when is it okay to call in sick?

If your office is like most at this time of year, it’s probably full of coughing and sneezing coworkers, or the empty desks of people who are out sick. The question of how to handle sick leave stresses workers out more than it should, so here are answers to some of your most common questions about sick leave – including when it’s okay to call in sick, whether you should be expected to work from home when you’re ill, and more.

When is it reasonable to call in sick?

Ideally, you should be able to call in sick whenever you don’t feel you’re well enough to be productive at work or when dragging yourself out of bed and into your office will make you feel worse than you already do. In practice, some people don’t mind working when they’re under the weather, and others just want to get into bed with a cup of tea and watch game shows. It’s really a personal judgment call.

Additionally, if you’re contagious, you should try to stay at home regardless of the factors above. Your coworkers won’t appreciate you spreading germs, and some of them may be immunocompromised or going home to family members who are.

What if your workplace or boss discourages you from taking sick time?

If you work somewhere that frowns on sick days unless you’re hospitalized (and maybe even then!), your workplace has a serious culture and management issue. There are very few roles where disaster will strike if someone takes a day or two off to rest, and requiring sick people to come to work is unkind, short-sighted, and potentially dangerous to their and their coworkers’ health.

What about working from home instead of coming in?

In many jobs, it’s reasonable to work from home instead of coming into the office when you’re sick. It has the advantage of not exposing others to your germs and allowing you to work in cozy pajamas, wrapped in a blanket. Of course, this isn’t an option for everyone. If your role requires your physical presence (for example, if you’re the receptionist or work in a retail store), or if you work somewhere that has a culture opposed to telecommuting, this might not be feasible. But in an increasing number of offices, working from home when under the weather is perfectly reasonable.

It’s important to note, though, that you shouldn’t offer to work from home when you really should be taking a sick day and not working at all. Many American workers increasingly feel that they have to work no matter how sick they are; that’s bad for their health and for their productivity. Working from home with a cold might be easy to do, but there’s a point where you really just need to take the day off and not think about work (things like the flu and food poisoning fall in this category). Plus, paid sick leave is part of your overall compensation and benefits package, so if you need it, take it.

What should you do if you’re too sick to be at work but your boss expects you to work anyway?

Be straightforward with your boss. Explain that you’re too ill to work, and make it clear what people should and shouldn’t expect from you that day. If in your office, “out sick” generally means that you’re still working from home, be explicit when you call in, saying something like, “I’m taking a sick day today. I’m sick enough that I won’t be checking email or otherwise working.”

What you don’t have paid sick leave?

Consider pushing to change that! Point out to your employer that having no sick leave means that employees will come to work sick and make other employees sick – and customers too. And there’s safety in numbers, so consider speaking up as a group with other coworkers.

What should managers do to encourage good sick leave practices among employees?

For starters, managers should make it clear that they don’t want sick people at work. That means sending people home if they come in obviously ill, not penalizing people for using sick days, and setting the right example by staying home themselves when they’re sick.

Moreover, employers shouldn’t require doctor’s notes from ill employees, since colds and flus generally don’t require a doctor’s care. Requiring doctor’s notes discourages employees from staying home when they’re sick, is an unneeded burden on sick employees (who will have to drag themselves to a doctor when a few days of resting in bed will cure them), drives up health care costs by pushing people to make unnecessary medical visits, and signals that you don’t trust your employees to behave responsibly. Of course, if an employee is abusing their sick leave, managers can address that, but blanket doctor’s notes policies penalize everyone.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 202 comments… read them below }

  1. Michele*

    My first few jobs were at places that discouraged or would threaten to fire over taking sick days (which I later learned was completely illegal, especially since I worked in restaurants). I developed the messed up idea that you drag yourself into work no matter how sick you were. As I have gotten older, I have gotten smarter. If I need a sick day, I take it. I don’t abuse them, but especially if I feel feverish or otherwise unable to drive safely, I stay home. My work ethic should speak for itself, and I don’t think I should have to prove myself by coming into work sick.

    1. ism*

      Almost my entire work history was spent in jobs like that. I got fired for being out sick for too many days at more than one job. If you were out sick for too long (not getting paid, natch) and couldn’t produce a doctor’s note (uninsured, natch) then they got rid of you. I am still having trouble getting out of that mentality now that I’m earning PTO in my new job. Before I was converted to a regular employee, I was actually at risk of getting fired for being out sick too many days over my allotment as a temp. The sick days were not in a row, I just had some really crappy luck with migraines during my first few months.

      1. BeenThere*

        As someone who just experienced the rare two day migraine you have my sympathy. Mine also tend to show up at the start of a new job.

        1. Brooke*

          Same here. It’s been to the point where my temperature was 102 and I couldn’t sit up for one second without feeling dizzy or nauseous. I’ve called in 3 times in one month, thanks to the lovely visits of the migraines. My manager seriously asked me “are you kidding me?” I said “no. I’m not” and I asked if I could make it up tomorrow if I felt better. She said “actually no you cannot, you need a doctor’s note to return to work” that’s a problem because the hospital is closed right now due to flooding. Just my luck.

      2. KW*

        I had a long-time job (25+ years) with a company that gave us lenient sick leave, but penalized us if we took it. For example, yearly awards were given to employees who achieved outstanding results on a project AND put in extra hours at work. So if the employee happened to take sick leave, their number of hours didn’t add up to more than regular hours, so that employee was disqualified from getting an award.

    2. Anx*

      Wait…this is illegal!?

      What state do you live in (if in the US). At my prior jobs return to work required a doctor’s note. Which of course was silly because ignoring the finances of it, you have to miss as many days as it takes to get the appointment in addition to the ones you missed.

  2. Bwmn*

    I have to strongly recommend the notion of managers themselves displaying reasonable use of sick days. Where I currently work we have 10 sick days, and one of my managers will always work from home rather than taking a sick day.

    I’m not his manager and make no comment on how much he’s actually working – but as someone working underneath him it sets a very confusing example. When I have taken a sick day, if I get an email or two that can receive a response – I’ll usually do that, but I’m also taking the full sick day and definitely not working a full day. Now whether or not my boss is just lucky to only ever get mild colds, or he feels better working through illness, or he’s abusing/semi-abusing the telework policy is completely unclear. What I do know is that he never takes sick days and just takes “unscheduled telework days”.

    He has kids and I get wanting to not blow through sick days….but the example he’s setting is confusing at best in regards to what company culture is regarding sick days.

    1. periwinkle*

      To be fair, there are days when I’m feeling well enough to work but not well enough to drag myself into the office. There’s flat-on-your-back sick and then there’s “I should stay close to a bathroom just in case” sick. In the latter case, I’d rather get work done.

      1. Helka*

        And the latter case can include “I’m fine to work but I won’t be able to commute” situations — especially true if you have a long drive or take public transit. If you’re needing to get to that bathroom on an unpredictable but very regular basis, an hour on a bus is… not a great idea, to say the least.

        1. jag*

          I was about to say exactly what periwinkle and Helka said. Sick is not a binary state of being able to work 100% or not working at all.

        2. Nashira*

          Nor is a 2-3 minute walk to the nearest bathroom, once you’re AT work. I know this from my learnings, aka ulcerative colitis and four rounds of C. difficile.

          But as my manager so helpfully explained to me, recently, a warm body in my chair is the important thing to the client, no matter how sick I am. (I’m a clerk by the way, with no utterly urgent work. My manager is awful.)

          1. Swedish Tekanna*

            I have known a few managers like that. Usually they are the kind that don’t lead by example – i.e. throw the book at you if you are ill, but work from home or stay in bed if they are ill.

            Besides which, a manager who actually wants infections passed round the workplace is something else – and if they want an office seat filled at any cost that is what it comes down to.

        3. Dynamic Beige*

          I once had some weird illness that lasted about 4 weeks. I wasn’t sick in any way that showed, no runny nose, fever, coughs, frequent running for the bathroom but my almost hour commute would completely wipe me out in a way I had never experienced before. I mean, I got in one day and felt so bad I had to lay down on the floor for an hour (we had no couches), then got up and drove back home. Without the drive, I was fine and could work, the drive just annihilated me. So I did a bad thing, I was on a project that just required a bunch of rote work with no urgent deadline, I cleared it with the people on my team to whom I had been reporting, and took my computer home (computers were freakish expensive in those days and I didn’t have one of my own). A few weeks of working like that, and I was good enough to do the commute again but I was in trouble because I hadn’t cleared it with the “right” people. There were no formal procedures in place to cover something like that and they frowned on telework as it was a brand new thing — as much as they claimed later they would have approved it, I doubt they would have.

      2. Bwmn*

        I completely get that – but I’m just saying that it presents to the people you manage as a bit more obscure. There was a time a few months ago when this manager took two of these unscheduled telework days in a row. Now I’m not evaluating the work he’s doing or how sick he was, but the optics of working under him regarding sick days (and honestly telework days as well) does get confusing.

        Our office also doesn’t have an actual telework policy (another aspect that doesn’t help) – so it creates a bizarre illusion. Our sick days are completely separate from any other PTO and don’t carry over. Ending the year with 0 sick days or 10 has no impact. If he were never out sick, then that would be one thing – but he operates in this gray area that does give a confused impression.

    2. puddin*

      My manager calls in sick and tells people he is using a vacation day to do so. I had to clarify with him if that was his expectation of me (and the rest of the dept). He explained that it was not – especially since he had 5 weeks of vacation compared to the 2 weeks everyone else did.

    3. Bonnie*

      I know exactly what you are talking about. We had one manager who always sent an email to the everyone saying she didn’t feel well and was working from home. After about four of these, every email we got from younger staff members had the same wording. We actually had to sit them down and explain that we didn’t expect them to work while they were sick.

  3. NickelandDime*

    My manager is adamant that if you are sick, please stay home. He RARELY emails or calls me if I’m out, unless it is something serious, and the times he did, it was DEFINITELY serious! I think it is office culture. People are ridiculed and treated badly if they come to work here infecting their coworkers. Lots of people here have kids, or have had serious illnesses (cancer), so coming to work sick is no no.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      hahaha… I regularly send out e-mails encouraging people to nicely peer-pressure their co-workers into staying home. It only sort-of works.

    2. Hlyssande*

      Wish that happened here. We get 5 days of paid sick time (which is wonderful and a rarity, I know), and I have a coworker who prides himself on never ever taking one even if he’s clearly sick.

      Meanwhile, I ran out last year due to multiple day migraines and other illnesses, and apparently our policy is that you can’t substitute vacation days for sick days even when you have 3 weeks of banked vacation.

  4. Ellen Fremedon*

    So, my new job says in the employee handbook that they don’t offer paid sick leave, and I don’t really understand how this works for me as an exempt employee. Every other job I’ve had, I’ve either had sick leave or been non-exempt; and I haven’t needed to take a sick day yet, so I haven’t seen how it plays out in my paycheck.

    As I understand it, being exempt means that if I work during a pay period, I get my full salary for that time, which I take to mean that they *can’t* dock my pay if I need to take a sick day; but if that’s the case, I don’t really understand what ‘no paid sick leave’ even means. Can they require me to make up all of the time before the end of the pay period? That won’t always be possible.

    (And, yes, I know my manager ought to be able to explain this to me, but I’ve already asked enough questions about leave policy in my first months on the job that I feel like I’m coming across as a slacker. You can assume everything you need to know about the company culture from that; I’m not job-searching yet, but when I do, work-life balance will be why.)

    1. Cake Wad*

      Do you have PTO (paid time off) rather than days that are specifically earmarked for vacation, sick, personal, etc? If so, you would use your PTO for sick days just as you would for any kind of time out of work.

      1. Ellen Fremedon*

        That was my first assumption, but I asked a coworker that and she said no, it’s not a general PTO pool. But she only told me who to notify if I need a sick day, not how to charge it on my timesheet. (And the handbook refers to vacation days, not PTO, and says they need to be approved two weeks in advance.)

        1. MinB*

          Is it possible the handbook is out of date? I just helped my Executive Director update our handbook (she made edits, I formatted it) and the process didn’t seem to involve the ED actually rereading the entire handbook and updating everything, just updating a few specific things. A lot of areas that needed updates were skipped.

          According to our now technically updated handbook, there are no paid holidays and there’s a furlough period in December, but the actual policy as it’s enforced is different and more reasonable. I’d ask around if I were you to find out if the actual policy matches the handbook.

        2. Lanya*

          We have PTO, but if we use the time as an unplanned sick day, it gets recorded differently than if we use it for vacation.

    2. Michele*

      If you don’t want to ask your manager, can you contact HR? Do the non-exempt employees get a certain number of sick or personal days? If so, there is probably an unofficial policy that you shouldn’t exceed that number.

      1. Ellen Fremedon*

        No sick or personal days for anyone; just vacation days and holidays. And there’s not really an HR department; it’s a small company.

        1. Payroll Lady*

          I have worked for a few company with no paid sick time policies for exempt employees. Except in very limited circumstances (out for the whole work week) an exempt employee must be paid his salary for each week in which he works. One of the few exceptions, would be a day off for personal reasons (ie Vacation or personal day) once the employee has no more time to take. An exempt employee can not be docked for taking a sick day.

          1. Ellen Fremedon*

            So unless I need to be out for a whole pay period, it shouldn’t be an issue? That’s reassuring, thank you.

            1. HR Madness*

              Our company has a similar policy if you are exempt. If you need a sick day, you just take it and we won’t dock your pay (as long as it’s not a full week). We are working on the assumption that as an exempt employee you will essentially make up that time at some point. And we address it only if it starts to look like it’s being abused.

              However, I would caution you that a policy like this is great in theory, but in practice can get tricky because bad managers will manage it poorly. And there are more bad managers out there than good ones.

          2. Kelly White*

            Is that true?

            I am exempt (salaried, and I don’t get paid overtime, but I get docked a days pay if I am out). We don’t have sick time or Personal time- we do get 10 vacation days, but if I work from home they take a vacation day. And if they close the office (bad snowstorm) I have to take a vacation day.

              1. Come On Eileen*

                Alison – I am exempt and was sick a few days at the start of my job, before I had accumulated any sick time or vacation time. I was docked for those days (I think one or two days). I work for a huge company and just assumed they were following the law properly, but now I’m wondering if not. If this comes up again (i.e. Being all tapped out of sick and vacation time, yet still home sick for a day) can you advise if they can dock for this and, if not, how to broach a conversation about it?

  5. Jennifer*

    The real answer to this question is “depends on what your work wants and how you get punished if you do call in sick.”

  6. Malissa*

    What I timely post as Typhiod Mary has come to the office today sounding like crap and all stuffed up. Last week she was nice enought to share a stomach bug. I would make this comment longer but I just located the clorax wipes and I have some work to do.

        1. Kat*

          People are generally contagious before they know they are sick, or before the symptoms hit you.

          With a cold, you usually sound worse towards the end when you arent contagious.

  7. Ihmmy*

    what about when your employer actively encourages you to go home, but you have no sick days left? I started a new job recently and already used the measly day I’ve accrued so far, but have a cold at the moment and am worried they will try to insist I go home (reception is part of my position so I can’t reasonably work from home save for on a few special projects)

    1. Ash (the other one)*

      My employer lets you go into the red if you need to… if they’re encouraging you to go home and you feel sick… go!

  8. CrazyCatLady*

    My employer offers 1 sick day – which to me, might as well be none! However, they do encourage you to stay home when sick but I think that’s difficult for a lot of employees since they won’t be paid.

    1. Zillah*

      Yeah, I think it’s very, very difficult to encourage employees to take sick days when you don’t offer them any paid sick time (and I’m with you – one day might as well be none). You can’t have it both ways – if you want a healthy workplace with productive employees, you need to make it feasible for them to stay home when they’re sick.

      1. CrazyCatLady*

        Exactly! And at least half of the company barely make above minimum wage, so it’s really not feasible for them to take a day off if they’re sick which just makes everyone else sick and affects everyone’s productivity.

    2. Manders*

      This is exactly the problem I have. The sick time looks reasonable on paper because it’s not separate from vacation time, but if you want to take a vacation, you better hope you don’t get sick. My employer lets you take extra time unpaid, but it’s a huge financial hit for employees.

  9. Iro*

    I once worked for a team that passed around an “office cold” from June – November. No joke.

    On this team a co-worker (who was also a manager) came into work complaining about how feverish and ill she was. She sounded horrible, and also commented on, um, GI problems. Finally I said “*Jane, you are obviously not feeling well, why don’t you go home for the day?” to which she responded “Well since you all got me sick I thought I would return the favor”

  10. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

    So – I’m all about encouraging people to stay home when they are sick – but I’d love to hear what people think about sick time taken after someone gives notice they are leaving. I’ve noticed over the years that about one in every 4 or 5 (otherwise seemingly healthy) people who are leaving will suddenly take a HUGE amount of sick time – like they’re trying to use it up since it won’t be paid out. While our policies give me the right to ask for a doctor’s note for any sick time, I very, very rarely do, and everyone knows that (once in 10+ years – and I had an excellent reason to think it was being abused – and I was right). On the other hand, when someone gives notice, I’ve gotten in the habit of telling them that doctor’s notes *may* be required for any sick time during their notice period. This seems to work – and I still feel a bit mean doing it. I don’t know that I’ve ever had to actually ask for a note, because suddenly hardly anyone who has given notice takes sick time (or appears to be sick) now. Any other strategies out there for people taking I’m-outta-here “sick” time?

    1. illini02*

      I’ll be honest, I think sick time should be paid out as well as vacation time. It goes back into whether “sick time” is considered a perk or not. But assuming you don’t want to, why not just make a policy that says that any sick days after they give notice will come out of vacation time. Then its their choice.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        We don’t pay it out because we can’t afford to – we let people accumulate it indefinitely in case they get really sick, so I have some employees who have 12+ weeks of sick time. If we were going to pay it out, we’d have to limit how much people can carry over, otherwise it’s a HUGE debt on our books that we can’t afford.

        1. Cat*

          We’ve had this conversation in my office too. Personally, I like the way your company does it. I have about 3 months banked now, and I feel better knowing I have that in the case of a catastrophe (or, in our case, we’re allowed to use it to extend maternity leave as well) than I would with an extra two weeks pay or whatever if I left.

        2. Treena Kravm*

          What about a policy that allows a certain percentage of one year’s sick time being able to be paid out? Say 3-5 days? During the notice period, any sick time taken would come out of the amount that is paid out. So if they’re truly sick, then they take 1 day, and still get 4 days paid out. But if they were planning on abusing it, then they don’t get the payout. AND you can still require the dr’s note, if say they take all 5 days or something and aren’t wrapping up their work appropriately.

          1. Zillah*

            That seems really convoluted to me.

            Personally, I think that paying out sick time can be deeply problematic, because whatever the intention, the end result tends to end up disproportionately penalizing mothers and people struggling with chronic illness or disability. If you have to pay out sick time, you’re going to offer a lot less of it and/or prevent it from rolling over. The system is already stacked against them in a lot of ways; it seems ridiculous to me to change generous sick leave policies that don’t pay out because they’re “unfair.”

            1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

              I totally agree. IMO, sick time isn’t there as a savings account for when you leave your job. It’s a benefit for the wellbeing of my employees right now. I need people well, and I need them not getting each other sick. You are absolutely right, Zillah – there is no way we, as a charity, could be this generous if we had to pay it out. And that’s a huge penalty to someone with kids or a chronic illness. Some people may feel it’s unfair they don’t get as many paid days off as someone else because they aren’t sick, but illness can happen to anyone. I recently had a very young and healthy person suddenly need 4 weeks for a sudden life threatening medical problem – I’m sure he never thought he’d need all that time, and I’m so glad that he will get paid! As single person right out of school, and I doubt he’s got the savings to go a month without pay.

              Also, yes – we let people use it for maternity leave, even thought we don’t technically offer paid leave for that. I’d had more than one person take 5 months paid – and I got back a fresh employee who had time to recover from birth, bond with baby, and get their feet on the ground. If it hadn’t been paid, I’m sure they would have come back sooner and not been really ready.

          2. Windchime*

            This is how ours works, actually. We have an Extended Illness account which is where you build up a lot of “sick time” over the years. That isn’t ever paid out upon departure, but this year’s allotment of Sick Time (which is like 3 days and is part of my PTO) would be paid out when you leave. At least that’s how I think it works.

            I really like it this way. I rarely get sick, but if I do, only 3 days comes out of my PTO and then it starts coming out of my Extended Illness account. That way, one good flu bug or surgery doesn’t wipe out my vacation for the year.

        3. Mallory Janis Ian*

          When I worked at the university, we could bank leave time indefinitely (at the rate of 12 days per year), and it was a lifesaver for me when I had 3 months of it built up and my daughter was in the hospital. I was able to take off work for a month and a half, and then to do all the follow-up doctors visits when i’d returned to work. We weren’t allowed to cash out sick leave, but we could donate it to a catastrophic leave pool to help other employees who didn’t have enough sick leave built up. When I quit the university, I cashed out 6 weeks of vacation, and donated 22 days of sick leave to the catastrophic leave pool.

          Now, I work at a place with a significantly higher salary, but only 10 vacation days per year and no sick days. If you’re sick, you just stay home, but there is no formal allowance of sick days. Somehow, it makes me much less likely to call in sick when I don’t feel that the days are “my” earned sick days. I never called in sick much anyway, but I would occasionally take a sick day at the university when I just didn’t feel 100% and wanted to be at home (and if this mild malaise coincided with a period of light workload). Now, at my current job, I think i’m in the camp of dragging myself in to work if I at all can (without making anyone else sick) because the sick days aren’t really “mine”.

        4. Chuchundra*

          We can bank up to 108 days and after that the excess gets paid out at the end of the year at 1/4 pay.

          It’s a reasonable compromise. It’s nice to have that big bank of sick days in case of major illness or injury, especially since I’m getting up in years now. And there’s a nice check that comes to me two weeks before Christmas.

      2. Not a rocket scientist*

        Sick time isn’t a perk, it’s a bare minimum of human decency. Just like a wage isn’t a “perk” — it’s the bare minimum employers need to do for their workers. I agree with Zillah further down: paying out sick leave disproportionately hurts primary caregivers (usually women/mothers) and people with chronic illnesses.

    2. Mike C.*

      It’s their benefit and given that they never took it before, perhaps you work somewhere that applies a little too much pressure to come in sick to begin with.

      1. OhNo*

        I don’t think that’s necessarily true – maybe they just don’t get sick very often. That said, is there any reason you can’t just cap the number of sick days available during the notice period? Like, if you give 2 weeks notice, you only have two sick days available in that time, or something.

        1. De Minimis*

          It seems pretty standard to not pay out sick time, though. Can say that the federal government doesn’t pay it out, and they are usually pretty generous as far as leave benefits. What provides some balance though is that we don’t accrue sick leave at the same rate as we do annual leave [vacation time,] and the rate remains the same throughout your career. It seems though that most federal “lifers” I know end up using a lot of their sick time over the course of their careers, so I don’t know how common it is for people to retire with a lot of unused sick leave. As people get older, it seems more likely that they develop health stuff, need extended time off for surgeries, etc…

          I only feel bad about taking it if something isn’t getting done that will cause me a problem when I return. I also try to take it with deadlines in mind, I will do just about anything to come in if we are right at a key deadline, but in reality I haven’t been faced with that very often.

          I use sick leave more for prescheduled things like appointments, I usually only have to call in sick for illness maybe a few days a year at most.

          1. Not Katie the Fed*

            I was told at inbrief that unused sick leave would be counted as years worked for retirement/pension purposes, so there is that.

        2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          Yeah, we’re not stingy at all with people taking it. But we give them 15 days a year – and very few people need 3 weeks a year. It’s intended to help people stay out of financial trouble if they get really, really sick.

        3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          That’s a good idea to cap the days – but I wonder if that puts ideas in people’s heads about taking those two days whether or not they need them? And if someone is genuinely sick, I don’t mind them taking the time.

    3. Payroll Lady*

      Ashley, every company I have worked for has had a policy of no sick time will be paid if taken after you give notice. Even the company which paid out sick time upon resignation wouldn’t allow you to use the time after you gave notice.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        I just feel cruel, though, if I can see that they are clearly sick. At the same time, I am very, very sympathetic to invisible illnesses, and there’s no way I could say “If I can see you are sick, then you can use sick time”. Also, I truly do not want people passing stuff around.

    4. Parfait*

      I used to work for a place that allowed people to donate their unused sick time to a pool. You could draw from this pool if you used up all of your sick time, as long as you had donated at least one day to the pool. I donated one day per year to the pool while I worked there, and donated the balance of my time to it when I left.

      It was a godsend to many, many people who had health issues, and made it feel like your days were not “wasted” when you left.

    5. skyline*

      I may have to copy your strategy!

      Like many orgs, we don’t pay out sick time, though we pay out other accrued leave. Sick leave can accumulate without any limit, which has really helped more than one employee who has had a serious medical issue or a serious family medical issue. Last year we had a mediocre performer resign rather suddenly. They did not give a full two weeks’ notice and then called in sick on what would have been their final day, leaving us short-staffed. Some months later, there were vacancies in the job class that person had held. They applied to at least two of them, trying to be re-hired by the org. Obviously, that wasn’t happening after how they had left. I wonder if they are still trying to figure out why they didn’t get an interview even though they had experience.

  11. illini02*

    How timely. I just took a sick day today, and kind of felt bad about it. Over the weekend I aggrivated a knee injury, and I can barely while I’m sure I won’t be fully healed tomorrow, I feel like a day of resting and icing it will be better than struggling to get to work. So I guess I’m not really “sick”, just wasn’t up to working. I didn’t exactly say I was sick, just said I needed to use a sick day. I could have worked from home, but I just wanted to not worry about trying to be productive and taking care of myself.

    1. fposte*

      I think that counts as a sick day. “Sick day” doesn’t mean you have to harbor a microorganism; it’s a shorthand term for physical reasons you’re unable to work. (And ow, knees.)

  12. I have germs*

    I have the flu and have been dragging my germ filled self to work everyday because we get zero sick days. I am customer facing. The customers yell at me for coming in sick but they never say a word to my boss who could actually change something.

    1. Treena Kravm*

      Is it ok for you to say something like, “We don’t have sick days here, would you like me to get my supervisor so you can speak to them about that?”?

    2. Kat*

      The customers are probably the reason you got sick to begin with. Walking germ incubators! Working in elementary schools and in customer service suck during the winter.

      When I was pregnant and working a graveyard shift at a restuarant, this woman came in hacking and coughing everywhere. She borrowed my pen to write a check and tried to hand it to me directly. I didnt take it, so she tossed it on the counter and then coughed right into my face. I cannot prove it was intentional, but I think she was annoyed that I did not want to touch the pen after her.

      If you watched the Myth Busters sneeze/germ spread episode, you will know sneezes can travel over 10 feet. I was about 3.5 feet away from her and felt droplets hit my face. I was not amused. I wiped everything down with bleach water towels, including the ink pen.

      Guess who was in the dr’s office 5 days later, sounding exactly like her and in need of antibiotics?

  13. Enjay*

    If I called in sick every time I had a cold, I’d miss 10 days a year at least. My criteria is if I have a fever or stomach ailment, I stay home. If I’m coughing so much I need a Depends, I stay home. If I’m stuffy and sneezing and coughing a bit – hello coworkers. I drug myself up with Sudafed and cough syrup and do my best to isolate myself, but I go to work.

    1. Iro*

      If I called in sick every time I had a cold, I’d miss 10 days a year at least.


      Most places that offer “sick days” and don’t lump it in with PTO tend to give out 12 sickdays. That means that in general they expect someone to average 12 days per year.

      1. Cat*

        That’s often not true though – they often, I’d say generally, expect someone to take no more than 12 days per year.

        1. Zillah*

          Yeah – if you have 12 sick days, I can’t imagine that people are expected to average 12 days a year!

      2. Enjay*

        No one in my office would ever take 12 days a year (or 10) unless they had cancer or some other life-altering disease. People look at you sideways if you use 3.

        1. Manders*

          Yes, 10 days is the maximum amount of PTO we get each year in my office. We don’t have separate buckets for sick and vacation time, so sometimes for me it’s a choice between working while sick and not travelling out to see my family for another year.

      3. Daria*

        “Most places that offer “sick days” and don’t lump it in with PTO tend to give out 12 sickdays. ”

        Really? That has not been my experience at all. I have generous sick days at my current position, but my last few office job only gave 3-5, if they gave them at all.

        I stay home if I have a migraine, stomach stuff, or anything where I feel like a bus hit me, but for colds or other little things, I come in because of what the other reader said upthread. If I stayed home for every cold, I’d run out of sick time pretty quickly! :)

    2. Artemesia*

      That was my standard as well. People get colds and most people don’t have enough sick time to take off every time they have a cold. Stomach bugs and actual flu should not be passed around at work, but colds are rarely truly disabling and are too commonplace to stay home for.

      1. Iro*

        “… colds are rarely truly disabling and are too commonplace to stay home for.”

        Might be true for an average individual, but for someone with Asthema, which is fairly commonplace in the US colds can be quite disabling.

        I detest when people come into the office coughing and sneezing with a fever and stuffily say “it’s just a head cold” because by the time I get it, which I definitely will since the office cold will make it’s rounds despite my best handwashing and desk scrubbing efforts, it tends to turn into a chest cold and then I spend 2 – 3 days wheezing and having to take steroids because that person didn’t want to use their PTO. And I have mild asthema, one of my co-workers has severe allergies and these “common colds” use to put her out of commision for 5+ days until our manager finally blanket banded anyone with a fever coming into the office no matter how “mild” their cold felt. They had to work from home or use PTO.

        1. BritCred*

          That was me – the co worker whos allergies caused colds to take me down for days….

          Good on your manager!

          1. Brisvegan*

            So true, Iro!

            My partner has quite bad asthma, which requires steroids etc even on the best days.

            Someone else’s “just a cold” can easily turn into walking pneumonia for him.

            The effect on those who are on chemo or have had other immune suppressing treatments can be very dangerous.

            1. JB*

              Yep, this is me. “Just a cold” isn’t ever “just a cold.” If you have a cold, and you go out in public, you don’t know who you will infect who already has underlying health issues. I’m not saying you should quarantine yourself for the two weeks or so that colds can take to run their course, but be as considerate as you can, and don’t think of it as “just a cold.”

        2. Lipton Tea For Me*

          Yep, this was me in November. Went to get the flu shot and the guy that I walked down with stated he thought he had the flu and the doctor confirmed it and literally 48 hours later, I was sick. This was before we knew the flu strain this year wasn’t covered by the flu shot, so the doctor said it’s a cold. At the time I had no sick leave so was being charged AWOL at work. Well the “cold” turned into 3 weeks of hell and ultimately I ended up taking FMLA. The problem is that “just a cold” for some is just that and folks work through it, but for those of us with asthma or immune suppressed systems, the “cold or anything else” makes you wish you were dead.
          I was off work for literally 3 weeks and it still took me another 2 weeks or so before I had any energy. I couldn’t take a shower without feeling like I needed to sit down; it literally threw me for a loop and it was “just a cold”.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      It’s easy for me. I almost always get a fever when I get a cold (or I feel like I have one), and our company says to stay home when you have a fever, so I just pack up the laptop and go work from home. If I wake up the next day deathly ill, then I can log on and email everybody and go back to bed.

  14. Risa*

    My issue as a manager is that I can’t get sick employees to stay home. We have a PTO bank of 3 weeks (vacation, sick, etc.). None of them want to use their time for sick days, so they frequently come in ill, even if I tell them I don’t want them there. This winter, we had a nasty cough make the rounds because they kept making each other sick.

    This is why I don’t like general PTO banks. I’d much rather have PTO split into separate vacation and sick buckets specifically because of this issue.

    1. illini02*

      Honestly, maybe its because you don’t really give very much. When I have had jobs that combined them, it was more like 20 days total. Since we had plenty of time total, it was never a big deal for someone to take a sick day here and there because of how much we had. I don’t know that its your call, but maybe consider giving some more. I look at it like most jobs give around 2 weeks of vacation and 5 days of sick time. To incentivize them to take it all, maybe giving a few extra days would be beneficial.

      1. Paloma Pigeon*

        Ha, if only. My last job they only gave 10 PTO a year – sick and vacation. It was my understanding that was considered average.

        1. esra*

          !! That is terrible! 10 days paid sick/personal time is standard where I am and most people have 2-3 weeks vacation on top of that.

          10 PTO days a year just seems like a path to burnout.

          1. Paloma Pigeon*

            It was so indicative of their stingy, mousy, passive/agressive culture. They never took lunch either – just sat in a little circle eating at their desks every day, staring at each other and listening to individual radio stations. Every time I left the office to grab a quick bite or stretch my legs, I felt like a freak. Glad I am out of there.

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        I agree, 3 weeks total is not a lot. I’d also hoard my PTO for vacation if I had that much.

        I used to get 4 weeks vacation + 10 sick/personal (but no more than five of the latter bucket could be taken preplanned, and any leftover sick/personal was forfeited at the end of the year). It was quite lovely to have all of that converted into one PTO bucket of 30 days. I use all of them and it’s really nice to be able to take a sick day without having to worry about planned vacations.

      3. Risa*

        Three weeks of PTO is basically the same as 2 weeks vacation + 5 sick days, so I’m not sure how that’s much different than what you’ve stated.

        I agree it’s not as much as I would like, but it’s not my call…. However, it’s also not that different from the averages in my experience. In my last job in San Francisco, we started at two weeks vacation and 7 days of sick time. Then the city passed a Sick Pay ordinance that mandated a 9 days of sick time minimum. So even in the employee-friendly city of San Francisco, you are only getting 4 more sick days than the plan I’m currently working with.

        My issue is not so much the number of days, but that with combined PTO, people tend to think of all the time as vacation time, not sick time. So it feels like they get no sick time. I think if the buckets were separate and it was 2 weeks vacation + 1 week sick time (which is not a lot, but not unusual), I think employees would be more inclined to take a sick day when they actually needed it.

        1. Hlyssande*

          But what happens when the employee is out of sick time and has lots of vacation saved?

          The policy at my office is that you take unpaid time, even if you have accrued vacation. I was luckily able to talk my supervisor into letting me use vacation that time (two day migraine, could barely walk straight through most of it), but she questioned me already this year when I had yet another migraine the first week of January and wanted to take my free floater (1 per year) instead of a day of sick time.

          I like having separate pools in general, but if the policy is that you can’t take vacation (accrued, carries over) when you’re out of sick time (not accrued, use it or lose it yearly) it’s incredibly frustrating if you have bad luck that year.

      1. MJH*

        Yep, this is the case in our office now. I feel like I am forced into choosing between feeling shitty at work and a vacation with my husband down the road. I will always choose vacation.

    2. Shortie*

      I agree, Risa. I prefer separate buckets both as a manager and employee. That said, it doesn’t always work since the workload at my company is high and people are terrified of falling even further behind. (The company is very supportive of people taking all the sick leave they need, and they don’t get that workload is why people don’t).

  15. AnonEMoose*

    I’m lucky enough that if I’m mildly unwell, I can work from home. So when I had a warning signal from my body that essentially meant “keep talking and you’ll lose your voice,” I was able to work from home, not talk, push fluids, and was fine the next day. My boss was also cool with me working from home when I slipped on my way home the previous day, and woke up with a very sore/tight muscle down the side of one leg that morning. I knew it wasn’t serious, but would benefit from rest, painkillers, the heating pad, and not walking to the train station in icy conditions.

    But if I’m really seriously stuffed up, feverish, throwing up, stuff like that, I use sick time. And on rare occasions when I don’t have specific symptoms, but am generally extremely tired, achy, fuzzy-brained, and overall just not functional. I’ve learned the hard way that I can either go back to bed, or get much sicker.

    Luckily, my current company is pretty good about it, and my boss is supportive, because he’d rather have me able to think straight and not infecting my coworkers on the rare occasions when I do get sick.

  16. themmases*

    I’m an epidemiologist in training so these discussions really interest me. Americans really do not take enough sick time, and while I’m happy that that expectation is starting to change I’m disappointed that it’s taking place in the context of a discourse that scolds people coming and going. While some progress is being made to require paid sick leave for workers, it’s still really small– and many others have access to paid sick leave but may not have enough for themselves and their family, or they work in an environment that discourages them from using this benefit.

    Yet whenever sick leave is discussed (not just on this blog), I see people pipe up with their opinion of how many sick days in a year or a month is “too many” or, on the other hand, shame others for coming to work sick. Neither response is helpful, kind, or promotes public health. The bottom line is that people need to stay home sick sometimes for their own health or the health of people they care for, and to prevent communicating disease to others. But whatever you think of your coworkers, at the population level people will never do this without both laws and social norms that allow it. People need to feel that they can afford to stay home– whether in terms of rent or reputation– or, as a group, they never will.

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      I would love to hear more about your training and what you’ll ultimately do as an epidemiologist! That’s something I’ve always thought about doing (among many things). It fascinates me. (Posted this below, by accident!)

      1. De Minimis*

        I know we have a few working at our regional headquarters. Think they mainly look at trends and statistics within our patient population. I assume their work would be important in determining program efficacy.

      2. themmases*

        Sure, I love to talk about public health!

        I’m working on an MS in Epidemiology at a large, public, urban school of public health. I got into this field because I worked as a clinical research coordinator, liked it (especially the data collection and analysis parts), but was starting to reach the limits of what I could teach myself. I picked the MS because I want to stay in research, so I will write a thesis rather than do an internship/capstone (which is what you do in an MPH, which most people get), and I’d already had several research assistant jobs in various types of programs. My training is primarily in research methods: study design, biostatistics, SAS programming, and creating and interpreting models of disease associations. I also get a little exposure to the other public health fields such as community health sciences and environmental/occupational health. I studied history before working in academic medicine, so I didn’t have a ton of math/science coursework before and most of my qualifications come from my old job.

        Personally, I am interested in health disparities and outcomes research– so understanding what makes certain groups of people have a worse outcome from the same disease. My dream job would be to go back to a university or academic hospital and do a mix of my own research and methods consulting, where I help researchers with study design and data analysis (so I will probably get a PhD). Epidemiologists are really connected by our interest in population health– rather than individual medicine– and the methods we use, so people’s goals are fairly diverse. I have classmates who are interested in disease surveillance or other public health department work, public health promotion programs, global health, and designing clinical trials.

        1. the_scientist*

          And as a counter-point, I come from a basic science background (mol bio and genetics) and I worked in research labs before deciding that animal work wasn’t for me. I am also an M.Sc epi, so I did a thesis/defence rather than a practicum placement. As themmasses says, epidemiologists are connected by their research methods, so there is a very wide variety of things you can do with an epi degree, and plenty of opportunities to concentrate on specific fields that most interest you. I started off studying the epidemiology of autism spectrum disorders, moved into developmental disabilities research and health systems performance. I’m still doing health systems research, but now with a focus on cancer. I’m particularly interested in performance measurement and health systems performance- so figuring out how to measure if our healthcare system is doing a good job, identifying gaps in the existing system, and quantifying performance. Academia is not for me, so I’m not in a rush to do a PhD….right now. That may change, though :)

    2. the_scientist*

      Hello, fellow Epi!

      I agree with everything in your post and I’d like to thank Alison for specifically calling out the silly, infantilizing, and completely unnecessary practice of requiring doctor’s notes. A doctor in Canada recently made headlines for announcing that she was going to start sending invoices to employers who require sick notes in hopes that they will stop wasting everyone’s time. Of course, I have no idea how she will collect payment on these invoices but I’m glad to see clinicians voicing their disapproval of sick note policies.

      1. themmases*

        Hi! I thought I remembered there were other public health folks here!

        I also really appreciate Alison’s coverage of this issue. Doctor’s notes in particular can be so wasteful, and I know firsthand that they can be hard to get when you’re truly ill just because it can be so hard to leave home.

      2. Anon Note-O-Phobic*

        I’ve always been curious about workplaces that require a note from the doctor as proof that one was ill:

        – Is there some kind of standard note or form for this?

        – Does the doctor just scrawl something down on a post-it note?

        – Does management call the doctor’s office to verify the note?

        – Will doctors’ offices even answer questions from random people who call to find out if someone came in to see the doctor?

    3. Anx*

      I used to intern at a health department, and the most frustrating thing to me was how disconnected many public health workers at the state and federal level were from the experience of having no PTO, being fired for illness, etc.

      (I was on the EH side of things).

      It also frustrates me that everyone assumes symptoms = contagious. Of course there’s an overlap, but we’d all be better off if we tried to keep our ‘germs in’ at all times, regardless of whether we felt sick or not.

  17. AvonLady Barksdale*

    This is SO timely for me! I am recovering from a nasty cold that knocked me out pretty soundly last week. On one hand, I got lucky because we had an ice storm and no one came in anyway, but that didn’t mean I was “off”. We have a policy of, “Don’t come to work sick because no one wants your germs,” and it’s up to us to determine if we can work or if we’re totally offline. I ended up doing a bit of a hybrid; on Thursday, which was when I got the worst of it, I took an internal call in the morning, slept most of the day, answered emails in the afternoon.

    The trouble with this is communicating that I’m totally out for the day and not just working from home. When a client email came in, I felt like I had to address it– telling them I was too sick to answer would not have been an option for me. Granted, I’ve only been in this job for two months, but I can see that being an issue.

    1. EA*

      That’s where the “Auto-Response” feature of your e-mail program is useful.

      “I am currently out of the office today, and will not be responding to any emails or phone calls until I return tomorrow. I apologize for the inconvenience. For urgent requests, please contact: ____” vs. “I am currently out of the office today, but will be responding to all calls and e-mails. Please note that responses may be delayed”

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        The point is, auto-response doesn’t often cut it. My work is not office-dependent, so it doesn’t really matter if I’m in the office, it just matters if I feel well enough to sit up straight and write an email or two. Making the decision to lie down all day can be a tough one.

  18. CrazyCatLady*

    I would love to hear more about your training and what you’ll ultimately do as an epidemiologist! That’s something I’ve always thought about doing (among many things). It fascinates me.

  19. Amelia*

    I have to use personal or vacation time if I call in sick or I have to work extra later in the week to make it up. I also have to find someone to cover my shift (I’m in a customer-facing role and there’s only one of us working at a time, so SOMEONE has to be here). This basically means I come in unless I’m dead.

  20. anon attorney*

    Thanks, Alison, for the reminder that coming to work sick can affect those with compromised immune systems. My partner is going through chemo just now. My immediate colleagues don’t tend to come to work sick but I’ve had clients and vendors come to meetings when they should have stayed home and it causes me unnecessary stress and anxiety that I’ve picked something up which could be very much more serious for him then anyone realizes. I also don’t particularly want to have to explain the situation to people I barely know. Also wish people did not feel economically pressured into treating their own bodies so harshly, but that’s another topic!

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      I hope your partner is responding well to treatment and showing improvement! My closest colleague’s husband is also going through chemo and my whole department has taken sick days that we might not otherwise because we want to keep her as healthy as possible. Here’s to the end of the worst of the cold and flu season – pronto! Best wishes for a full recovery for your partner.

    2. themmases*

      This is such a great point. I think many people don’t realize that immune compromise is common and probably becoming more so. Treatments for cancer and autoimmune disease depress the immune system, and people can now live longer than ever with HIV. You may not necessarily know when someone has an underlying illness that would make it very serious for them to get sick, and even if no one in your life seems sick maybe they have a family member who is, or maybe they are pregnant. It can’t be assumed that a nuisance disease for one person will also be just an inconvenience to those around them.

      Best wishes to your partner, and to you!

    3. AnonEMoose*

      Best wishes to you and your partner; I hope the treatment is successful!

      I’ve told people before that I don’t get the flu shot so much for myself. For me, getting the flu is uncomfortable and inconvenient, no more.

      But for one of my best friends who has asthma and other health issues, and my mother who is diabetic and has a a heart condition, and my dad who is healthy but who is also over 80, and my young nephew who has been hospitalized for respiratory issues, the flu is potentially life-threatening.

      So if I can avoid spreading it to them, and avoid catching it myself, it seems like the responsible option to me.

  21. Serin*

    Not about sick days per se, but for the first time ever, I’m working in an office where working from home is broadly accepted, and one of the things I love about that is having an option for those times when

    – you’re not too sick to work, but you’re plenty sick enough to infect your co-workers. (= work a full day at home)
    – you have enough energy either to work a half day or to handle your commute but not both. (= work a half day at home)
    – you’re well enough to cover your handful of most time-sensitive tasks if you can nap in between. (= work a few hours at home)

    It may be my imagination, but it does seem to me that I get fewer colds here than I have at other workplaces.

    1. Not a rocket scientist*

      Yup. I’ve worked so many half days because of generous work from home policies that I would have had to take a sick day for in a company with different WFH policies. Employers really are shooting themselves in the foot when they don’t allow WFH.

  22. Muriel Heslop*

    As an educator, none of the schools in which I worked had a positive outlook on sick days. In addition, it’s incredibly difficult to prepare for a sub with several different preps and/or special ed students who need VERY specific instructions. Most of the people with whom I’ve worked share the approach that it’s easier to go to work sick than it is to prepare to be out (or to go to work at 6 am to get something ready for a sub since our sub plan is so out-of-date.)

    I think that everyone feels so pressured and behind all year round that the thought of missing another day is incredibly stressful.

  23. Libretta*

    My coworkers will come in no matter what. One kept coming in until she was hospitalized. Our PTO is all in one bucket – 26 days annually for FTEs, but we have to spend them on holidays as well. So no one wants to use PTO for sick time. Any advice for getting management to crack down on this? Company policy is to stay home when contagious (I work for a hospital but in a separate building so not directly with patients), but it is not enforced. I have complained to my supervisor, but the worst offenders are in a different work group. They are working with such a small staff, so overloaded with work, that if one person does not show up, they are not able to process patient samples. It is SO infuriating when I (or my kids!) get sick because someone will not stay home.

  24. long time reader first time poster*

    I don’t see any mention of mental health days. Alison, what’s your take on those?

    1. ism*

      These are the hardest to get away with, especially in jobs that don’t offer any kind of sick leave or PTO. And those kinds of jobs are the ones with employees who need more mental health days in general, in my opinion. Talking retail, food service, etc here.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you’re not using much sick leave the rest of the year, I don’t think it’s a big deal to take a couple of “mental health days,” as long as you’re thoughtful about when you do it and don’t choose days that will cause problems for your employer or coworkers.

    3. MaryMary*

      I know there are a couple folks who’ve struggled with mental illness who read this blog…do you all have an opinion on someone taking a mental health day when they’re burnt out or just need a break, versus someone who has a flare up of a diagnosed mental disorder? My brother’s girlfriend was on intermittent FMLA for a while because of her anxiety and depression. Her manager was very unsupportive, but I wonder if part of the reason was that the manager equated the FMLA with “mental health day.”

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        Thanks for this comment, MaryMary. The term “mental health day” bothers me because I feel like equates feeling tired/a little burnt out with having a mental illness – therefore minimizing the mental illness. People in my office were using this language, as in “I’ve just been so busy for the past few weeks, and my calendar is clear Friday, so I think I might take a mental health day”. It’s no big deal to take the day off, but people with a mental illness don’t just need to a day off when they happen to be tired and not that busy, and there’s no need to conflate the two. Like Mary says, it can make it hard for people with mental illness to communicate that they are genuinely not well, especially if they don’t want to go into a lot of detail. Any invisible illness/disability is a challenge sick day wise (nobody judges you for staying home when they could see you had a terrible cough coming on), but this language around “mental health days” just makes it harder.

        1. long time reader first time poster*

          Fair enough. I totally respect using better language to accommodate better understanding of and respect for mental illness.

          I’m having some trouble figuring out what phrase would be better (non-minimizing of actual MI) than “mental health day” in this context, though. Suggestions?

          1. CherryScary*

            Personal day/ Well-being day? I’ve definitely used “mental health day” before, but I’ve also heard Personal day.

            My bf works in a customer support center, and he gets comp days for working holidays that the rest of the company is off. He’s encouraged to use those and unused sick days as recharge days.

      2. Hotstreak*

        I treat all of those the same way I treat having a nasty cold or the flu. I call in and say I am taking a sick day. Mental health makes it just as difficult to work as physical ailments, and no doubt a “bad attitude” is contagious in the office.

        1. Windchime*

          Yeah, I sometimes take a mental health day. I don’t need my boss (or anyone else) trying to get inside my head to determine if my level of upset or stress is “enough” to warrant a day off. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and I don’t think that only people who are officially “mentally ill” should get to use a day off to get themselves straight mentally.

          For those bosses who insist that taking a mental health day is faking it just because I’m a little tired? Fine, I’ll call it a sick day for you.

      3. Anonymous for PTSD*

        IMO, hypothetically, people without mental illness can need a day off to take care of themselves, too. It’s not something I’d judge a coworker for.

        Not sure what I’d think if I were a manager.

        1. nonegiven*

          My husband and a coworker at a previous job used to call it ‘attitude readjustment day.’

      4. Kat*

        I’m lucky in my new job where we really don’t have vacation time or sick days (like, “you get 2 weeks PTO and 10 days sick time). If we want to take a week off to go on vacation, it’s fine, just let everyone know beforehand so we can arrange coverage (I work in a small office, so it’s easy to do this).

        This past weekend, my coworkers went to a conference in Vegas from Sunday-Thursday. Monday was a holiday, so it was me covering phones and orders on my own for 3 days. I don’t have much product knowledge yet, so it was pretty stressful trying to help people out and figure things out on the fly. One of my coworkers is taking today and tomorrow off to make up for the missed weekend and recover from the trip, which means I’m covering phones for another two days.

        I pretty much decided that I’m taking Friday off because I’m burned out, I’m stressed, and I need that one extra day in the weekend to calm my anxiety down. For me, it really is a “mental health day” because I almost had a bit of a breakdown last week trying to deal with stuff. Luckily, it’ll be easy for me to do so. I really don’t like getting into my mental illness so I’m telling people I’m taking a personal day.

  25. Rachael*

    My rule – if I can’t picture myself at work that day, I won’t go in. That sounds crazy now that I write it, but it generally means I’m too sick to cope with whatever work demands. Not very scientific but it works for me.

  26. Mandi*

    Our sick time (for new employees like myself) is all rolled into one PTO bucket. However, for employees who have been here prior to 2013, they all get sick time and vacation time separated. I think this is very unfair – I came down with this horrible cold in September and had to come in (and WFH when sick) because I already used all my PTO for the year and had no “sick” time to use. (I had a terrible case of bronchitis) Then I get the dirty looks from all of the grandfathered in employees (basically everyone but me) of “why are you here???” and “use your sick time” and then explaining to them that I don’t get sick days like they do…ugh.

    We are not allowed to go ‘in the red’ – it was either come in /wfh (which I did but I was sick for 3 weeks and I cant keep WFH for 3 weeks straight) or go without pay and I couldn’t do that.

  27. Marissa*

    Sick days are still something I’m getting used to. I graduated in 2013 and have been at my first full-time job for 9 months now. My job allows for 6 paid sick days per calendar year; but since I suffer frequently from debilitating migraines, I’ve been worried about how to use them.

    I started in May of 2014; and since then, I have gotten 2 colds and suffered numerous migraines of varying degrees. I worry about taking sick leave when I’m traditionally sick (having a contagious cold) because my migraines are often more debilitating (I get vertigo and nausea). As hellish as 2 weeks with a cold are, I come in because I’m trying to save my days for when my migraines render me nonfunctional. Does anyone else have a similar problem, and how do you cope? I’m worried I’ll run out of days for my migraines, as they pop up frequently and unexpectedly, and I’m also worried people will frown upon me for spreading my germs when I’m visibly (and audibly) unwell.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I also get migraines– my 2013 New Year’s resolution was to stop going to work with them. I would invariably end up leaving early, and it was just ridiculous. I would stumble to work, stare at things in the dark for a few hours, then go home (without putting in for a sick day). It helped that I didn’t have to drive, but it was still pretty terrible.

      Do you have the option to work from home? If you do, I would do that for colds and take the whole day for migraines. If not… it’s a rough situation, I sympathize. I would probably do exactly what you’re doing, I’m sorry to say.

      1. Marissa*

        I do have an option to work from home (I can get 95% of my work done without having to come into the office), but I’m getting the vibe that my boss and my boss’ boss don’t like it that much. It may be because I’m new and the youngest person in the office. I’ve tried explaining my dilemma to them, but they’ve said they can only be so flexible. They aren’t being unreasonable: I just think they don’t truly get the severity of the situation. It’s difficult when the “solution” to the problem is “try not to get sick so much.”

        1. Windchime*

          There is just such a really, really strong culture of “suck it up” in this country. I’m very fortunate that I actually don’t get sick that often, but a lot of people aren’t so lucky and it’s crummy that people are suspected of faking or malingering when they get sick. There is nothing inherently noble about dragging oneself in to work when sick; people usually only do it because they can’t afford to stay home (or they’ll be sneered at and hassled by their boss).

          I’m sure our European friends are shaking their heads in shock and dismay at this whole discussion.

    2. nona*

      Yeah, I have a chronic illness. I stay home if I’m contagious, I go to work if I’m not going to make anyone else sick. But in my case it’s pain that I’m used to dealing with. It wouldn’t be so easy to work through a migraine, vertigo, and nausea.

    3. OhNo*

      I don’t get migraines, but I do occasionally need days off for disability-related medical issues, so I know how that situation feels. Honestly, I do pretty much what you do: try to save the days for when I really need them, and repeatedly reassure everyone I work with that I’m not contagious when I come in sounding like I’m dying.

      If you come in sick, one thing that has helped me in the past is to warn everyone (“I’m coming down with/getting over a mild cold, so you may want to keep your distance”), thoroughly wipe down any shared surfaces with antibacterial wipes, and make a bit of a show about washing my hands frequently and thoroughly. Most people appreciate the courtesy, and will acknowledge that at least you are doing your very best not to get other people sick.

  28. Rachel*

    One thing I’ve always been curious about is the use of sick days for “mental health days.” I am very rarely physically ill – the last time I remember being sick enough to stay home was four years ago when I took 1 day off for a sinus infection. However, I am someone who gets overwhelmed and stressed out fairly easily. I am in a high stress job now, but luckily I am exempt, so the last time I was stressed and dreading to go to work, I was able to work remotely. In previous positions where I was non-exempt, I generally used my sick time to just relax, rest up and mentally prepare myself for the next day. I’m just curious if people believe this is an abuse of sick time? I imagine the amount of time taken may affect people’s responses, so as an example, in my previous position I was non-exempt, unable to work remotely, and was given 5 sick days.. I used all five each year that I worked there (3 years) for these “mental health days.”

    1. Parfait*

      I had a great boss who explicitly told me that it was fine with him, if I was having “one of those days,” to call him and say that I was having “one of those days” and he would have no problem with it as a sick day. I appreciated it so so so much.

  29. MaryMary*

    Several people have commented on separate “buckets” for PTO and sick time, but I also really appreciate when employers let you take partial sick days, or even sick hours. At OldJob, we could go down to the half hour if we wanted, but my current job only lets us take PTO (it’s all combined) in half or whole days. Particularly if you’re sick and working from home part of the day, or sick but need to answer a couple emails or attend that one conference call, it’s nice to take six hours of sick time, instead of losing a whole day and working part of it anyway.

    1. Hlyssande*

      Our system lets us take sick and vacation time down to the hour. Even that’s a little annoying sometimes! I’d love to be able to do it to the half hour.

  30. CH*

    I used to get severe bronchitis almost every fall (I took up running a couple of years ago and haven’t had it since; not sure that’s why but who knows?). I would be coughing (and I know I sounded terrible) for 4 to 6 weeks, but I wasn’t contagious after the first few days on prescription meds. So I would come back to work (mine can’t be done at home but I’m not client facing and I have a private office with a door I can close) and then get people talking behind my back. Oh, well. Nobody can afford to take 4 to 6 weeks off just because they sound awful.

    1. Parfait*

      I knowww. I was just sick for about 3.5 weeks and it sucked. I stayed home for the first couple days, worked from home for a couple, and then I just had to get back. I sounded disgusting and I hope I stayed out long enough to avoid the contagious period, but no amount of sick time would cover the duration of sick I had. BLEAH.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I was coughing horribly all day today (tail end of a cold, not contagious). Everyone was really nice about it– it even got me out of speaking during today’s company meeting!– but I know I sounded so awful and my boss was pretty annoyed by the end of the day. Could I have stayed home? Sure, but I worked from home all last week, and it just wasn’t feasible. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  31. j-nonymous*

    There’s a strong cultural influence at some workplaces that goes beyond what an individual manager does (or doesn’t do) with regard to encouraging sick people to focus on getting better (instead of clocking hours).

    I worked for a company with the most generous sick time policy I have ever had: 52 weeks of sick time for every 2 years. The number of times I actually took sick days in the almost 10 years I worked there? 3. Even with a stomach bug, I worked from home. That was the culture (and telecommuting was deeply embedded in the culture as well).

    I worked for another company where taking 1 full day off (plus leaving a half day early twice) when I contracted an antibiotic-resistant sinus infection was ‘abusing’ sick time. That place was a disaster in other ways as well, but I noticed telecommuting was frowned on as much as taking sick time was, and as a result whole departments would get wiped out during cold and flu season.

    1. wendy*

      52 weeks for 2 years? Is that a misprint or could you have literally been out an entire year’s worth of sick time in 2 years of work? :)

      1. De (Germany)*

        For what’s it worth, lots of countries have laws that you can’t restrict the number of days of sick time at all. The national average in Germany is something like 12 days, though that includes long-term illnesses. Anything over 6 weeks, health insurance starts paying 65% of your wages.

  32. Kathlynn*

    My colds tend to stay for a good while. So I can’t afford to take the time off. Example, last year (with horrible timing), I got sick for a month solid. I get no sick days, and only got 2 weeks holidays (paid because of employment law). Which I needed for other things (and we were also majorly short staffed…still are).
    There were two things that probably made it last so long. 1st, my boss kept changing my days off, so I would never get two days off in a row (even if the schedule originally said so), The few times I did have them off, I felt so much better. But not so much if I had one day off. (like really I’d had a 3 day weekend in that period, get changed, and was sad, because I felt like that would have let me kick the cold to the curve).

    This year, I’m on day 4 of a cold, that’s annoying (no were near as bad as the one above), but I’m not sick enough to call in. And once again, I can’t afford to do so. Though I did give my manager the heads up, just in case I need to call in.
    The management is bad, I totally know that. And send mixed messages, some people call in all the time, no complaint or doctors note required. The few times I’ve called in sick, I’ve been made to feel horrible for doing so. Even though I cover for everyone else.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      ugh… I am totally dedicated to sending sick people home (which I can do because I pay them – I’m sorry you don’t get paid sick days – that sucks). But I hear you on the long cold! I had a cough last fall that would not. go. away. I really didn’t feel bad after the first three days or so, but there’s no way I could have worked out of the office for 5 weeks until it really got better.

  33. PolarBear*

    I’m in the UK and we get paid sick leave here, my current job gives me 3 months full pay and 3 months half pay, other employers pay a lot more, others pay less.

    I will work from home if I have a cold or something, broke my foot last year and physically couldn’t get to work so got 6 weeks off paid!

    1. Hlyssande*

      We do have that at my office as long term disability leave. Full pay for X months, half pay for Y months afterward. But that’s separate from the 5 days paid sick time and involves paperwork and doctors’ notes and jumping through hoops.

      We can also take FMLA leave if we’re out for 5 consecutive days or more so we’ll still get paid. I’ve done that twice. Once when I injured my back and could not sit or stand straight for nearly a week and once when I had surgery.

  34. Ruth (UK)*

    I currently work in a surgery which actually causes a weird sort of problem for me. As you might imagine (since it’s a doctor’s surgery), they’revery understanding etc about being ill and will encourage you to stay home if you’re sick.

    Why is this an issue for me? I have a chronic stuffy nose. I injured it when I was young and have had frequent nosebleeds over the years. Along with my pretty dodgy hayfever, I can appear to always have a cold (I’ve been asked ‘are you always ill?’). I have NO other symptoms (just the stuffy nose, and sometimes watery eyes, but no fever, flushes, or sore throat or other cold symptoms etc etc). I can actually breathe fine through my mouth and have no shortness of breath and it doesn’t stop me from doing sport, etc.

    But it led to a bunch of awkward things for a while of me being assured that I didn’t need to come to work when sick, or sometimes being told I should have stayed home since I am clearly ill or people worrying that I am contagious. Luckily, everyone has got used to the idea by now that I just sneeze 30 times a day for no apparent reason. It’s become a running joke that I am allergic to filing, or papers or whatever I am doing when I sneeze.

    (this was never an issue at my previous jobs where taking time of for sickness was HEAVILY discouraged and they didn’t give a damn).

    1. the_scientist*

      You have my sympathies! I have quite severe environmental allergies (hayfever in the fall; everything else in the spring) so I spend a lot of time explaining to co-workers that “I’m not sick, it’s just allergies!” My new job has amazingly generous sick time and WFH is highly encouraged so if this season is a particularly bad one for allergies, I may WFH or take a sick day on a particularly allergic-y day. I do find that no matter how much an antihistamine claims to be non-drowsy, after 2-3 straight weeks on them I am incredibly dopey and certainly not firing on all cylinders.

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        Try pseudoephedrine.. Its a decongestant and a stimulant. Meanwhile, phenylephrine doesn’t work any more than a placebo… Its also what you get in Lemsip. Though I dunno if your over the counter meds are different if you’re in America.

        I cant use nasal sprays cause they give me a nosebleed but if you can use them they will give you relief without too many of the side effects. You wont get drowsy etc. But overuse might result in a sort of rebound where you get initial relief from the spray but then actually get more bunged up shortly later…

        1. the_scientist*

          I actually can’t take pseudophedrine as it gives me panic attacks- I typically use OTC dimenhydrine but again, after two weeks of that I do get pretty dopey. Nasal sprays aren’t a good option because my allergy symptoms are less to do with congestion, and more to do with unbearably itchy eyes, nose, ears and palate. Trust me, I ‘ve tried practically every allergy drug available. Now that I have proper benefits I am looking into allergy shots!

  35. JAL*

    I was raised to go to school and work unless I’m vomiting or have a fever or bleeding out my eyes and my boss has sent me home a couple times because I looked bad and sounded even worse. Luckily in my job you can make up hours or work at home.

    Even more importantly, though, I was diagnosed with a debilitating back injury and find it hard to go to work sometimes because well, to put it lightly, I feel like I want to cut the leg the residual pain is shooting down. I don’t take advantage of it but if I need to, my boss understands my situation and will let me have a day off.

    (Sorry if this is incoherent. Today is a high pain day)

  36. AcademiaNut*

    I find there’s a huge gap between what sounds reasonable (ie, stay home if you are contagious or sick enough to not be working efficiently), and what is actually reasonable in practice.

    I’ve seen discussion threads on this board with managers discussing what they regard as taking too much sick time in a year (regardless of what is actually offered by the employer). A number of people put the boundary at about 5-7 days in a year; if you take more than that, they’re going to feel that you’re either abusing sick leave, or are too sick to be a productive employee. When you fall ill, you don’t know if this will be the only time you get sick that year, or if you’ll be hit with the flu in late November and need a week off. Not to mention employees with kids who need to take sick days when their kids are vomiting or feverish and can’t go to daycare, or the need to use sick days for medical appointments.

    So from an employment perspective, it’s wise to only take sick days when you are too ill to physically come into work, which typically means flat on your back in bed, or suffering digestive issues. If you can’t work from home when you feel crappy, staying home when you only have a cold, or are in the recovery/falling ill stage of something more serious can mean having to take time off without pay later in the year, or risking being regarded as a poor employee (and that’s for people *with* paid sick leave).

    As far as being contagious goes – I don’t think people understand contagious periods well enough to make that a realistic criterion, either from the perspective of the ill person, or their manager. With the flu, you’re typically contagious about a day before you show symptoms, and up to a week after that. For a cold, you can be contagious 2 or 3 days before showing symptoms, and can remain contagious until the symptoms resolve – up to two weeks total. For a 48 hour stomach virus, you’re actually still contagious at least 2 days after you feel better, and in some cases up to a week or two longer. So in practice, even if people do take sick leave when they feel really bad, they’re still coming into work able to spread their germs.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      That’s a good point about how sometimes they number of sick days you get doesn’t really correspond to what a manager feels is okay. I really dislike under-the-surface expectations like that.

      People tend to share personal things in my office (therapists, social workers and the like who understand how to handle and respond to sensitive/private information) so people are pretty upfront about what’s going on when they are sick – from period cramps to grief issues to panic attacks – although I never, ever ask. It certainly is much easier to be understanding when I know what the problem is and can match that up mentally with a likely recovery timeline, even though I don’t feel entitled to know. I’m sure it’s hard not to be at least a little suspicious in an office where the culture is that people don’t share – or can’t feel comfortable sharing.

      I’ve only ever had one major sick-time abuser (lots of late nights and out-of-town trips before sick days with evidence all over Facebook) and she didn’t fit into the culture in so, so many way. That was short lived.

  37. Kat M*

    My husband works almost always works from home when he ought to take a sick day, because he and all his coworkers are workaholics, and he hates the feeling of being behind and frustrating his boss. Then he got the flu this winter, and realized there was no way he was going to meet his deadlines. Called the boss with fear and trepidation … only to find out she was totally understanding and wished he’d talked to her earlier. They managed to reassign some work so he could do the tea and sleep thing, and although he had some catching up to do when he got back, everybody was really nice about it.

    Moral of the story: just because your boss is a hard-backside about getting things done doesn’t mean you should assume they don’t approve of proper sick days. Talk about it, and you might be surprised.

  38. Jane*

    My company has scheduled and unscheduled sick days which really confuses me. If I know I am not feeling well and will not be in the next day, can I let my manager know ahead of time and put in a few scheduled sick days? I find it annoying to have to wake up early and call in sick, or is better to call the day of?

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      I wonder if scheduled days are for planned things….like getting a cavity filled or having elective surgery. We don’t have different banks of time, but you do have to declare if it’s a planned or unplanned thing. There are certain times you can’t take planned time for minor stuff…like you can’t miss a major meeting to get your teeth cleaned, but if you have the flu that’s okay.

  39. Aussie Teacher*

    I can’t really take sick days as a music teacher – any relief teacher cannot actually teach my subject matter without musical training, and I can’t afford to fall behind in my curriculum. For example, I see my Year 8 class once a week for a term (10 weeks). 4 of those weeks will be whole-class assessments (perception, composition, instrumental performance and End-of-term test) leaving me only 6 lessons to teach a term’s worth of music literature, practice perception and musicianship and supervise composition assignments (group or individual). I cannot afford to miss a single lesson or I fall too far behind!
    I think I took 1 or 2 sick days in 5 years!

  40. ThatGirl*

    I manage a team of 3. We get 10 sick days/year – and it banks. I always encourage them to take at least one sick day when they are sick because I don’t want them to pass it around and I need them to get better so that they can be productive.

    That is to say, I still catch them working from home once they’ve taken a sick day, but I’m okay with that as long as they are. At least one member of my staff is so into what he does that he regularly works evenings and weekends at home, so I try to give him some wiggle room to make up for it.

  41. Poster formerly known as Jane Doe*

    How do you guys feel about mental health days?

    1) I get a generous amount of sick leave. In 13 years of my profession, I’ve literally never used a sick day. And I don’t go to work sick. I have just been blessed so far with a strong immune system. But I do work hard and some days I am just spent and would like to rejuvenate a bit. I often work well over 40 hours and don’t get comp time.

    2) My dad passed away suddenly last year and I was devastated. Still am, actually! I was gifted 3 days of bereavement time, but took five. I had to use vacation time instead of sick time for the two extra days. That surprised me but was per our company handbook. But I really felt like the policy should allow the use of sick leave – if ever there was a need for a mental health day, that was it!

    Curious to hear thoughts!

  42. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I have been in my current position for 19 years.

    In all that time, I think I have taken a grand total of around seven sick days, and four days’ bereavement.

    Sometimes, I will actually be sick but because I can work from home, I can still work. We put in 10 hour days occasionally — 12 hours at times –weekend calls – we just don’t gripe about it. Then again, if I need a couple hours – I can manage it.

    Now – my family are a line of schoolteachers – who cannot understand that

    a) sick days are not “extra vacation days” – they’re for use when you’re ill or need a medical procedure and
    b) if we take a day out, the work still needs to be done. We can’t say “call in a sub”.
    c) if we get , say 15 vacation days a year – that’s 15 days. Not 15 days plus a week off at Christmas, a week off at Easter, a week off during President’s day week….
    d) schools and other government workers enjoy many more holidays than those of us in the private sector get. Here in Massachusetts, the school year is PACKED with holidays others don’t get – Columbus Day, Veterans Day, MLK Day, Patriots Day, Evacuation Day, Flag Day, Bunker Hill Day, and so forth.
    e) on small teams, your work ramps up when someone else is on vacation.
    f) your own work ramps up before you go on vacation – you must catch up so you CAN go on vacation.

  43. I'm a Little Teapot*

    I’m surprised that so many people here have paid sick days at all. I’ve only had one job with paid sick days, ever – which is part of why I’m thrilled that my state will start requiring 5 paid sick days as of this July.

    It enrages me that American labor laws are practically nonexistent, which shouldn’t be the case; most voters, after all, are (or were previously) employees. I expect it’s because most politicians are wealthy and either don’t think about these things because they don’t have to or only think of them from the perspective of an owner (employees = labor costs). A lot of people say “oh, good employers know it’s smart to offer paid sick days, so there’s no reason to have a law about it” but a lot of employers aren’t good or smart – just as good people know not to, say, steal cars but there are still laws against stealing cars because not everyone is going to follow that rule without fear of law enforcement.

    1. PolarBear*

      I definitely think you deserve more sick pay! What happens if you have a serious disease or break a bone and need weeks, not days, off work?

      Here in the UK, statutory sick pay (by law) is £87.55 per week which isn’t much but better than nothing – some employers only pay statutory sick pay, I’ve noticed this more with small businesses. Larger employers mostly pay sick pay from what I see although it depends on how long you have been employed. My current company, if you have been there less than a year, starts with two weeks paid, then two weeks half pay, then statutory sick pay. This goes up after a year and increases every year to a maximum of 6 months full, 6 months half after 5 years employment.

      Some employers, like public sector jobs, will pay 6 months sickness pay from first day of joining, it differs a lot.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        In the US, some employees are eligible for Family and Medical Leave Act leave of up to 12 weeks if they get seriously ill – but it’s all unpaid, and only some illnesses are covered (I don’t know the details of which ones).

  44. Labyrinthine*

    Our company has to straddle a fine line with sick day use. We have a bucket of PTO that is used for vacation and sick time. I know this isn’t popular, but we are very generous with this and even offer the ability to “buy” more half way through the year if people suspect they will need it.

    We encourage people not to come in if they are sick. That said, we have discipline structures in place if this occurs more than 6 times in a calendar month. To mitigate the likelihood of this happening we roll days into a single “use” if they are concurrent (so if you call out Monday and Tuesday that is one “use” of unplanned time off rather than two).

    We have to set some limits to this because of the nature of our work and the need for coverage across all hours. What are the groups thoughts on this? Does it seem like it is discouraging people to use sick days? Does it seem fair?

  45. H*

    Ha, I didn’t read this yesterday because I was in bed… sick. I just have a nasty head cold, and I know I’m not contagious, but I knew that going in would leave me feeling overly tired and I felt like it was nicer to my coworkers to stay in my blanket fort with my Puffs and tea than force my coworkers listen to me hack, wheeze, and snorkel.

    But I must admit there was a certain novelty in knowing that I had earned the sick time and would be allowed to use it. My previous job (at a grocery store bakery) offered no sick time, and if you called in sick you received an “occurrence,” basically a mark against that you also got for things like showing up to work late for any reason, or coming back from lunch more than 3 minutes late. Sure, you could use vacation time (if you had it) to make up the pay, but that didn’t erase the occurrence. So between people who wanted to save all their potential occurrence points for days when they got stuck in horrible traffic and people who couldn’t afford to lose a day’s pay germs were everywhere and everyone caught (and came to work with) just about everything. I once called in sick because a stomach bug had rendered me Exorcist-levels of ill and was asked if I “really needed” the day off and if I could be “more specific” about why I couldn’t come in. It is positively thrilling to know that I work at a job where I can take a day to take care of myself without having to fight for it.

    1. Hlyssande*

      You could have gone in and let them deal with the projectile vomiting. :D

      At least, that’s the fantasy scenario for me when the crappy boss insists on someone coming in, and then has to deal with the fallout.

    2. I'm a Little Teapot*

      And this was in a bakery? That’s downright scary. As in, it’s a public health hazard. It’s illegal for people with gastrointestinal illnesses to be working with food, as Michele mentioned above, but it’s a law that needs to be enforced a whole lot more.

  46. BTW*

    I worked in retail for a long period of time and calling in sick was always discouraged. A lot of departments couldn’t survive with 1 less person so there was always such a negative response to sick calls. They also required a sick note for any call on a Friday-Sunday in order to deter the hangover calls. Then people who actually *were* sick on the weekend would have to spend their time (that they should have been resting) in a clinic for a stupid piece of paper that in most circumstances they had to pay for. (I’m in Canada) In addition to this their messages, conversations, activities etc. after that point would always be over-analyzed, “They don’t sound very sick to me!” … “They were perfectly fine yesterday” … “Look what their FB said!” If that weren’t bad enough, when they got back to work they would always get the cold shoulder for a few days. It was terrible how the management team treated employees. As for myself, when the employees in my department would come to work sick and I would say to them, “Go home. I don’t want your germs!” (In a friendly way of course!) :) I must admit there were a few times however where sick calls (usually multiple in one day/evening) would put me at a real disadvantage and it was hard not to want them to suck it up and come in.

    Generally, I think if you are carrying a box of tissues, are feeling ill (flu-ish, under the weather, chills, fever, tired etc.) and/or are going to spend more time complaining than working … stay home. If more people took the time to rest and recover, the faster they would get better and the less likely they would be to pass it on to everyone else.

  47. Abby*

    My husband’s employer gives employees a PTO bank for sick/personal/vacation time…but penalizes them if they call in sick. My husband works two floors away from a bathroom, plus he runs a machine, so he can’t just go to the bathroom any time he wants; he has to get someone to cover his machine. He had a bad stomach bug a few weeks ago, so he had to call in sick (he would have gone in if he just had a fever or body aches, but he was also very sick to his stomach). Sure enough, he got written up.

  48. D*

    I’m going to admit this is a major plus for working a corporate job. I get 40 hours of sick time a year that can accrue until 90 hours before you start losing it. The policy in my workplace is if you need unscheduled time off call in sick as long as you have sick time it will not hurt your adherence but if you use personal or vacation if will count against you. So it is suggested that you are sick when things pop up (car problems, childcare ect). We don’t get to cash in our unused time and management certainly doesn’t want unscheduled time against you or them.

  49. gavin*

    my boss told me to go home because i looked like death ( plus been in cycling accident 20 days before with a 4×4 lexus)
    then says to me 5 days later. “we need to have a chat as your always ill lately the last 3 weeks you have been no good” were do i stand in that iit makes me feel small and bullied to a point

Comments are closed.