if the employee has other performance related issues it probably does decrease the likelihood of this being medically related, but it’s still possible to be mediocre (or even a pretty bad) employee with one of the many issues that can causes sick use patterns. Or it could be a fluke thing – it’s totally possible for a someone to just happen to have 4/5 sick days in row fall on Mon/Fri.

      I think it’s fine to have a conversation with the employee about the pattern. I’d just also give some thought as to what the actual effect of these absences are and be prepared to with some examples. Does it cause additional work for co-workers, do deadlines get pushed back, do you (as the manager) end having to pick up slack? Why is it actually an issue that the employee is out on Fri/Mon rather than Tues? Focus on the issues the absences cause by being taken as a sick day. What is your goal out of this convo with the employee?

      Reply
    6. soon 2 be former fed

      Five days is pretty skimpy sick leave. If the employee has burned through it already, why bring it up. We get 13 days.

      Reply
  24. Em

    You can also be legitimately sick in a pattern. I had a stretch where every two weeks, I’d get really bad strep throat. I’d go on antibiotics, it would go away, and then it would come back. I was working a job with flex time so I guess lucky for me that it worked out that I kept getting sick on my flex day (every second Friday off). This happened four times in a row before I finally beat it.

    Reply
  25. Bend & Snap

    I always succumbed to the depression/anxiety call-in on Mondays. That type of mental health flare-up around a weekend can’t be unusual.

    Just because there’s a so-called pattern doesn’t mean that the call-ins are frivolous.

    Reply
    1. Future Homesteader

      Yup! By Friday, I’m worn down physically and mentally from a week of work, and as many others have said, Fridays tend to be light days in a lot of workplaces. And on Monday, I might be anxious/stressed/have had a rough weekend that didn’t allow me to recharge. That said, for my particular anxiety, the fear of not going in on Monday and having to deal with a mess on Tuesday means I’m more likely to just fantasize about calling in. Then on Fridays I’m more likely to stay home.

      Reply
  26. RubyJackson

    My manager almost always calls in sick on Monday with a migraine. Never any other day of the week. We’ve dubbed these “Migraine Mondays.”

    Reply
    1. Jennifer Thneed

      I’ll bet your manager has a migraine trigger that they aren’t aware of, that’s a food they enjoy mostly on weekends.

      (Story time: My wife gets migraines from rosemary, poor thing. For years growing up she had sick headaches anytime someone made lamb, but nobody put those together. As an adult, she figured out that rosemary was problematic for her, and then she remembered childhood afternoons of smelling the lamb roasting and ending up on the couch with a sick headache and she finally understood why.)

      Reply
  27. Bea

    Our delightful state law with mandatory sick leave time denies employers the right to start probing into this kind of thing. So I’m flinching at the idea of bringing it up unless their leave pot is empty.

    I get sick on the weekends. I start slowing down and if I’ve got something in there brewing it gets me on a Thursday night or Friday afternoon.

    We also have a bug going around the office. I prefer everyone stay home instead of the 5hrs they’ll trudge through with and needing to call it short. Leading to more of our team getting the gnarly cough and sneezes we’re passing around right now.

    Reply
  28. Princess partypants

    At my previous job there was an employee (Queen Partytimes) who regularly (every 2-3 weeks) was “sick” on Mondays. That would have been all good had she not been sending snapchats of herself doing shots of tequila at 6pm on sunday… We came around to calling it the Molson Flu.
    At the same company, there was a notice that would go out every morning announcing who was sick/on vacation that day, and who would have unusual hours (e.g. Princess Maccabee, will be in late at 10am, King Skeletton, leaving early at 3, etc.).
    One day the notice went out that Queen Partytime would be leaving at 3pm (for the third time this week), to which she made a big show of following up with a company wide email saying that she was NOT leaving early, that she was outraged that people would be spreading lies, etc.
    At 3pm on the dot she left the office, and as the practice goes an email went out announcing that she was “feeling sick”. And the snapchats of her at happy hours followed pretty quickly

    Reply
  29. Sam

    Two thoughts:

    Do mental health days count as sick days? I could see why people would take mental health days more often on Mon/Fri. For example, having an exhausting weekend with your 2 little kids, and desperately needing a day of rest and self-care on Monday while they’re at daycare.

    Being hungover IS being sick, regardless of whether it was self-inflicted. I think it’s a legit reason to use a sick day once or twice a year.

    Reply
  30. The Southern Gothic

    I am the employee that has gotten to pick up the slack for the last two years when my co-worker (now my supervisor) calls in sick Mondays and Fridays and the day before and after holidays.

    In fact, she called in sick today.

    My SO and I have resorted to making a joke out of it – we call it “Melissing” (my supervisor’s name is Mel) as in “guess who is Melissing today?”

    Not a morale builder when you are the second most senior person in the department and even the new people are noticing this as a pattern. My response to them is “Yes, I’ve noticed it too. I trust management is aware”.

    Reply
    1. azvlr

      Wow! I’m glad you’re not my manager. The OP did not mention that there were performance issues, and an employee’s performance is seldom tied time off on specific days of the week.
      I am reading scores of legitimate reasons why people frequently take time off that just happen to extend the weekend. In one of my very low-paying teaching jobs, I frequently took Wednesday days off. Payday was on Thursday and I didn’t have the gas money sometimes to make it to work until Thursday. Principal never bothered to ask why and that actually bothered me more than if he had cared enough to find out.

      Reply
  31. she was a fast machine

    Hey, I relate to this deeply. I have chronic severe insomnia and have for most of my life and have been under treatment for years and have taken well over two dozen different medications for it, most of which have not worked out. Monday mornings are the actual worst. I can never sleep Sunday night, no matter what I try, and inevitably call in on a lot of Monday mornings, grab a couple of hours of sleep around 7-9am and head into work between 10am and 11am. It sucks beyond belief and I am acutely aware of how it looks; like I can’t control myself on the weekends, that I’m a partier or that I’m irresponsible or flagrant about needing sleep.

    Thankfully my current job is largely understanding and they’ve seen my struggles with sleep day in and day out so it’s not as bad as past jobs, but it is horrible to know that you’re not as reliable as you wish you could be. I’ve had bosses bring it up and I explain how many treatments I’ve tried and my ongoing efforts to solve it, but all conversations end with a “well I hope you fix it soon!” which…sucks. Thankfully no boss has ever asked for doctor’s notes or taken actual action over it, but it’s depressing to say the least, especially when I love my job and my work so much and I want them to know that my troubles have nothing to do with my work ethic or my love for the job.

    /overshare

    In reality though, I recognize that my situation is pretty extremely abnormal and most people who are taking off like that are doing it for frivolous reasons. Though amusingly enough I just had a conversation with a coworker who, when she was on chemo, would have her treatments on Thursday, take off that afternoon and then Friday and sometimes part of Monday to deal with the exhaustion and nausea and stuff. So that’s also a possibility. I just definitely encourage you to keep in mind this employee and any health issues you might or might not know about.

    Reply
    1. Manders

      That pattern of having a hard time sleeping on Sunday night and not being up for work on Monday is actually a pretty common one with insomnia. Sometimes anticipating a stressful week ahead makes it hard to sleep, other times your sleep patterns get thrown off over the weekend and it’s hard to get back in the groove. So it’s not something you should feel bad about.

      Reply
      1. she was a fast machine

        I appreciate that; I don’t have much interaction with other sufferers of chronic insomnia so it’s nice to hear I’m not the only one struggling with this particular maladaptation. As for the feeling bad part…I doubt that will ever go away! But it’s nice to feel less lonely.

        Reply
  32. Office Drone

    Our office admin called out sick 26 days last calendar year (And then took a planned two week vacation on top of that). And, we’re in early April and she’s already called out 5 days this year. I’m not her boss. It’s frustrating when someone misses that much time.

    Reply
    1. beanie beans

      It’s frustrating, but if she really is sick, or worse, has a serious illness, it’s probably pretty frustrating to her also.

      Also, no one should have to sacrifice their vacation time because illness has kept them out of work.

      5 days so far this year doesn’t sound that crazy – between cold season and a flu season that was literally killing people, I am fine with covering for people so they can stay home and not get the rest of the office sick.

      Reply
      1. Anon for this

        Am I the only person out there who’s fine with sacrificing my vacation because I’ve been ill? I just don’t like the optics of taking all my non-sick-day PTO and then getting sick on top of that – it makes people think you’re gaming the system.

        Reply
        1. beanie beans

          I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t want to give up my vacation because I was sick, or in the hospital, or my kid was. And if my coworkers think I’m gaming the system, then I have crappy coworkers. I shouldn’t have to sacrifice my vacation because my office has trust issues.

          This probably varies widely by industry and profession, but if I’m in a professional setting I want to be treated like a professional and not like a kid skipping school.

          Reply
        2. Tau

          The logical consequence of this argument is that (for instance) someone struggling with a chronic illness should not be able to take any vacation, ever. This seems unfair, to put it mildly.

          Reply
        3. RobM

          I don’t think my staff are gaming the system if they’re ill and also would like a vacation. My director has never said “You know how you’ve booked that cruise in June? What about the time you had flu in Feb? How do we square those off against each other?”

          I’m sorry if you apparently work in a place where that happens.

          Reply
        4. The OG Anonsie

          I mind quite a bit, personally. Sick leave is not vacation fun time, it’s not time “off” in the same respect. Being sick or being out and working forever without being able to take actual breaks is a nightmare, you never get rest the way other people do even though you need it exactly as much. I’ve done it before out of necessity and it’s quality of life killer.

          I also mind the concept that getting sick around a time you’ve already requested time off is suspicious. Like… I don’t follow the logic here at all. You put in a PTO request in advance, you happen to get sick… How would lying about being sick benefit you? If you wanted another day, wouldn’t you have, I dunno, just requested that day off when you requested the other one? What’s the story people are weaving in their imaginations here?

          Reply
    2. Bea

      So that’s 2.1667 days per month, she’s on pace to have 1.25 at this rate if it keeps up, we accrue at about a 1.25 a month rate so I’m really not seeing the problem unless she’s bad at her job ir creating more work for others.

      I’ve had admin jobs where I’m just paid to be available. So if I’m out 2 days a month, I catch up the next day and go back to sitting and waiting.

      Reply
      1. Julia

        This. My last job could be so slow sometimes that not being there for a day (sometimes a week) meant I finally had a normal amount of work when I came back in.

        Reply
  33. Ghost Town

    I called in sick today after powering through most of last week.

    My husband has had several Monday illnesses over the past year. He legitimately is not feeling well and spends the day sleeping, but I wonder if his office believe him.

    Reply
  34. Anon.

    I thought most modern timekeeping systems tracked day trends by employee. Even with our home-grown really pretty awful timesheet system, that’s an easy report to get run.

    Reply
  35. Recently Diagnosed

    I’m glad that Alison cautioned you, OP. I myself have been accused of being sick on Mondays. The things is, I have a condition directly related to my reproductive system. I’m on birth control for treatment, as there is no cure. As such, my period is highly regulated to help treat the condition. However, if I AM going to have a flare up, it is going to be on the first day or so of my highly regulated periods. Which just happen to fall on Mondays. Boy, that was a fun conversation to have with my male boss and male coworker who made this accusation.

    Reply
    1. Julia

      Yeah, before I got diagnosed with endometriosis, I had a stretch like that. Now I just take a sort of pill so that I don’t menstruate ever, and it’s so freeing to be pain-free.

      Reply
  36. Occasionally Consumptive

    This is why i’m too afraid to call in sick on mondays or fridays. And then other days I worry I’ll be sicker the next day so I go to work anyway. And then eventually it’s Friday again and two weeks later my cough sounds like a flock of geese, my boss asks if I need to go home but I don’t want to leave too early and look unreliable and then by 2 PM I might as well finish out the day.

    I kind of wish I had better judgment of when it’s okay to call out.

    Reply
    1. Squeeble

      Oh yeah, that’s the flip side of this issue for sure! Any time I need to take a sick day on a Monday or Friday, I’m so scared of looking like a flake.

      Reply
    2. Bea

      This is why policing sick time use should stop. Unless absences create performance issues, let adults make decisions and trust it’s the right one.

      Only if someone isn’t up to standards workwise does it make sense to look back and say “wow you’ve missed every third Friday, is there something I should know about? I’m concerned with the work your putting out, how can we fix it?”

      I’m sorry that this workplace nannying of sorts has put you on edge and impacted how you take care of yourself.

      Reply
    3. Earthwalker

      Me too but this bugs me. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday it’s important that you stay home if you are sick so that you don’t spread what you have to everyone else in the office, but if you’re sick on Monday or Friday you should be sure to infect everyone else. If you come in on time and cough and sniffle enough that everyone knows you’re not faking, then you can go home early. I always felt like that was a sort of an unwritten rule.

      Reply
  37. Serious Sam

    One of our sites had an employee with a strange pattern of sick leave. Until they noticed that it coincided with his local (UK) Premier League football team. Whenever they had a weekend away game, he was sick on the following Monday. When It was an international match, he’d be sick the following Monday & Tuesday. At the time the company sick leave policy was generous, with unlimited days below 6 months in a year, and no requirement for a note for any single block of 5 days or less, so he got away with it for quite a while.

    Reply
  38. Retired from Retail

    Could this person have a part time job in retail–in a store, restaurant, or fast food? If you have a weekend job in a store, the employer might have a big sale going on and expect you to put in more hours before or after the sale in addition to your regular hours.

    Reply
  39. Amy S

    Are there any performance issues with the employee? Are they placing an unnecessary burden on coworkers? Are they missing deadlines? Are they using more sick time than allotted? If the answer is no to any of these I wouldn’t worry too much about it. If they are a great employee otherwise and just happen to miss a few Fridays or Mondays , it would be a shame to lose them due to nitpicking their sick days.

    Reply
  40. Bookworm

    Document it like others say. I did not work directly with someone who did stuff similar to this but I had a friend who did before I started. Last straw came was when he took an entire weekend off during our scenario-testing run through. Apparently he felt he didn’t need to come in and do the drills like everyone else and he was fired shortly thereafter.

    Luckily we did manage on our game day so it were but coming in on that weekend to specifically do a run through was expected (although not explicitly stated). Theoretically it could have been a total disaster and it had been in the past years. You’ll want to be sure you’ve got evidence to back up if and when you end up confronting the person about it and avoid any possible major problems or projects left hanging, etc. Good luck!

    Reply
  41. Argh!

    A lot of companies no longer distinguish between sick & vacation time for reasons like this. Some people get sick more, and some people have weekend adventures that they want to leave for on Friday. I used to work in an organization that wouldn’t allow more than two “personal days.” Vacation had to be taken in multi-day groups otherwise. We had a lot of “sick” people call in that would probably have preferred to plan their leave in advance. I hope they’ve cut that out. It was a pain.

    Reply
  42. lnelson1218

    Many years ago, I worked at a place where the time keeping software actually had a feature or not just tracking how many hours someone was out sick, but also on what days. Easier to see if someone always called out on a Friday or Monday.
    Yes, there can be a reason for sick days always on a particular day of the week as Alison suggested. But it is “interesting” that over five years a person called in sick 50% of the time on a Monday and 50% on a Friday. Assuming there are a lot of sick today.

    The person who had 80% of sick days on Tuesday all 5 of them over seven years didn’t raise as many eyebrows.

    Reply
    1. cncx

      this is me. i hate calling in on mondays or fridays, tuesdays i have something i need to be out of the house for, ditto thursdays, so if i am calling in sick is is almost exclusively on a wednesday. i’m sure if my sick days were tracked they would be 99 percent wednesdays. the flip side to that, i guess, is my boss knows that if i call in on a monday or a friday i am really bad off.

      Reply
  43. Rachael

    I used to have a couple of coworkers who did this. We worked at a bank where we handled customer calls and they just thought that nobody would notice. However, everyone did. I know that a lot of people are commenting that “as long as they get the job done” …but people still do this in jobs where their duty has to be covered by someone else. If I am stretched already doing my own job duty and I have to do someone else’s, and I notice that it is usually on a Friday or Monday, then I am going to get in their business and complain to the boss.

    If you have a medical issue that keeps you out of work and it does impact your coworkers (even if you don’t think it does….it does) then you should let your boss know that you have a medical issue. In my case, I knew that their issue was “a case of the Monday’s…or Fridays”…and if I knew to expect that they might be absent then I would not resent them as much. I wouldn’t even need ANY specifics…just that it was cleared with the boss and that there may be a chance that I would have to cover them on those days. That is so much better than rolling in on Monday and finding out that, once again, I would have to cover for someone.

    (For those who believe that medical issues are nobody’s business, I agree. I don’t need to know any specifics. However, it is my business if I don’t know anything and I’m being stressed out regularly on Fridays and Mondays and getting cranky about it. It affects my work day and it affects my home life if I’m constantly covering for someone.)

    Reply
    1. Bea

      I think if your duties drop into a co-workers lap and therefore customers don’t get top rate service because you can only do so much, then it’s impacting performance and they do not pass the “doing their jobs” assessment!

      See if I’m out every Friday it’s going to annoy only my boss because we schedule a check run that day. Every other Monday is up for grabs though due to how the projects run.

      It vastly differs. If I was out on any day at my old job it was like all hell broke loose and I was commanding the ship via text and email all day. Siiiigh. No good day to get the flu on that boat.

      Reply
  44. Roscoe

    Its very possible there is something shady, and very possible that its just life. Fridays and Mondays together make up 40% of the work week, so it kind of makes sense that people will be sick those days. Add that to the fact that if I’m not feeling great on Wednesday evening, I may push through Thursday so I can get 3 days of rest while only taking one actual sick day. That is a normal thing to do. I think people like you make too much a deal of people being out sick on a Monday or Friday. If the issue is she is taking too much sick leave, than that is valid. But taking sick days on days that you don’t like, that is something else.

    Reply
  45. Wintermute

    A lot of people have given you some great advice, I would sum it up all in one as:

    1) Check your facts, there’s 5 days in a week so if sick days are perfectly distributed then 40% of them will be on monday and friday, that’s statistically perfect normal. The human brain is a pattern machine, so it loves to make patterns where none exist

    2) Some facts about how illness works skew those numbers a bit. Some people spend more time with their kids on weekends, kids that go to the thunderdome-for-germs we call school where all sorts of pathogens get to duke it out king-of-the-hill style to see who gets to make you camp out on the bathroom rug. With most viri having a 48-72 hour incubation period, that means kids grubby hands + Friday dinner means Monday misery. For other people, they don’t go out as much on weekends so they’re most likely to be exposed during the workweek, often meaning they get sick on the weekend and have to miss Monday, or get exposed to the germ du jour Monday morning, are suffering by Thursday and out Friday.

    3) Recurring medical appointments, or even occasional ones, can be easier to get for mondays and fridays because no one wants one on a friday and on a monday they haven’t had to bump people later into the week yet becasue of emergencies and delays.

    4) THE HUMAN BRAIN WANTS TO SEE A PATTERN and it will go to the extent of seeing Jesus in burnt toast and all sorts of crazy things… make sure there is a pattern and that the pattern can’t be explained easily by anything above

    Reply
    1. The OG Anonsie

      Agreed. And when you include the Thursday afternoons she’s also mentioned, we’re talking about a full 50% of the week.

      Reply
  46. Popcorn Lover

    I tend to schedule doctor/dentist appointments on Fridays, because that’s our slowest day. Also, when I was getting dental work done, I preferred getting through the worst of the pain over the weekend, so that I wouldn’t need the painkillers as much at work. If half-days were an option, I’d use that, but the system is all or nothing.

    Reply
  47. Pomona Sprout

    I was very glad to see that Alison strongly discouraged requiring doctor’s notes to document sick leave. One of my old old oldjobs had that requirement, and it was ridiculous. We could take up to 3 sick days a year without a doctor’s note, but in reality, most of us ended up turning in a doctor’s note almost every time we got sick. I thin5k a lot us livd in fear of using up our quota of non-note days and were afraid to take any chances.

    At that time, I had asthma that wasn’t well controlled, which turned every respiratory infection I caught into a hellacious bout of bronchitis, PLUS I had a toddler who was always catching some bug at her daycare and giving all of said bugs to me and her father (which was the genesis of a lot of thsose bouts if bronchitis). Every time she was too sick to go to daycare and/or I felt too lousy to go to work meant a trip to the doctor, which besides being a royal pita was usually totally unnecessary from a medical standpoint. (I still wonder how much all those unnecessary doctor’s visits drove up the insurance premiums.)

    Imo, policies like that are impractal, unrealistic, medically unsound, and send a message that an employer regards its employees as irresponsible and untrustworthy chilfdren who need to be closely policed. Afaithe only people who like such rules are bosses who regard their workplace as their personal fiefdom and employees as their serfs, over whom they enjoy wielding an unwarranted amount of power. Fortunately, such employers are not the majority, but unfortunately, they do exist. In the case where I experienced this, the doctor’s note rule was one of many that were holdovers from a previous regime and were gradually phased out during the time I worked here (thank god).

    Reply
  48. tangerineRose

    I keep thinking about a time I got sick on the evening of the last day of a week vacation. I was new to the job, and I kept thinking “They’re going to think I’m making it up!” Was sick enough that I had to call anyway. Everyone was OK with it.

    Reply
    1. SallyForth

      I was dreadfully ill on the first day of my new job after a promotion. I was sure people would think it was nerves and waited until 8 but finally had to call in. Someone had to drop by to pick up materials, so he saw just how sick I was. I think his assurances to all and sundry about how bad I looked was almost worse than people thinking I was faking it!

      Reply
  49. GM

    I was interested to see the advice and responses on this as it has been happening in my team. As advised, we did pull up the reports and 2 team members showed a pattern that was pretty easy to spot. We had the required conversations and I see some improvement. Its not something I like to police, but also stands to reason that one can’t be sick every time just when the weekend rolls around.

    Reply
    1. Kate the Great

      Excellent. Now you’re much more likely to have sick employees coming into work and getting others sick. Better make sure those new sick people don’t get sick on weekend-adjacent days either.

      Reply
      1. Canadian Teapots

        Thing is, I’ve worked in some industrial environments where job security was pretty solid, and in those environments you could almost always count on That One Person booking off work on payday right before a long weekend. In fact a supervisor in that realm once told me they made a point of having alternate workers on standby because it was virtually a certainty that $EMPLOYEE would Do The “Sick Day” Thing.

        Reply
  50. Seth

    It’s the employee’s sick time to take as they wish, they’re not violating any policy and any there’s no evidence and only weak reasons (when she’s sick it tends to fall on 3/5 of the work week) to think they’re abusing the policy. Addressing the “issue” is a de facto accusation that she’s lying, and will make the situation worse. Don’t do it.

    Reply
  51. ProducerGal

    I had to check to see if I wrote this in my sleep! We have a coworker who has these ‘tragedies’ almost weekly, but only on the day of our weekly staff meeting. She either calls in or avoids it altogether due to some unforeseen, unavoidable tragedy that only she (and not her SAHH) can handle. It’s ridiculous, and even our boss rolls his eyes at the excuses, but he does nothing. She just gets special rules.

    Reply
  52. Safely Retired

    One more point on Doctor’s notes. If I want to see my regular GP, who knows me and has decades of my history available, I can make an appointment. That appointment will be to see him in a a couple of weeks. To get a note for today I would have to go to a walk-in clinic that I have never set foot in before and talk to a doctor who doesn’t know me or have my records.

    Reply
  53. Working Hypothesis

    Kudos to Alison for pointing out that there can be legitimate medical reasons for the pattern — even if it’s a genuine pattern. I would be one of those people who had a reason for it.

    I’ve got a chronic illness which causes a good deal of pain and fatigue. When I’m hitting a wall from exhaustion, it takes me a good 2-3 days in bed to recover enough to go back into a normal working life. Because of this, if at all possible, I try really hard to “schedule” my falling-over for weekends! That way, I have to take fewer sick days in total — better for me (because I don’t run out), better for my clients (because I have to reschedule fewer of them) and better for my workplace, because I’m out many fewer days.

    When I know that I’m going to need more than two days’ recovery time to be functional, I’ll still try and gut it out till the weekend, but I’ll either take Friday off to make it a longer weekend or I’ll try to get enough better on the weekend to come in Monday but sometimes not make it, and have to call in sick for Monday in order to finish resting. I’m not vacationing during these weekends — I’m in bed, usually on round-the-clock sleep medication to force-feed my body the rest it needs to get well. But it’s definitely something I try to do on a weekend, even if I sometimes need to make it a long weekend, because it’s best for everyone that I take three days in bed when two of them are days I’d have off anyway, rather than three days in bed from Tuesday through Thursday.

    Reply
  54. The OG Anonsie

    Well for one, this letter is describing absences on a solid 50% of the week, so this isn’t exactly a concerning pattern by itself.

    But let’s say this is happening a lot. I’m a little iffy on Alison’s approach because, if it is illness, I think it’s unlikely that she’s going to be able to give a compelling explanation in the first place. Like, I have a chronic illness and I tend to have a harder time with it on a pretty regular pattern, but “I dunno I guess those are the days I’m most often not feeling well” isn’t going to fly despite being entirely true. Or if you’re like a lot of other commenters and pick up kid bugs midweek, or try to push it as far through the week as possible, or whatever, it’s gonna sound anemic as a response to this kind of question from your manager even if it’s entirely reasonable.

    I’m also kind of uncomfortable with the approach of laying the days out as a problem that you’re alerting her to and not really offering anything else. It seems like a neutral approach, but if she’s actually having an issue for which she needs support (not just something like mine, say there’s something else going on in personal life that she’s taking care of) this is likely to make her feel like she’s just being reprimanded and “excuses” are not being accepted. Remember the letter about an employee’s baby brain from that manager a few weeks ago, where we were talking about people new to needing help just pushing it and pushing it trying to stay at 100% and burning out instead? That’s true for pregnancy and illness, but also for any other disruptive life issues that could crop up. If she’s having a new problem arising here it may be reasonable for the LW and the employee to be making some specific arrangements/accommodations/whatever, but that’s not what the employee in this situation is going to take away from this exchange. She’s likely to feel like thats’ off the table and then fall into the push-and-crash trap.

    I think a better approach is to do two things: One, assess if this actually matters at all other than because it annoys you. If so (if it disrupts deadlines or whathaveyou), point that out by itself. Highlight the impact this has on others and ask if she’s ok, if there’s something she needs to be able to meet her goals… See what she says about the situation that way. If it is really a non-issue for her that she hasn’t noticed before, she’ll still be alerted and able to address it. But if it is something for which she actually needs support, she’s more likely to feel like she can actually ask for that when given this kind of opening.

    Reply
  55. Flying Fish

    I’m so glad to see the condemning of doctor notes for sick days. I’m a PA in a specialty office, so I get these requests. It’s easy when it’s something that warranted a visit, but the rest of the time we’re just rubber stamping what the patient told us. How am I supposed to vouch that someone was sick just because they left a message that they were? My note stating that, “Timmy has a chronic [specialty] condition and reports that it flared yesterday” proves nothing and Timmy could just as easily lie to me as to his employer.

    Reply

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