my boss said sick days aren’t something you can announce in advance

A reader writes:

This issue came up years ago and is long resolved but I’ve always been curious for your take.

At the end of a workday, I was feeling awful. My chest and stomach were in knots. It was a stress reaction, not a contagious illness, but nonetheless I felt awful.

That was a Tuesday and I told my coworkers and supervisor that I was taking the next day, Wednesday, off. No one had a problem with that. I was not leaving anyone in the lurch.

When I returned on Thursday (feeling much better), I submitted a sick day for the time I’d been off. My supervisor came to me later and said that I couldn’t use a sick day, I would have to use a personal day instead. She said, “Sick days are only for if you call out that morning. You can’t use a sick day in advance.”

I was dumbfounded by this. I said, “So you’re saying you would rather have had as little notice as possible that I was going to be out? So I couldn’t pass some info along to the team beforehand instead of them having to scramble for it the day of? Because I can definitely do that next time but it seems counterproductive.” She didn’t really have an answer for that. The conversation ended because we had to all go into a different meeting and when I approached her about it later, she said to just take the sick day. I am pretty sure she did not care about it either way and was just following the directions of someone micromanaging above her.

The reason I wanted to use sick time rather than personal time was that I got 10 sick days and only two personal days a year. And also I FELT sick. Was it a “mental health day”? Yeah definitely. That is still a valid use of sick time, right? Or am I totally off base on this?

Also the place I was working was, itself, in the field of mental health so I found the whole thing particularly irritating.

First things first: Mental health is a valid use for sick days. And it’s odd to say that sick days are only for when you’re calling out sick that morning. I suspect even your manager would agree with that if pushed, because sometimes you’re sick enough that you know you’ll be out for the next few days and it helps no one if you pretend otherwise. It’s also appropriate to use sick leave for some things that are planned in advance, like a doctor’s appointment or a medical procedure that takes you out of commission for the day or longer.

What I suspect your manager was reacting to was that on Tuesday you didn’t seem obviously ill — the sort of ill where clearly you’d not be at work the next day — and so when you said you were taking the next day off, she probably assumed you meant a vacation day or personal day. When you came back later that week and charged it to sick leave, she thought, “Well, wait — that wasn’t what I’d understood earlier.” If she didn’t realize you weren’t well on Tuesday and Wednesday, she might have thought you just didn’t want to dip into your vacation balance.

In other words, I don’t think she was really saying that you can never plan sick leave in advance. It sounds like it was specific to this particular situation, and she just misunderstood.

If I’m misunderstanding and she was indeed saying that all sick leave must be same-day only, that is ridiculous and flies in the face of how humans, illness, injury, and medical care actually work (as well as how most employers’ sick leave practices work).

{ 244 comments… read them below }

  1. Mobius 1*

    This is pretty weird. It definitely lands as if it were one of those policies designed in response to a specific person or persons.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I think that’s definitely part of it, but I also think some employers just care way too much about this kind of thing. ‘Proper Documentation’ was A Very Big Deal with some of my previous employers, even when it didn’t need to be.

      1. MK*

        My wife was somewhat sternly reprimanded a couple years ago because she submitted a sick day for taking our toddler to the doctor. It left her shaken, since they went so far as to imply that she committed some kind of fraud for not submitting it as PTO. Well, lo and behold, her company moved to an electronic method of submitting time and requesting time off, and dependent care IS listed as a valid reason for taking a sick day. Her supervisor actually apologized, but it’s still a sore spot for her. She submitted the sick day in good faith, was willing to change it when it was told that it was not allowed, but was still made to feel terrible about it. And it wasn’t even against their actual policy!!

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Some people have no finely-attuned sense of nuance between “I’m not 100% sure this is correct . . . ” and “you have committed fraud!” For them, it’s just an instantaneous leap from one to the other.

          We have different categories of sick leave, too, including: Self; Family; Bereavement; etc.

          1. Ashley*

            “Some people have no finely-attuned sense of nuance…” THIS. I have faced this same person so often — both as an employee AND as a customer.

            There are some people with the weird attitude that WE MUST PROTECT THE CORPORATION when, really, they’re destroying morale, culture, and customer goodwill in the process.

          2. aubutn*

            And some ridiculously high percentage of those people work in fields like HR and finance where this stuff lands –and I say that as someone who works in HR but finds that a big part of my job is actually trying to encourage that balance.

            1. Mongrel*

              I don’t think it’s so much that they dis-proportionally end up in HR & Finance, it’s just that they’re able to have a much more noticeable impact on others when they do get there.

        2. I hate you denise*

          Yeah I had this happen to me, where I was having out patient surgery on a Wednesday and my doctor told me I would need 3-4 days for recovery. I asked off for 3days [wed-fri) My manager told me I couldn’t schedule sick days. So I took just the surgery day and the day after off, went in on Friday, had a bad reaction to the antibiotics , left 30 min early and a two weeks later got called into the office because ‘someone’ had complained about me leaving early. Worst vacation ever.

    2. Web of Pies*

      I’ve always thought the division between types of PTO is pointless. Who cares WHY you’re out of the office? Whether I’m sick or waiting on the cable guy or in Maui, it’s the same to the employer: I am not there. The only difference to them is how much of a heads-up they get.

      There’s also the dumbness that people who are sick a lot have to use vacation days while sick, but people who don’t get sick a lot aren’t supposed to use sick days for vacation. It’s stupid, just give people a chunk of PTO and let them use it how they want, you’ll get a lot fewer fake sick call-ins and more notice to cover people who are out.

      1. KitKat2000*

        In some states, employers are required to pay out certain types of leave on termination. For example, in California, an employer is required to pay accrued vacation on termination, but *not* required to pay accrued sick leave on termination.

      2. Pickwick Picnic*

        The reason I like having different “buckets” of PTO is that it means I can plan to use ALL of my vacation time for a vacation. My husband just has one lump of PTO and he always has to leave a buffer of a few days unused in case he gets sick.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Yeah, I’ve definitely done the “I can’t use my last PTO days until the last minute because what if I get sick” dance.

          1. CaptainMouse*

            Yes, I had a job with that one bucket. Worse, there was no rollover year to year. So I always ended up doing 3 and 4 day weeks in December. Especially pointless since I don’t celebrate Christmas.

        2. Anonymous pineapple*

          I keep seeing this response, but don’t understand the reasoning. What’s the real difference between having separate 10 vacation days + 5 sick days and one bucket of 15 PTO days where you are responsible for setting aside some for illness? Either way you can plan your 10 days of vacation (or less, if you know you’re likely to need more than the 5 sick days). With the lumped PTO, if you don’t get sick, you’ll be able to take some extra vacation.

          I have one bucket of PTO. It rolls over and I can go into the negative by 40 hours. I always plan to have a little left for in case I or the kids get sick but that doesn’t prevent me from scheduling average amounts of vacation. If my company decided to have separate sick leave, they wouldn’t be giving that to me on top of the current PTO, they would subtract/separate it out. I’d still have the same total available days off per year, just with less flexibility in how I use them.

          1. Working*

            Part of the issue is that employers don’t necessarily allow people to go into the negative. Another is that vacation + sick + personal tends to add up to significantly more days than one bucket of PTO. Of course, at places with really generous sick leave, the assumption is that you won’t use all of the days, but they’re there if you need them – and if you do, it won’t eat into your ability to take a vacation.

            1. Redd*

              This–rarely do those “one bucket” plans end up including the same amount of total time off. In addition, do you really want to incentive people coming in when they’re ill and possibly contagious? Because that happens when staying home until they’re healthy requires them to cancel vacations.

          2. too young to die, too old to eat off the kids' menu*

            When you have a single bucket, it’s easy to mentally classify it all as vacation. And people generally want their vacation time to be fun, relaxing, productive, whatever – basically everything you don’t get from sitting at home miserable.

            This is a big part of why people go to work when they’re sick. Vacation time is precious and it sucks feeling like you’re wasting it, so you convince yourself that you’re not actually thaaat sick. And definitely not sick enough to take the day off.

            Having time earmarked as sick time leads more people to actually use it.

      3. Cat Tree*

        As a person with several chronic conditions, I hate combined PTO. It means I can’t take a vacation if I’ve been sick too many times, or I’m afraid to use days for fun in case I’ll need sick days later. The better solution is to offer unlimited sick leave.

      4. ThatGirl*

        I’ve worked at companies where everything was one big bucket, where sick and vacation days were separate, and now a new twist on things: my current company doesn’t have formal sick day leave; if you’re sick, you just let your manager know, and it’s not tracked or counted anywhere. They do ask for a doctor’s note if you’re going to be out more than 2 days, though.

        Personally, it doesn’t make a huge difference to me as long as I have sufficient vacation time, but I kind of like the “we trust you to take a day off if you don’t feel well enough to work”.

        1. Le Sigh*

          I think this can work when it’s how you describe — sick time is just not tracked or there is no official “bucket” to pull from. My last job had a combined sick/PTO bucket and I hated it. I once got really sick the week before a planned, nonrefundable vacation, but was better in time to go — but I almost couldn’t because my sick time ate into my PTO enough that I had to get special dispensation to go in the red on my time off (which was at the good will of your supervisor).

        2. Mr. Shark*

          This is what I have, although I work in California so you’re guaranteed two weeks of sick pay anyway. But with the “if you’re sick, let your manager know and take the day” it’s easy and convenient. We also can just let our manager know if we have an appointment and will be out.
          Since you’re manager knows what’s going on, it becomes apparent if someone is abusing it. But honestly, I can’t remember the last time someone (besides me) was out sick. And the last time I was out sick was like a year and a half ago.
          I like the vacation separately because you can plan to use it as vacation, and also, as vacation, my company pushes us to use it this year. So your manager can’t complain if you’re taking vacation (well, they can, but they pretty much have to let you take it), because it’s use it or lose it.

          1. MeleMallory*

            I’m pretty sure California is 3 days of sick pay annually. I’m also in California, and all my jobs have only offered 24 hours. You can accrue 2 weeks of vacation, and some companies can offer more sick time, but the minimum is only 3 days. (Of course, if the law really is 2 weeks, please let me know I can go to HR and get some more sick time for my chronic conditions!)

        3. LC*

          There aren’t too many things that I miss about my last company, but they did something similar to this and I really, really appreciated it.

          PTO was it’s own thing that you can use for whatever you want, you accrue it based on seniority, up to a certain amount rolls over, you’re paid out for any balance if you leave, you didn’t have to touch it for sick time or anything.

          If you were sick, had an appointment, etc., you just … told your manager “hey I won’t be in today/tomorrow/next Tuesday afternoon/whenever.” If it was going to be extended, they worked with you on FMLA and whatever other options there to get paid, but mostly they just trusted you to decide when you aren’t well enough to work.

          Now, this was only applicable for those in the corporate offices (it was a completely different story for the people in the stores and other hourly folks) and the rate of PTO accrual was pretty abysmal wherever you were and the benefits overall were on the low side of “meh,” so the sick policy didn’t make up for any of that. But this particular policy was definitely something they did right.

      5. miss chevious*

        I like the division, because it means I don’t have to save vacation for being sick. Also, at my place of employment, sick days roll over from year to year, but vacation doesn’t, so if I don’t have to use all my sick days one year, I have them in the future. (They aren’t paid out upon termination or resignation.)

        Also, the company fully supports using sick days in advance, if you know you’re going to be out. I can’t see why they would be against it, but so many employers aren’t rational about absences.

      6. LTL*

        Sick leave should be unlimited but if we put that aside….

        One consideration of combined PTO is that you have to be aware that it is, indeed, combined. Most companies don’t do it. So if an organization says “we offer 3 weeks of PTO” you need to check whether that’s 3 weeks plus sick leave, or a bucket of all the time off you can take.

        The other is that it incentivizes sick people to come into the office so they don’t lose vacation days.

      7. DataSci*

        Having a single bucket means you can never plan a vacation. What if you go on that week-long summer trip and then your kid gets the flu in November and you don’t have enough sick days left? Do you go into the office every time you’re sick yourself to save the days for your kid?

        Healthy people without kids LOVE combined PTO. People with chronic conditions or with kids they need to use sick days for tend to hate it.

        1. doreen*

          I’ve seen people say this before – but I don’t really understand it. I mean, I understand that if you have kids or a chronic condition that causes you to miss work you might want to save some days from your single bucket to use for sick days but I’m not really clear on why you wouldn’t feel you needed to save some days if you had separate buckets and everything else was the same. Even with separate buckets you can end up without enough sick time to take off that week in November if the kids were sick for a week in March and you took a few sick days yourself.

          1. Working*

            Healthy/childless people might not always love having one bucket, but they’re less likely to be adversely affected by it since they (in most cases) won’t have to take as many sick days.

            1. pbnj*

              I just hate that it means that people are more likely to be coming into work sick, which means I get sick more often. I definitely prefer separate buckets.

        2. LC*

          Healthy people without kids LOVE combined PTO

          We do?

          I’m healthy in a “I don’t have a chronic condition that means I regularly need to use sick days” kind of way and I don’t have kids and I really, really don’t LOVE having combined PTO.

        3. Mr. Shark*

          That’s not really true regarding healthy people without kids. Separate buckets is still better for us.

          1. londonedit*

            I’m a healthy person without children and I can’t imagine having to use my holiday time for sickness. I’m in the UK so things are different, but holiday is holiday. I’d hate to feel like I couldn’t take two weeks off in the summer just in case I came down with flu in November and had to take a week off sick. The way it works in my company is that we have 25 days’ holiday, and sick time is done on an ad hoc basis. There’s no set number of sick days – we can self-certify for up to 5 days, and then we need a doctor’s note. HR would definitely have a conversation with you if you were taking a lot of sick time, but if you’re signed off as long-term sick then you can get Statutory Sick Pay from the government, and the company will top that up to your regular salary for up to 15 weeks.

            1. Bagpuss*

              Just for reference, you don’t get Statutory Sick Pay from the government. You have an *entitlement* to SSP, but it is paid by your employer. Historically the employer used to be able to reclaim it from the government but that’s long gone. (Except for Covid where they re-introduced the ability to recliam it and also provided for it to kick in immediately, instead of after 3 days) But in a non-covid situation your employer is carrying the full cost.

              1. londonedit*

                Ah, thanks – I’ve never used it and wasn’t up to date on the fact that the gov doesn’t pay for it anymore. Thankfully my employer does give SSP and tops up to your regular salary, but I know other companies don’t.

      8. Miss Bee*

        My current company had all-in-one PTO but there were issues with people coming in when not feeling well (sometimes to the point of symptoms) to keep the banked time for vacations/”what if I need it more, later”. So they added additional sick days on top of the current PTO that were lost if not used by the end of the year, to make sure people are encouraged to use them up.

      9. Nessun*

        We track vacation and sick leave and personal care all separately. Vacation is ostensibly to de-stress and relax, so the company wants to make sure you have time to do that (and use it!). Sick leave is if you need time off for health (mental or physical), but is tracked so that if your eoff more than 5 days in a row the system can ping for a discussion about short term disability leave where necessary. Personal care is for things you can’t flex your schedule for, but that aren’t health related or vacation down-time (like a moving day, or bereavement). I like the distinctions because they show some thought went into it – and also keeps vacation (which is a set # of days based on tenure) separate from health, which is however long you need to be well.

      10. Koalafied*

        When it’s done well/by a company that is trying to be decent, having the different buckets 1) allows the company to be much more generous to people going through a medical crisis, without having to give the entire company the freedom to take as much time off for funsies as someone with a serious medical episode could very well need to recover, and 2) ensures that someone who has a major medical event still has a protected bucket of PTO they can use, so that a major illness at one point in a year doesn’t also mean no vacation at any other time that year.

      11. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I like my sick and vacation leave separate; somehow it lessens the worry and planning about how much is for fun and how much is for sick.

      12. AcademiaNut*

        If the company offers combined PTO, the expectation is that it’s a total amount of PTO that people can and will use up every year. So the sick leave amount is not going to be particularly generous. If the buckets are separate, the expectation can be that vacation is for using up every year, but sick leave is for what you need, and with a generous sick leave policy, that means that most employees will not use up the sick leave in a given year. When I’ve seen people give amounts for combined PTO, they’re giving numbers like three weeks, not two months.

        In 15 years at my current employer, I’ve never used up my full sick leave allotment (I’m generally healthy and don’t have kids), but am required to use up my vacation every year.

        1. Random Bystander*

          My employer offers combined PTO, accrued at a rate dependent on how long you’ve been there (you start at 7.9 hours/pay period which is every two weeks–I’m now at 9.5, which comes out to 247/year or a hair over six weeks). The PTO rolls over (but there is a max that you can have in the bank), and is paid out after retirement.

    3. Amethystmoon*

      Yeah, I wonder if they’re over correcting someone or multiple someones who misused sick leave in the past.

  2. Suzi*

    At my company we can use sick time for planned doctor’s appointments as well and that’s always covered. Is that not normal?

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Perfectly normal. I wish they were called “health days” instead of “sick days” so it’s clear for everybody.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        A million years ago at first job, it was “Sick – Preventative” or “Sick – Recuperative”.

    2. Paris Geller*

      It’s normal, but I do know of places where it’s not allowed. My dad’s wife worked at a place where sick leave was for unplanned absences ONLY (she only worked there a year for various reasons, including that they did not get PTO except a few days of sick leave for a year)

      1. banoffee pie*

        I suppose you could just not tell them in advance that you have a doctor’s appointment next day, take the day off and go to the appointmemt. You could then tell them after the fact so it wasn’t really scheduled. Seems a bit daft tho. Would that get round the letter of the law?

    3. Stevie*

      Yes – I’m a federal employee, and that’s also how we do it.

      I had to get used to that, though. My previous job didn’t have designated sick leave at all. If we had a doctor’s appointment (and were exempt from overtime, as most were), we just let our boss know and we didn’t have to charge it to a paid leave balance. If we were sick enough to require not coming in for the day, we either worked from home (not using leave) or used paid leave to take the full day off.

    4. Liz*

      Where I am it is! As well as being able to use sick days for family member dr. appts, aka kids, elderly parents and so on. Which is nice since my mom no longer drives so I am her transportation to her dr. appointments.

      Although I suspect some places are much more rigid about sick time than others.

    5. Jamie Starr*

      Under NYC law most employers have to give employees (even PT) at least 40 hours of paid sick and safe leave. (More if you have over 100 employees.) Safe leave is when the employee or a family member “may be the victim of any act or threat of domestic violence, unwanted sexual contact, stalking, or human trafficking, and they need to take actions necessary to restore the physical, psychological, or economic health or safety of themselves or family members, or to protect those who associate or work with the employee.”

    6. Anoni*

      Our company has instituted a policy that if you take any sick time (like for an appointment even if you come in to work) you have to give a reason. “Appointment” or “Out Sick.” Add to that their worry about COVID exposure and not only do you have enter the reason in our electronic time keeping, you then have to call HR and explain your symptoms so they can determine if you need a COVID test or not. I took a mental health day a few weeks ago and had to lie about why I was out so that I didn’t have to explain it was for mental health (because I guarantee under this policy it wouldn’t count as a sick day and would have to be charged to vacation) and that I wasn’t exhibiting any COVID symptoms (because under this paranoia me even saying I had a headache would have required me to get a clean test before coming back). I had to rely on my preexisting condition, which almost didn’t work since apparently it’s not in my personnel file. *internal screaming*

      1. Koalafied*

        Ugh, that is so invasive. They should just be running down a list of “do you have X symptom?” and determining if you need a test based on your response to those specific covid symptoms – not asking folks to disclose their private medical business just so they can make sure it’s not on a covid symptom list.

      2. Ace in the Hole*

        Oof, that sucks. My go-to in situations like that is to say it’s “a medical issue of an intimate nature, I’d really rather not discuss details.”

        If I really can’t get out of it without telling them something concrete, I’ll use one of the following excuses: severe menstrual cramps, a urinary tract infection, or allergy-induced hives (in a place not visible to the public, of course). Fortunately, my current employer is not run by idiots who want to play doctor-police.

        1. LizB*

          I had to go home early due to pain from a UTI the other day, and specified in my note to my manager that the problem was “non-contagious and non-respiratory” just to try and keep her from being nervous.

      3. Bagpuss*

        Yeah, I think right now it’s appropriate to ask whether the person has covid symptoms but I also think that if they employer is requiring a negative test before letting people return they should be funding them.

        I’m in the UK, and the government issues free lateral flow tests on request and encourages everyone to use them twice a week and log the results to help track cases (I think it you log a positive result they would then ask you to get a PCR test to confirm (also free).

        Before they introduced this, at my place of work we bought and provided tests and sent these to anyone who was out sick to ask that they use it to check that they were negative before coming in (and also provided them to anyone who was WFH but asked for one)

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      My current job axed that policy 5-6 years ago. One day, a new handbook came out that said “sick days are only to be used for unplanned illness.” It was hugely inconvenient. I had to take two days PTO for planned eye surgery. Best vacation I ever had /s. I also took a PTO day for a colonoscopy, then dragged myself out of bed the next morning to email my supervisor and team saying, “I hadn’t planned to still feel bad today after yesterday’s procedure, but, unexpectedly, I am, so here’s a sick day request” submitted it and went back to bed. (Yep, I’d planned to do this. Nope I hadn’t told anyone in advance.) I was losing sick days every year because I didn’t have enough unplanned illnesses. Apparently so did other people. We went to the “all PTO days in one bucket” a couple of years ago, and personally, I was relieved to get my sick days back. Before, I felt that I had them, but could not use them.

  3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    This is bizarre. If I have a concussion or 2 broken legs, do I need to call in every morning until I’m clear to work again?

    1. Batty Twerp*

      “Hi boss, I got hit by a car on my way home, I’m in the hospital so I won’t be in tomorrow”
      “So, you’re taking it as a vacation day, right?”

      I might go and talk to my neighbour’s fence, it makes more sense than this manager’s “logic”.

      1. snarkarina*

        Ironically, that actually happened to me . . . also there’s no mortification, like lying bleeding on the ground in at the metro station across the street from your office and then being loaded onto an ambulance as scores of your coworkers pass by gawking. The number of people who then stopped me in the hall (I was on crutches still) to tell me they saw me and ask about my recovery made me wish I’d not returned so quickly.

          1. HannahS*

            I’m not snarkerina, but I feel like going up to a coworker and saying, “HEY I WITNESSED YOUR MEDICAL EMERGENCY” is…unnecessary. You can just ask people how they’re doing without reminding them that you saw them in a really scary and vulnerable moment.

    2. Coco*

      Agreed. That is an odd stance. If you have surgery or a medical/ dental procedure scheduled in advance and your dr tells you to take a couple of days off to recover post procedure, you wouldn’t be able to tell your boss in advance?

    3. Anonymoose*

      Actually, a lot of jobs (fast food and retail are two industries I can name where this is commonplace) do require you to call in EVERY day of your absence. I was out once, signed off by a doctor and with a definite confirmed return date after a surgery. I still had to call in and speak to the same manager every morning and tell them, yep, I’m still recovering from surgery, no I still won’t be in today, and yep, I’m still coming back on the 10th.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        Same thing happened to my mom. She worked at a call center for a cellphone company (which is now out of business, SHOCKER!!) She had to take a leave of absence for mental health, signed off by her doctor. She had to get up early every single scheduled workday for a month. Then when she came back to work no one told her that they were doing mandatory overtime so she was counted as being late (point system) and she was expected to make up the hours she was out for the prior month. So basically they wanted her to work 6 am to 11 pm 7 days a week for like 2 months in order to make up her 1 month off, work her normal shift, and the mandatory overtime!

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          That is bananacrackers. A business has to deal with people being out sometimes. That is the nature of employing humans instead of robots. I can’t believe they wanted her to make up her time off…

        2. lilsheba*

          THIS is why call centers are evil and should be destroyed. They don’t care about people at all.

      2. Gothic Bee*

        Yeah, I worked a few jobs like this, including a call center. It’s obnoxious and I think it’s just meant to make being out sick more difficult. The worst was when I worked one job where you had to call in sick before each shift you were out, but you had to talk to a manager in person, but no one would ever answer the phone, and half the time there wasn’t a manager on shift (seriously). Plus you were supposed to call around to see if you could find someone to cover your shift (which, is the worst policy). It was a food service job and no surprise, a lot of the time people would just come in sick. Also, no surprise, they went out of business.

      3. Dahlia*

        In contrast, good ones don’t – when I was in the hospital, my mom just texted her manager like, “Yeah, my kid’s broken, gonna be 200 miles away for a week” and her manager just said, “Okay, hope she’s okay.”

        1. Elenna*

          Yeah, my work is like this – whenever someone is sick they just send an email to the team like “hey, not feeling well, gonna be out” and that’s it. I don’t think our sick time is even recorded anywhere.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Most importantly, have your concussion during normal work hours. If you have it in the evening, wait till the next morning to call it in! The mind boggles.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        We actually had to institute a policy that people were not to call in sick earlier than an hour before their shift started. Giving advanced notice the day before is fine, too… the problem was that people kept phoning the on-call manager at 3am to call out sick for a 7am shift, which was super disruptive since they have to keep their phone on at all times in case of genuine emergencies.

        1. LizB*

          It wouldn’t have worked to tell people, “If you’re calling in sick, don’t call from 11pm to 6am”? Or to have a manager voicemail line, or let people email or text in sick?

          1. Elsajeni*

            Yeah, I’m sympathetic to the manager, but it also really sucks to be up all night puking, taking care of a sick kid, etc. and still have to wake up at 6 because that’s the appointed call-in time. Email or a voicemail box (at a separate number that won’t wake anybody up) seems like the ideal solution.

        2. PT*

          Ugh I had a problem with that too. People keeping my phone blinging all night with texts that weren’t important for that time of day. Then I had the reverse, people who worked early morning shifts (5 am – 7 am) who’d text or email with problems and then be like “but I waited 10 minutes and you didn’t answer my email/text!” Because you have to call to wake someone up, if you work outside of normal waking hours! Bosses aren’t like nonplayable characters who just sit in the same spot waiting for you day or night or weekday or weekend you know.

    5. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      Hello SURGERY? How does one NOT take sick time for planned surgery? The HR person needs to grow two new glands: one for sympathy, and one for resourcefulness. What a robot.

    6. June*

      That’s not the scenario here though. Personally I would not announce at the end of my shift that I was calling out sick the next day. Unless I was truly physically ill, like vomiting. I’ve taken mental health days and they are true sick days. But it’s based on how I’m feeling hours before my shift. Announcing it on my way out would not go over.

      1. Cercis*

        One job I had (municipal gov’t) had a point system. You’d get points for calling in the day of, but if you told them on the way out that you weren’t feeling well and might not be in tomorrow, and scheduled it in the system, it was fine and sick leave. If you felt better and actually came in, you emailed the HR person and she recorded you as being in, no loss of sick leave and no points. It was ridiculous and a lot of extra work, because we all quickly figured out to say “I feel like I’m coming down with something” and get it on the books for her to have to then fix.

        A coworker almost lost her job because she had 3 kids in different schools. Between the two of them, she and her husband ended up taking about 8 unplanned sick days each year. Each unplanned sick day was 5 points. At 15 points, you got counseled, at 30 points you got fired. Your points reset every six months, unless you had 20 points, then half carried over. So, one 6 month period, she ended up with 25 points (5 unplanned days) so carried over 13 points. She was literally one sick day away from being fired in her next 6 month period. She was an exemplary employee, but policy was policy. She got sick the last week of that 6 months period (stress can do that to you) and came to work sick then put in for a sick day for the next day. We all hated it, but understood and her boss let her work in the conference room away from us.

        She finally started letting her older daughter stay home to take care of the other two when they got sick because she couldn’t afford to be without a job. So her older daughter missed school and all that goes along with that. It was a really stupid cycle.

        1. Cringing 24/7*

          This is the absolute worst system I’ve ever heard of (yet) and I hope that this whole company has already gone belly-up. I just can’t with this foolishness – that poor worker! Her poor kids who likely felt the emotional and psychological burden of their mother’s worry whenever she stressed about calling in sick for them!

          1. The Dogman*

            Seems to be a local government dept.

            “(municipal gov’t)”

            So probably still doing the exact same stupid thing!

          2. feral fairy*

            This is how it works in most retail jobs. I worked in retail during covid and while abiding by their quarantine policies during COVID when I was sick and waiting for my test results, I maxed out my sick leave. After it was maxed out, I was informed that if I called in sick on the day of my shift, I’d get a point. All this does is encourage people to come into work when they aren’t feeling well and I guarantee that policies like this have contributed to the spread of the virus. It’s really crappy and selfish to come into work when you’re having COVID symptoms and potentially expose other people, so I am not trying to excuse that, but I do think that a system where you are penalized for calling out sick when you are sick is extremely problematic.

            1. Amethystmoon*

              Yeah, the US needs some kind of federal law that people can get basic sick leave when they are actually sick, and especially with a positive COVID test, without having to worry about losing their job.

            2. WS*

              My state (Victoria, Australia) made a payment available to anyone with no sick leave or no remaining sick leave who was waiting on results, which was fantastic. (My workplace still paid people for missed shifts for this reason, but that’s just one workplace.)

  4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I agree with Alison; this sounds more like a miscommunication after a miscommunication than a blanket policy.

    I find it hard to believe that if you came into your supervisor’s office, vomited into the trash can and told the boss “I’m going to be out sick tomorrow,” that the boss would say “a lot can change in the next 12 hours.”

    1. doreen*

      I agree- I didn’t get the sense from the letter that the OP left early on Tuesday because they didn’t feel well or even that they told the supervisor that they weren’t feeling well. I can use sick leave for doctor’s appointments and can tell my manager I will be out all next week due to a medical procedure – but that doesn’t mean I can ask for this afternoon , tomorrow or next week off without mentioning sick leave or a medical procedure until I return and not expect any questions.

    2. Kristen*

      I don’t know; this was DEFINITELY the case at a former job I worked in, and it was soooooo infuriating. Sick days were only used for things that were unforeseen prior to that day.

      The exception was, if you called in on Tuesday morning and said, “I’ve been hospitalized for an emergency appendectomy and they want to keep me here for 2 days,” those subsequent days could be taken out of your sick time, but *only because you’d originally called off on the day of* (because the entire incident was therefore considered unplanned). A coworker of mine had a minor surgery scheduled and needed a few days off, and it was considered vacation time. I had a few doctor’s appointments here and there following an injury, and they were taken out of vacation time. And it’s not like we had a lot of vacation time to start with! I absolutely hated it and was constantly arguing with management that it just meant I would not tell anyone beforehand if I knew I was going to be out with a health issue for a couple days. They seemed fine with that! Like, they absolutely thought it was better to have everyone scrambling to cover for people rather than have someone say “I will need to use sick time for a procedure I’m having next month.” Absolutely bizarre.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Absolutely bizarre.

        Can’t argue with that–if anything, I think you’re underselling the bizarre-ness.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        My migraines give me advanced warning– apparently those managers don’t want me to give them a heads up that I have an aura that might keep me out the next day? This is just a ridiculous world.

    3. TiffIf*

      I have a single bucket PTO (so sick leave and vacation come out of the same bank of hours) but if I have advance info about being out I always give it. Earlier this year when I was scheduled for my second COVID vaccine shot, I told my boss “I’m getting my second COVID vaccine shot after work today, depending on if I experience any side effects, I may not be in tomorrow”. I did end up taking PTO that day.

    4. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I hope this was a miscommunication and a one-off at that. It seems like this would have been a non-issue if the manager had asked OP something like, “Hey, I noticed you used a sick day last Wednesday. I wanted to check, was that sick time or a personal day?”

      I think AAM has said before, come in with a collaborative mindset and assume good intent.

    5. Ess Dot*

      I was given this exact reprimand once after a family tragedy. On my weekend, I got The Call. I had to travel immediately to a neighbouring city’s hospital. I notified my boss that I would be out the following two shifts, giving nearly 24 hours notice – this was a fancy imports deli, and the shift needed coverage. When I returned to work he sat me down and sternly told me that if I was sick I could call in the day of but not before, and what I had done was unacceptable. My whole extended family was shattered by the accident – it’s been a decade and this wound runs through a generation – and I was so shocked by what he was telling me that I *really* drilled down on what he was saying. He truly insisted that calling in and “being sick” the morning of was the only way to get days off.

      I had an interview scheduled elsewhere by the end of *that day* and started my next job within a week. Twenty years of retail and it’s still the crowning example of bonkers mismanagement I’ve ever encountered

  5. chai latte*

    Only 2 personal days a year???

    Not the substance of your letter, OP, but that’s seriously terrible.

    In workplaces that function well, what you did was not out of line. But I would not be surprised if there are other issues (and it sounds like you expect some high level micro managers) given what you posted here.

    1. doreen*

      It depends – at my current job “personal days” are separate from “vacation days”, so it’s possible that the OP gets 10 sick days, 2 personal days and an unspecified number of vacation days per year. I think it’s actually pretty likely because in my experience, jobs with multiple buckets never give you more sick days than vacation days.

        1. just a random teacher*

          Except in k-12 education, where you’re likely to get ample sick leave that rolls over to accumulate in large amounts (I no longer worry about buying a short term disability policy due to the amount of sick leave I have banked as a mid-career teacher with no major health setbacks so far), and at most 2 or 3 personal days that do not roll over from year to year. (No vacation time, unless you count the days you’re not contracted to work, such as summer break, as a vacation. You have no control over when they are, though, so you there are things you can just never do because you can’t take time off when it’s happening. While there are plenty of other reasons why I’ve never been to Burning Man, this is one of them.)

          K-12 education is its own weird world in lots of ways, though. (We actually do year-long employment contracts rather than at-will, at least in my state, so everything about giving notice is totally different as well.)

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Every time I’ve had personal days available to me, they’ve been de facto vacation or sick days with the defining feature of not rolling over if the other types of PTO did. They could be scheduled well in advance like a trip might, on short notice like this scenario, day off like a PTO mulligan, etc. I no longer get them (it’s just a generic PTO bank at my employer now, and I actually prefer that to the Neapolitan PTO), but my spouse does and that’s how they continue to work at that business.

      2. I'm just here for the cats*

        Yup, at my job we get 2.5 personal days (I don’t why the half day), 10 vacation days and we earn sick days. 5 hours every 2 weeks.

      3. OtterB*

        Ours are separated into vacation days (amount depends on how long you’ve worked here, from 2 weeks to a max of 4) and sick/personal days, which are lumped together, and everyone gets one per month. Those are explicitly for being sick, yes, and for doctor’s appointments and for helping a sick spouse/child, but they are also for make-your-life-easier things like parent-teacher conferences, renewing your driver’s license, taking a pet to the vet, etc. We also normally have extra time off around Christmas and New Year’s, although the exact amount depends on how the holidays fall.

        I really like the way my office handles this.

      4. TiffIf*

        My company has 10 paid holidays per year. In the past few years they removed one of the fixed Holidays (can’t remember which) and gave us a “Floating Holiday” that we could take for any reason. That’s in addition to our single bucket PTO. So everyone has their accrued PTO (based on hours, seniority, and tenure) + 1 Floating Holiday which is the closest thing we have to a separately designated “personal day.”

        1. Anon so I don't do myself*

          Floating holidays are something else that and be abused in strange ways. A few years ago someone in management coined the phrase “designated floating holiday” when they decided to stay closed between Christmas and New Years.
          Orwell’s “doubleplusungood” got a bit of a revival that year.

      5. Drago Cucina*

        Yes, at my old job it was 3 personal days, 12 sick days, 5-20 vacation days, and 11 paid holidays. Personal days didn’t roll over. Vacation days could roll over 1.5 x annual accumulation, and sick time maxed out at 500 hours. Vacation paid out at separation. Sick time didn’t unless you retired and then it rolled into the retirement system.
        All that said, I would much rather have people tell me the day before that they were going to be out sick than in the morning. Also, doctor appointments, family doctor appointments, etc., counted. I specifically told people to plan a mental health day if needed. I’d rather they be honest than force them to lie.

    2. OP*

      Oh, personal days are different than vacation days. We got 15 vacation days a year. The difference was you had to request vacation a couple weeks in advance but personal days could be taken day of. (I’m the OP but I’m no longer at that job for unrelated reasons.)

    3. Perfectly Particular*

      We get x vacation days depending on tenure, 5 sick days, 3 personal holidays, and 5 work/family days. I think next year they may convert Martin Luther King day or Juneteenth to a holiday and drop us back down to 2 personal holidays. But I don’t think anyone would say that our PTO situation is unfair.

        1. LizB*

          I wonder if that’s the bucket for like, the water heater broke and I need to sit at home waiting for the plumber, or my kid has lice and can’t go back to school yet, or that kind of thing? You’re not technically sick yourself, but you have some other obligation to unexpectedly attend to.

    4. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Starting employees at my company get 14 vacation days, 14 sick days (these refresh if you go 6 months without using a whole day of sick time), and 2 personal days. The difference between vacation and personal is that taking vacation is at management’s approval and personal days require NO approval — your manager cannot prevent you from taking a personal day.

  6. Anonymoose*

    Actually, a lot of jobs (fast food and retail are two industries I can name where this is commonplace) do require you to call in EVERY day of your absence. I was out once, signed off by a doctor and with a definite confirmed return date after a surgery. I still had to call in and speak to the same manager every morning and tell them, yep, I’m still recovering from surgery, no I still won’t be in today, and yep, I’m still coming back on the 10th.

    1. Luke G*

      Yeah, but they were still OK with you saying “I’ll be out from the 1st through the 10th” and then re-confirming daily, though, right? Because as obnoxious and petty as that policy is, if you worked where OP works you’d be stuck saying “Well, the doctor says I can’t walk until the 11th but I technically might come back tomorrow! Who knows, it’s a mystery!”

    2. Magenta Sky*

      How do they handle employees who *can’t* call in every day? If you are, say, in a car accident and in the hospital in a medically induced coma for several days?

      1. Kristen*

        Omg Magenta Sky. I posted above about a former company of mine having the same policy as the OPs, but I also worked for ANOTHER company just prior to that with similarly problematic sick policies (?!?) and I have a story related to your comment.

        Once, when I was at that first job – it was my first “real” job out of college – I got terribly, terribly sick. For two days I called in sick each morning during the period when I could crawl around my apartment. On the third day, I won’t go into the details, but basically my fever had risen so much overnight that I was in and out of consciousness and nearly died. Thankfully my boyfriend at the time had stopped by before work to see if I needed anything; he promptly called off himself, called off on my behalf, and rushed me to the hospital. (He also notified my work what was happening, i.e., they knew I was being hospitalized and in very bad shape.) I woke up 2 days later still packed in ice, functioning but just barely. Well, by that point it was the 5-day mark, and my work called at some point and said that because it had been 5 days, I had to submit X and Y in order for further sick time to be approved. This was before the days of smartphones and all that, so I didn’t have any easy way of getting these documents since I literally could not sit up on my own. AND my last 2 days were in danger of not being approved because my boyfriend had called instead of me. At that point I was still so sick that even sitting in an upright position for those 5 minutes on the phone had me almost passing out again. A nurse took my phone from me and politely but firmly told them to please go f* off so I didn’t literally die while they were arguing with me about whether it could be considered an approved sick day.

        Luckily, one of my good friends was a manager there, and I think he went to the people above him and really went to bat, and by went to bat I mean ripped them a new one asking if they were #%^%^& serious. Whew, it felt good getting that all out.

  7. Red red rose*

    I had an employee announce that they were getting the 2nd vaccine dose, and so, they were going to take sick days for the next 3 days based on the fact that their spouse had a serious reaction to the 2nd dose. That seemed a bit weird to me (there’s a lot of variability in the response to the vaccine, I didn’t need to take any days off), but I said fine, trusting them to come back earlier than that if they felt better. Well, they were out for the rest of the week. In the end, I basically trust them… Well, I mean, this particular employee is sometimes not super-productive, but that’s a fundamentally different issue, and I don’t have reason to believe they are particularly dishonest.

    1. Cranky lady*

      Versions of this have been pretty common in my office. “I’m getting my second shot Wednesday so cancelling my Thursday and Friday meetings. I’ll work (remote) if I don’t feel awful.”

      1. Liz*

        I did something similar earlier this year with a minor procedure I had. Told my bosses I’d be out on the day off, and possibly the day after, depending on how I felt. Well, I wasn’t feeling 100% so i texted them the next day, as agreed and said I’d be out another day. not a problem at all.

      2. Sleepless*

        I did a minor version of this myself. There is a particular process (think a super-involved llama clipping) that I really need to be at the top of my game to do. I put a note in the calendar not to schedule any the day after my second vaccine.

      3. Elenna*

        Yeah, I did it that way: “hey, getting my second shot Sunday, the first shot knocked me out for most of an afternoon and I hear the second is worse so we should plan for me not being in Monday.” Not a problem at all in my workplace, I don’t think our sick days even need to be tracked anywhere because they figure we’re responsible adults who should just stay home when sick.

        1. Elenna*

          Oh, and I’m still WFH, so if I’d been fine I would have just worked the next day as usual. As it happens I was fine for about two hours, and then my temperature shot up to 100+ and I got a bad headache and that was the end of working for that day.

    2. EPLawyer*

      I wish all sick days were treated that way. Rather than having a set number of sick days a year, LET PEOPLE BE OUT SICK. If they take advantage of it, treat is a productivity issue.

      1. Liz*

        But, but, but, that would make SENSE! and how dare employers do things that make SENSE! hahahahaha. But I agree; i think they’d be surprised at how many people don’t abuse it!

      2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Isn’t there an older management theory that workers are inherently lazy and thus systems are needed to keep them working?

        It also reminds me of the idea that processes and policies are created to fix mistakes, which has…mixed efficacy.

    3. I'm just here for the cats*

      Yup this happened in my office. Since we got the vaccine through work, during working hours, we had to schedule the time. We all planned that the person would possibly be out the next day. I think the majority of people were out the following day. For some odd reason, it didn’t hit me until day 3.

    4. Allison*

      That sounds like a good idea, actually. My partner and I got our shots on Fridays so even if we had bad symptoms, our work likely wouldn’t be impacted; BUT if I’d gotten my shots mid-week, I absolutely would’ve scheduled sick time in advance, in case I had bad symptoms. Speaking only for myself, I’d feel awkward and guilty if I took a whole ass day off work when I wasn’t actually sick or traveling, so if I took those sick days but didn’t actually feel sick, I would have gone back to work early . . . unless work was super stressful and I was in need of a staycation.

    5. acmx*

      Yeah, that seems weird reasoning. My 2nd dose happened to be timed on the Thursday before my 3 day weekend. But that didn’t matter since I didn’t experience any real side effects until a week later.

    6. Le Sigh*

      It’s probably for the best they planned ahead. In my office most people either planned for sick time or did their best to adjust their schedules in the 1-3 days after their shots to avoid scheduling anything that couldn’t be cancelled, just in case. The first shot — felt fine day one, not so great on day two and had to sleep for an afternoon. The second shot knocked me down much harder and I had to struggle through an external call I couldn’t reschedule. Was not fun!

    7. HS Teacher*

      As teachers in AZ, most of us got our first doses in January. Every teacher I know scheduled PTO the day of and after their dose. Since we have subs, it wouldn’t make sense to cancel a scheduled day off. I got my first shot on a Thursday and took that afternoon and all of Friday off. I had zero side effects from it, but I didn’t want to risk having to work while I was sick.

    8. Starbuck*

      Where I work we made plans for coverage the next day when people were getting shots, and asked them to give us an update the evening before or morning of the day whether or not they’d be in. Pretty much everyone took the next day off – I know I needed it. Three days seems like a lot but I don’t know what the normal range is for after-effects.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I think it varies a lot. I know lots of people who had no after effects at all, to either dose.

        I booked my first dose on a Friday afternoon (planned as I anticipated I might react, as I have loads of allergies so I know my immune system has a tendency to over-react!)

        I felt really rough over the weekend – like recovering from flu; fever, aches, exhaustion, lightheadedness. I can never normally sleep during the day unless I’m *really* unwell, but slept for hours on the Saturday.

        I was starting to feel better by Sunday so did go to work on Monday but it turned out that I was only feeling better if I did nothing – and ended up needing to go home again after a few hours.

        I was fine to work the rest of the week but wasn’t 100% until the following weekend – my job is mostly desk-based, if I worked in retail or anything that needed me to be on my feet I don’t think I would have been fit to work for 5 or 6 days after the jab.

        If I had had the first dose earlier in the week I would definitely not have been able to go in to work for the first 3 days afterwards, and would have struggled to work even from home.

        Second jab was much milder – I had it first thing on a Friday morning and worked the rest of the day as normal, stayed in bed most of Saturday morning and had a very quiet weekend generally, but was able to work as usual on the Monday.

  8. HigherEdAdminista*

    I think there is like, a subconscious (or for some people conscious) belief/expectation that we should always be champing at the bit to get back in to work that contributes to this.

    If you feel like crap the afternoon before, and you say that you are going to be out sick tomorrow because you reasonably can guess that you will not feel better in that short amount of time, it makes sense to say it ahead of time, but I think people think like “You could go to sleep and be 100% better tomorrow and then you would be missing a day of work when you could instead be in work!” Obviously in some situations it might be good to give it a night and see, but I really do think some of the blowback around this issue is tied to the idea that you should always want to be at work so if you are feeling just well enough to go, you don’t want to “miss” your chance to be working.

    1. Chris*

      Yes, the belief that we should be chomping to come back combined with the occasional assumption that we will all use any excuse not to work.

      There have been plenty of times that I can absolutely predict that I’m going to be sick. I don’t just wake up sick. I feel off one day and it gets worse throughout the day. So many times I’ve said to my boss “Hey, I’m not feeling great. I may need to take a sick day tomorrow. Maybe I’ll be lucky and sleep it off over night, but I wanted to give you a heads up. I’ll confirm in the morning.”

  9. A Feast of Fools*

    I had a boss like this once. He was the owner of the company. I was the front-desk receptionist, office manager, accounts payable clerk, payroll processer, and network admin. The place literally fell apart without someone to answer the phones.

    There were days when I could feel a cold coming on at the end of the workday and knew that I’d wake up with a fever. The first time it happened, I tried to tell him that we’d better schedule a temp for the next morning so we’d already have someone lined up at the start of the business day.

    He chewed me out and tried to accuse me of faking being sick.


    All this taught me was that I’d need to call his car phone at 7:30 (this was pre-ubiquitous-cellphones, when car phones were hard-wired into the vehicle) when he was on his way into the office so he could call the temp agency and have someone there by…. 10:00 AM. The place was chaos between 8:00 AM and 10:130-ish, when the temp would be up to speed on the phone system and what to say.

    Then I’d get chewed out the following day for causing so much disruption. I’d point out that we could have arranged the temp the day before and he’d yell, “YOU CAN’T KNOW YOU’RE GOING TO BE SICK THE DAY BEFORE! THAT’S A VACATION DAY, NOT A SICK DAY!”

  10. OP*

    Hi, OP here. I should have said in my question that I did say to my boss originally “hey I’m not feeling good, I’m going to take tomorrow off. I think I should be back on Thursday.” I didn’t just say I’d be out with no context. But it’s definitely true that I didn’t appear terribly ill.

    1. Nanani*

      OK but “appearing ill” is a terrible standard that your boss shouldn’t be using. There is huge variation among individuals and you can absolutely know that say, it’s a flareup of a recurring condition or something like that.

      1. quill*

        Yeah, you really should not be trying to diagnose if your direct reports are sick. If you’re not a doctor, you’re not qualified, if you are, it’s nosy and bad practice.

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          Absolutely. There are MANY things that could be very invisible to another person but would absolutely warrant taking a day off. Just of the top of my head I can think of: migraines, stomach issues, back pain, arthritis, other chronic pain, and probably dozens of others. And honestly, whether you “look sick” is pretty BS.

      2. Esmeralda*

        I’ve had a UTI for the past several days and feel like crap, just started on the antibiotics. I look fine. If the crappiness reached a certain level, I would let the boss know I needed the next day off.

        I’m not sharing my personal lady-parts issues with my boss. (A really excellent boss! ) Nor should I need to.

        “You don’t look sick…” — that’s ridiculous. I suggest puking on the boss’s shoes next time.

  11. H.Regalis*

    I had a generally good boss who wanted me to contact them the morning-of if I’d be out sick. I asked why they found it suspicious if I emailed the night before, and they said because I could get better overnight and it seemed like I was planning to take the following day off instead of actually being sick.

    Still doesn’t make sense to me—from my perspective it’s better to have as much advanced notice as possible, and it’s also a pain in the ass to have to wake up early in the morning to text someone if I’m already feeling like shit.

    Overall a good boss, and because they really weren’t a jerk, the pandemic broke them of their bad habits around sick time.

    1. Bostonian*

      Yup. Plus, it helps you rest up if you don’t have to set your alarm for WhateverAM to call out sick, just sleep through the morning.

    2. Just a Cog in the Machine*

      There are certain illnesses where you *know* you’re not going to be better. Or, you might feel much better, but you still know you’re not okay to go to work. Pretty much the only reason I ever miss work for illness is a stomach bug, and I *know* it’s going to be two days. Even if it ended up being okay after 1, I know it’s better if I stay home that second day.

      I wish/hope if COVID teaches workplaces something, it’s how important sick days are, and having enough. My job doesn’t technically have any sick days. I am not sure what really happens, though I think you have to use your vacation days. My boss lets you have a couple “freebies” so I’ve never found out what’s really supposed to happen. But, then we get emails telling us, even if we have a negative COVID test we still shouldn’t come to work if we feel sick. Why/how are we going to do that if we don’t have sick days? New employees don’t have vacation days, people toward the end of the year might have used them all already, and you shouldn’t have to SACRIFICE your vacation because you’re sick.

      1. PostalMixup*

        For example, you’re supposed to be fever-free for 24 hours before going back around people, even when it’s just a nasty cold. If it’s 2pm and you have a fever, you *shouldn’t* go to work the next day.

  12. Exhausted Trope*

    Red red rose, I was fortunately scheduled for my second dose on a Friday afternoon. I was in bed the next entire day because my symptoms were so bad. But I was totally fine that Sunday.
    So happy it worked out that way for me. Another coworker of mine got her second dose mid-week and was out sick the next day.

  13. OP*

    Hi, OP here. I should have said in my question that I did say to my boss originally “hey I’m not feeling good, I’m going to take tomorrow off. I think I should be back on Thursday.” I didn’t just say I’d be out with no context. But it’s definitely true that I didn’t appear ill.

    1. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      Whether you appear ill or not is totally irrelevant. I have an “invisible” chronic illness covered by the ADA, and I need to use sick time for regular doctor’s appointments. It has nothing to do with whether I’m sneezing/coughing or chipper as the day is long. This also applies for when you take sick time to care for an ill family member. Anyone who wants to get on your case because “you don’t LOOK sick” is an uninformed, nosy glassbowl.

  14. Marie*

    I agree with Alison that sick days are for whenever you aren’t well enough (physically or mentally) to work. But in my experience your boss’ approach is really common. Earlier this year the entire management team I’m on had to remind folks over and over again that they could take a sick day to go get vaccinated and they could take sick days if the covid vaccine made them ill. I’m talking multiple layers of management saying this and then taking sick time to go get vaccinated and it still seemed like a huge revelation to the team that you could use our, unlimited, sick time for preventative care.

    And until I got to my current employer, I would never say that I was “going to be out sick” on a future date. I’d do my best to make it easy to cover for my absence but I wouldn’t call out until morning of. It was stupid, but it was what everyone else did.

  15. Liz T*

    Nope, I’m pretty sure that there are people who think this was about sick days–that they’re only same-day and unplanned. Because what if you wake up tomorrow and feel better?

    It makes now sense and falls apart under the merest scrutiny, as it did here, but a lot of working under capitalism makes no effing sense.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I’m confused by the response on this one. If it’s been years I assume this is not quite a direct quote but I don’t know how you can read the boss’s response of “Sick days are only for if you call out that morning. You can’t use a sick day in advance.” and say that it was because she didn’t understand the situation? It seems like at least by OP’s wording the boss spelled out very clearly that announcing you are sick and plan to take the next day off doesn’t count as a sick day because it’s too much notice.

      I agree with OP that it’s very silly. I’ve done the same thing a few times, started feeling ill toward the end of the work day so gone ahead and said I would be out sick the following day. If I’m feeling sick, I don’t want to have to wake up early just to call in when I should be resting! At my office we have one big PTO bucket so I’ve never had to deal with what type I’m using, but if I had a specific bucket of sick days that’s what I would expect to use in that situation.

  16. JustaTech*

    Sometimes people can be weird about sick days. At one job I reminded my boss I would be out the next day “Hey, I’m taking a sick day tomorrow.” “Oh, you can plan those in advance now?” “My fiancé is having surgery, so yes, it is planned.” “Oh, ok. When did you get engaged?” “Six months ago.”

    I was pretty frustrated with my boss because 1) we had already discussed this twice and 2) I was coming in the day after for a brutal day in the lab, so it wasn’t like I was slacking off.

    1. KellifromCanada*

      But you weren’t sick … your fiance was sick. How can you use your sick days? Do you have family leave with your employer (for when a family member is sick but you are not)?

      1. Liz*

        Some company policies (mine included) allow you to use sick time not only for yourself, but family. I know I can take my mom to the dr., and that’s considered an allowable reason for sick time vs. regular PTO. if you have kids, and need to stay home with them because they’re sick, or take them to the dr. etc, same thing. Not every company allows that, but many do. Family leave is generally reserved for longer periods of time needed to deal with things.

      2. JustaTech*

        I had already checked that caring for a family member was an approved reason to have a sick day, just as when I took a planned sick day for myself for a medical procedure (we had the same “oh, you can plan sick days now?” conversation then too).

        We did not have separate “family” leave.

      3. fhqwhgads*

        California’s sick leave law(s) explicitly state sick leave is usable for “Diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition of, or preventive care for, an employee or an employee’s family member.”
        I think there are likely other states that specify this as well, but am not aware of which.

    2. Khatul Madame*

      It’s not great that your boss forgot you’d gotten engaged months ago, but you could have put the absence on your calendar and not need any reminders.
      Some people create a calendar event “Fergus out for partner’s surgery” and send it to their boss/team. I am not a fan of this practice, but that could have prevented the weirdness.

      1. JustaTech*

        Ah, but that would have required any kind of shared calendar, which we very much did not have. That boss also would just forget to tell people when he would be out of state for a week.

        It was not a well-run lab.

  17. Other Meredith*

    This is almost the opposite of how they want us to use our sick days. If we feel even remotely bad the night before, we should call out. In fact, if you call out sick the morning of too many times, you can get in trouble. I think the rationale behind that is that they felt like people were being inconsiderate and leaving us scrambling for coverage when a few extra hours of notice would solve that problem.

  18. KellifromCanada*

    I can see the manager’s point, though. Just because I don’t feel well at 5:00 this afternoon doesn’t mean I won’t feel well at 9:00 tomorrow morning. Claiming in advance that I’ll be sick tomorrow seems a little sketchy. In a case like that, I’d try to mention to my manager or a coworker that I’m not feeling well at the moment. Then if I’m still sick tomorrow, I’ll report in as sick. No one will be surprised, since I mentioned not feeling well the previous day. But that allows for the possibility that I might be well tomorrow! Of course, if it’s for a medical appointment, obviously I should book that in advance, since I know for sure in advance that I’ll need it.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, I would definitely need to do this and contact work the morning of. Unless it’s booked sick time for medical appointments. I can see why someone would find it fishy for you to announce your sick day on the way out the door the previous day.

      The last time I was really sick, I called in two days in a row and then I had to get a doctor’s note to be out the rest of the week (I was vomiting enough to be reasonably sure I wasn’t going to make in on Wednesday).

    2. Khatul Madame*

      Some people whine and moan at the littlest ache, others soldier on through pain. If the OP is of the latter persuasion, yes – she should have told someone that she was not feeling well and could be out sick the following day. It would have made her story more palatable to her manager.

      1. Bostonian*

        Yup. I can remember only one time in my life where I started to get cold symptoms and ended up feeling better within 24 hours. 99.9% of the time I’m out of commission for at least a day.

        1. quill*

          I can very reliably taste a cold coming on. I’ve also had strep often enough that I can self-diagnose somewhat reliably (I confirm with a doctor but I clearly have SOMETHING contagious, which is all my boss needs to know!)

          1. pope suburban*

            For me, it’s always that I get incredibly, incredibly tired out of nowhere, regardless of how well I’ve slept or how minimal my daily activity has been. Then my throat starts to feel weird, and then it’s whatever other symptoms that particular bug wants to throw at me. I used to try to power through it out of fear, and that resulted in me being sick and questionably useful at work for a week. If, however, I bow to the inevitable and go right home to sleep and hydrate, I’m back and pretty close to normal within a day or two. I’ve been in this meat suit a while now, I’ve figured out how it works, and I really wish the overall work culture/specific bosses or workplaces would get with that program. It’ll save us all a lot of time and pain.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, and almost every time I get sick, I am at my absolute worst in the mornings. So if I’m feeling kind of off that afternoon/evening I can pretty safely assume I’ll be worse the next morning.

        And if not–then what’s the big deal? I’ll show up to work and be like nevermind, I’m fine. What is remotely sketchy about that? I would never want to work for a boss who was suspicious over something like that.

    3. ecnaseener*

      Heaven forfend you take a day to recuperate instead of rushing back to work the instant your symptoms are gone!

      1. JimmyJab*

        Yes, I have been alive for a while, often I can tell I will need time to recover, especially from a bad mental health occurence.

    4. AMH*

      But surely, if you believe you will need the day off (as OP did), it makes more sense to prepare for it and prepare other people for it? If you happen to feel better and unexpectedly able to to come in, then that’s a happy occurrence, but you’ve made things smoother if you don’t.

      And sometimes medical appointments end up being a surprise as well — a trip to the clinic, for example.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’ve been very careful since one of my stoic “work through anything” co-workers ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. (Well before Covid, and he was an athlete in his 30s.)

        1. Bagpuss*

          In fairness, that may not have been anything to do with trying to work through – pneumonia doesn’t necessary feel as bad as it is.

    5. CRM*

      I kind of agree with this. My boss is very accommodating about sick days, but I don’t want him to think that I didn’t at least try to see if a good night’s sleep would help, and I can understand how he might wonder even if he never expresses it.

      Honestly, this another situation where scheduled emails are really handy. If I know for certain that I’m going to be out the next day for a mental or physical health issue, then I will schedule my “calling out” email the night before to send in the morning.

    6. Student*

      I have noticed that as I get older, it’s a lot more obvious to me that I’m about to get sick ahead of time. It’s also gotten easier to reliably guess that I won’t be productive for a set amount of time for a given illness. I can’t predict things a week out, but I can guess 24 hours out very reliably, and I can guess 48 hours out with moderate reliability.

      When I was younger, it always seemed to come out of nowhere and vanish just as mysteriously. No idea if my body’s just gotten more faulty with age so it’s giving me more small features early to notice, if it’s due to accumulated experience with illnesses I’m susceptible to, or if I’ve just gotten more perceptive about my own health.

      With age, I’m also getting much better at guessing whether a specific level or type of physical activity is going to leave me too tired or sore or whatnot to work.

    7. fhqwhgads*

      It depends on how crappy you feel. There is definitely a level of sick at 5pm that you can be 95% there’s no way you’ll be functional tomorrow.

  19. quill*

    Terrible policy, plenty of people have conditions that flare up that they know 12 hours in advance are going to get worse. Add in contagious disease and “yeah, I feel stomach-flu-ish, doubt I’ll be in tomorrow” being something you absolutely could know the afternoon before (and stick around till the end of the day to wrap things up) and it just strikes me as employers being the health police.

  20. KellifromCanada*

    But you weren’t sick … your fiance was sick. How can you use your sick days? Do you have family leave with your employer (for when a family member is sick but you are not)?

    1. Teapot Repair Technician*

      At my job we are explicitly allowed to use sick leave to care for family members. I’m not sure if it’s legally required, but every company I’ve worked for has had this policy.

    2. Meep*

      I had to take my fiance to the ER because of kidney stones. From a reputable source of HR, it was a sick day because it was a medical emergency.

    3. A Feast of Fools*

      My mom lives with me and the times I’ve taken her to doctor’s appointments, surgeries, and an ER visit, my employer told me to book it to sick time.

      I’m salaried and frequently work more than 40 hours a week, so I assume it’s just part of the give-and-take process.

      Oh, and we only “book” the time because we’re internally project-driven and I need to account for my hours outside of vacation (which HR tracks). If I’m out of the office because my mom is having surgery, I’m not going to say that I worked 8 hours on the XYZ project that day because it would mess with our metrics.

    4. doreen*

      Different employers have different rules- I can use my sick leave if a relative, relative-in-law or a member of my household needs me to take care of them or if I’m needed to attend a medical appointment with them. But a fiance who isn’t part of my household – not officially allowed. And I might have to provide documentation of the relationship/residence and need for me to care for the person.

    5. Bagpuss*

      This seems to be another thing that’s different in the US to where I am, in the UK.

      Here, sick leave is for when you yourself are sick. claiming sick time when you were actually looking after someone else would not be appropriate anywhere I have ever worked

      If you need to care for a family member then you can either take that as PTO or there is a specific (legal entitlement) to leave for family and dependents, which is unpaid. Some employers may offer specific additional categories for that kind of thing but I think mostly it’s covered by the amount of paid time off you are entitled to.

      That said, we tend to have more generous entitlements to PTO – the legal minimum is 5.6 weeks (so 28 days for someone working full time, including public holidays – so as a minimum, a full time employee will have at least 20 days (as there are 8 bank holidays a year and employers can include those in the statutory entitlement) and it’s common to have more – so for most people, they can have a reasonable amount of time off for holidays etc. and still be able to save a few days for emergencies.

      Where I work, full time entitlement is 5 weeks plus bank holidays.

  21. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I definitely did this before. Went into work one day, not feeling great, but not feeling terrible. By halfway through the day I felt horrid. Went to my boss and said “I’m leaving now and I’m not coming in tomorrow.” She was like “okay, feel better, and let me know if you are going to be out any longer than that.”

    It’s a shame that not everyone handles it that way.

  22. Nanani*

    This sounds like it would crash right into the needs of people with chronic health conditions or recurring medical treatment that leaves them needing recovery time.

  23. Bee Eye Ill*

    Next time just blindside them with the last minute “Sorry, I will be out sick today” message in the morning. If that’s what they want, that’s what they’ll get.

    1. Rayray*


      I like taking the occasional mental health day, but when bosses give you the runaround or demand answers when you ask for a day off In advance, you learn that it’s easier to call in that morning and say you have a migraine rather than alert them a week or two in advance that you just want a day off.

    2. Meep*

      I have to do this with someone who isn’t my manager or supervisor. If I give her an advance warning, it will go one of two ways:
      1. Enough warning, she will schedule her vacation during mine and then complain about how “we need to plan it better because both of us cannot be out”. Followed by how in the future, I won’t be able to go on vacation while she is on vacation, but she will make an “exception” this one time. (Nary mind that it has been approved for 6 months.)
      Or 2. She will text me at 6:01 PM the day before to remind me that she remembers I am taking the day off AND then at 7:27 AM the day off to ask if I am going to be in the office (office opens at 8 AM). Followed usually by calls at 9:00 AM, 10:00 AM, 3:00 PM, and 6:00 PM to try and talk about how nice it is I get a vacation because she doesn’t “remember” the last time she had a vacation. (It was a month ago for a week, ma’am.)

      It should come as no surprise when I say she is the absolute worst.

      1. Bee Eye Ill*

        I used to work for a city government that gave copious amounts of sick leave, and people abused it constantly, starting with upper management.

    3. Bostonian*

      Exactly. If they want to be rigid and not have advance notice, let them deal with the consequences.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      That’s what we landed on with one place I worked at. What happened next was constant chaos.
      We had all been there a while and had 3-4 weeks vacation time per year. And we were allowed to accrue 10 weeks of sick time. I don’t think our department worked fully staffed for 75% of the year. Someone was always on vacation and of course, people get sick or have other issues that need attention. It was always, “Okay who are we missing today?” It never occurred to management that with so much PTO available that perhaps hiring one more person was necessary. No one ever looked at the PTO numbers.
      We did as we were told. We called in within a half hour of the start of the day. I am not sure how it happened but there was a day where ALL of us called in. It was not planned. But it was foreseeable given the givens.

  24. RB*

    Your supervisor is being ridiculous. I hope Alison’s take that maybe she just understood is correct, but some people are just not reasonable or logical.

  25. Literal Meaner*

    “She said, ‘Sick days are only for if you call out that morning. You can’t use a sick day in advance.'”

    I wonder if it’s possible she meant, literally, that you can’t USE a sick day in advance of recording it as a sick day. The LW did use the sick day first, and then submitted the sick day upon returning to work. And so, for this particular case, the supervisor is noting that the last moment the LW could have submitted the day off as a sick day was the morning-of. The supervisor’s comment may not actually pertain to the general case, and may not be putting a boundary on how *early* someone can submit a sick day. The policy could be that one cannot use a sick day (ie, stay home) in advance of recording the sick day, but that one CAN schedule a sick day in advance of using it. The supervisor’s wording certainly wasn’t very clear, if this is in fact the case, but since a policy where someone can ONLY call out sick on the morning-of is so bananas, I wonder if it’s possible the supervisor only meant to comment on the specific situation at hand?

    1. KittyCardigans*

      That makes no sense. There are many common illnesses that you do not know are coming in advance and during which it would be very difficult for you to log on first thing in the morning to submit a sick day (light-sensitive migraines might be a good example). I think that’s really unlikely.

      1. doreen*

        “Submit” doesn’t have to involve logging on. I don’t submit sick leave requests by logging on – I submit them on paper if it’s something I know about in advance or by email/phone call if it’s the day of.

  26. pleaset cheap rolls*

    Some people are stupid about some things. This manager is very stupid about this.

    “So you’re saying you would rather have had as little notice as possible that I was going to be out? So I couldn’t pass some info along to the team beforehand instead of them having to scramble for it the day of? Because I can definitely do that next time but it seems counterproductive.”

    Of course she did not have an answer because there is no answer. It’s stupid.

  27. Meep*

    I have a coworker, whose grandmother died in March 2020. She gave advance warning as her grandmother was sick. Her jerk of a manager told her to use PTO rather than the already-authorized bereavement leave she was entitled to for her grandmother’s funeral WHILE she was grieving. The idea was that she had 10 days of PTO and unlimited sick days. I told her to use sick time next time she went on vacation to balance it out.

    Sometimes, people think it is their job to “save money” on this sort of nonsense.

  28. Turtlewings*

    My office lets people use sick leave for doctor’s appointments, planned surgeries, etc… but you can’t actually turn in the request for sick leave until you get back. Because, according to them, sick days by definition cannot be anticipated and so they won’t accept sick leave requests until after the absence.

  29. Allison*

    I do think it’s crappy to say that sick days are only for unexpected illnesses and doctor visits, but I think there’s an easy way to work with that. When you’re feeling ill and think you may be too sick to work the following day, I’d email my boss and say “I’m feeling really sick this afternoon/tonight, and I anticipate feeling too sick to work tomorrow. I’ll send an update tomorrow morning, but I wanted to give you a heads-up.” Boom, boss knows there’s a good chance you’ll be out, but the sick day is still technically a gametime decision, so it counts. Then, I’d wake up just early enough to send a quick “yep, definitely still sick today, I’ll be taking a sick day” email, then roll over and go back to sleep.

    Now, this is mostly for minor(ish) illnesses, for things like the flu where you know you’ll be out for at least a couple days, or when you’re going to the hospital for a few days, a different approach may be needed.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      This is what I’ve done in the past. Usually if I think I’m coming down with something the end of one day, I don’t know with 100% certainty that I’ll be too sick to come in the next day, but it’s highly likely, so I give folks a heads-up the day before, and then confirm the morning of.

    2. Tin Cormorant*

      Even better, schedule the “I’m sick and I’ll be out today” to send automatically in the morning, and just sleep as much as you want. On the off chance you’re miraculously better in the morning and wake up on time, you can just cancel the scheduled email.

  30. Gracely*

    When I was a teacher, one of the schools I taught at had the super FUN policy that if you called out sick, you had to find your own substitute (at least they provided a list?) Which meant I once had the utter joy of calling people at 6am while suffering from laryngitis.

    On top of that, sick leave was accrued, and of course my first year there, I caught strep from one of my students less than a month into the school year, so I also had to take some of that time unpaid. Calling to secure a sub while you have tonsils the size of tennis balls and a severe sore throat is just soooo much fun.

    1. Tin Cormorant*

      What happens if you don’t? Surely sometimes people will be too sick or injured to be calling their own replacement. Would they fire people for being hospitalized?

    2. quill*

      Ah, subfinder. My mom subbed so I have secondhand horror stories.

      Plus the “going around subfinder to dibs the one sub guaranteed not to kill the science unit fish if I’m out for two days.”

    3. Not So NewReader*

      As far as I know that system is still in place around here. You either find a sub or you had best be there. At $70/day there are not many subs.

    4. can-relate*

      Wow. That sounds really illegal (depending on where you were working, of course), as well as really, really stupid.

  31. tamarack and fireweed*

    This may be more of a difference in how people look at reality than a difference in what you can do with your sick days. Several people have already noted that using sick days for scheduled appointment is commonplace, and no one would (or should) blink at an employee’s announcement that they their sick leave will take a few days, either on their own reconnaissance (when I was little, the rule of thumb was that if you are running a fever, you stay home 1-2 days past the end of the fever) or on doctor’s orders.

    But some people will be pretty rigid about ascertaining the fact that someone *is* sick. I guess someone might hold on to the idea that it’s always possible that a miraculous recovery might happen, and that in this case the employee could not possibly claim they’re sick. So strictly speaking, even if I feel a cold coming on, my mental health screaming out for a day of self-care, or a flare-up of some condition or other, so that chances are 99.98 % that the next day will be a sick day, some people might insist that you wait for the condition to actually set in and be present at the beginning of the next day. Otherwise they will mentally classify you as malingering.

    I think that’s nonsense, and that bosses should trust their employees’ judgement (unless proven wrong). The problem is that if there’s a difference in how we look at reality with someone more powerful than you are, it’s often advisable to sidestep the conflict (or if not, go open-eyed into the conflict, aware that you may have to fight a battle – which you may not want to choose). Personally, I make a small concession by not using “take off the day” for sick days, but only for personal time off, and choose words that make it clear that dealing with health isn’t something I do of my own choosing.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, we definitely had to cough and hack when we spoke or management knew for a fact we were not actually sick. s/Because the only type of sickness there is manifests with coughing and hacking. s/

      Eh, if you know that the rules are you simply follow the rules.
      I’d miss maybe 1-2 days per year and it required answering dozens of questions the next day. Then we’d have to listen to “why do people show up when they are sick?”. To this day I cringe when I hear that question, thinking of Toxic Workplace.

  32. Grace Less*

    This definitely reminded me of elementary education. They give very few PTO days to save money on subs but give a lot of sick days because kids are germy! Did

  33. Adereterial*

    That’s… pretty much the interpretation in the UK. Sick days are generally short-notice, not notified in advance (the exception would be for recovery after a planned treatment, which would be). I’ve only ever had a similar situation once, and that was where someone got sent home with norovirus and was essentially told to stay at home. The expectation here is that you call in on the first day – that notification may stand for a few days, but if it’s not obvious from the outset you’d call in each morning.

    Holiday days are sacrosanct – you get 28, minimum (including the 8 public holidays). You don’t use them for sick leave – although if you’re on long term sick leave that’s unpaid you might ‘use’ them for pay. You may or may not get sick pay if you’re sick, although there’s a statutory payment that kicks in after a few days if the employer doesn’t pay sick leave. It’s not a lot, though.

    1. londonedit*

      All true (though I’m lucky that if you’re signed off as long-term sick, the company I work for will top up your SSP for up to 15 weeks). There’s a definite distinction between holiday (which is for holiday) and sick leave (which is for being ill/having surgery etc).

      However it’s definitely happened in the past that I’ve said, or a colleague’s said, ‘Wow, I’m not feeling well…I’ll see how it goes tomorrow, but if I still feel like this then I probably won’t be in’. You wouldn’t record the time as a sick day in advance, like you would a holiday, but it’s definitely fine to give some notice that you’re feeling a bit off and you might not make it to work the next day.

  34. Jess*

    I got very similar feedback my first year working at an office job out of college. I wasn’t feeling well, so when I left work at 5, I told my boss I would take a sick day the next day. When I returned the day after the sick day, she told me I always had to call or email before 9 the morning of a sick day to request it. Considering that the last thing I want when I’m not feeling well is to make sure I wake up in time to send an email (and I didn’t know about scheduling emails back then), I always resented that advice!

  35. Jennifer*

    I think Alison is right. It was just a misunderstanding. She assumed that you were taking the day off as a personal day, not as a sick day, since you didn’t mention that you were sick when you told the team you needed the next day off. If this was something that had happened multiple times, that would be different, but I think you should give the benefit of the doubt here.

  36. Julia*

    Ughhhhh, I thought for sure she was going to say she was a teacher, because that’s how it’s always been for us. And when you feel sickness coming on, you HAVE to mentally and logistically prepare yourself, your classroom, and your team for you being out and having a sub. But the thing is, it’s so much harder to deal with a sub than it is to just push through, so many teachers come to school ill.

    My last year of teaching, I was always at school. I’d used my 2 personal days and only 3 of my 10 sick days. Two weeks before school ended, I asked my principal if I could possibly use a sick day for the day before my wedding (I should have just called in sick the morning of). He said no. I tried to remind him that I was probably the only teacher who hadn’t taken all (or more than all of) their sick days. Didn’t care.

    Finally, because I was quitting the district at the end of the year, I wasn’t permitted to go to the end of year professional development. But I also couldn’t use my remaining sick days to just start my summer break 3 days early (no sick days before a break without a doctor’s note). So instead I was required to sit in my empty classroom. I painted my nails, watched movies, and finally asking a doc to just write me a sick note for literally whatever just to stop the boredom.

  37. JT*

    This is also different in Australia – here sick leave is absolutely only for illness – though that can include mental health. The only thing you could schedule as sick leave in advance would be something like a surgery.

    1. can-relate*

      That’s not strictly true, and many employers in Australia are violating the law around this.

      You are very much within your rights to say that you are sick and will likely be off sick for a couple of days, especially if you have a medical certificate which states this.

    2. WS*

      It’s frustrating, because technically you can only use sick leave for appointments or elective surgery if you also are too sick to work, or the person you’re caring for is. But most reasonable employers will let you use sick leave for medical appointments (that’s not every employer but a large number.)

  38. Berty K.*

    This is 100% how my previous employers policy worked – sick time was ONLY for calling in day of sick. It couldn’t even be used for doctors appointments (my previous employer IS A HOSPITAL).
    Since I left I’ve had interviews to return, I’ve double checked the policy with HR in my interviews and they’ve confirmed/upheld it.
    We all had hundreds of hours of sick time (since we couldn’t use it for anything).
    Some people actually had a schedule where they called off sick 2 days every quarter just to get to use it…

  39. Tigersmom*

    I retired from the State of Oregon. We got 8 hours sick leave per month which accumulated with no maximum. A former coworker of mine quit after something like 14 years – he was tired of the crap and was in a position to quit with no job lined up. He had 11K (yes, thousand!!) hours of sick leave and lost it all. The state pays out accumulated vacation time if you quit/retire. You start with 8 hours a month and every 5 years it increases by 2 hours per month, maxing out at 20 hours per month. You can save up to 250 hours – just before you hit that, HR starts sending “use it or lose it” emails. If I remember right, management can save up to 350 hours. The day I retired I got my final paycheck plus a separate check for vacation time that was about the same amount as my paycheck. Of course I lost my sick leave, but I’d tried to use it as retirement came closer (more “mental health” days; it was toxic anyway and I retired a early because of it). There are also personal days, though I don’t remember how many – I think it increased after I retired. You also can get bereavement leave. When my Mom died I think I got 2 days (though I also took some vacation time). I think now it’s up to about a week off. Plus if a coworker dies, you get misc. paid leave to attend their funeral.

  40. A fish*

    It just seems absolutely outrageous to me that a workplace would only give someone two days a year in personal leave. How would anyone not burn out? How is that legal or possible? How is it sensible even if legal? I gather it is legal in the US, but it shouldn’t be!

    Ten sick days also isn’t enough.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I was assuming “personal day” was a separate category in addition to sick time AND vacation time. Right now I have one PTO bucket for everything but was briefly at a company that had vacation as the largest bucket, then sick time, then a couple of days for you to use however you wanted. They pitched it like that was a huge perk but I don’t really see why it would be any different than just having two extra vacation days.

  41. can-relate*

    LW, your manager is clearly an idiot. I hope you’re away from her now!

    My first boss was an absolute nightmare when it came to using my paid leave and she was just as ridiculous about it as LW’s manager was. Sick leave could only be used under “certain circumstances” (which is illegal), and she’d ask all the questions you aren’t legally allowed to ask. (She wanted a copy of my medical records when I very clearly had a bad flu, and had a tantrum when I said no.)

    It got to the point that she forced me to come back to the office early after having surgery…and then having a massive tantrum because being dragged out of hospital early (!) ended up making me even more ill, meaning I need to use even more leave than I would have otherwise.

  42. Informal Educator*

    I spent a lot of time clarifying this with my employer: sick time is only to be used when you are scheduled to work but then suddenly cannot because of illness (yours or a family member’s). Absences cannot be planned. I have no idea what people are supposed to do about doctor’s appointments. I guess just make up the extra hours? I work part-time hourly on a flexible schedule, so the appointment issue hasn’t been a problem for me, but our sick time policy is codified as very stupid.

  43. CatPerson*

    #4 A lot of companies, especially large ones, have non-solicitation policies in place that should theoretically prohibit such activities (though they happen anyway). It’s because of union-avoidance. You should check your employee handbook to see if this is even permitted.

  44. blink14*

    Ugh my old employer was like this. We got a very stingy amount of sick/personal days and you could only schedule them in advance once you were sick. So if you called out one day and knew you’d need to be out the next as well, you could say that. But trying to use any of that time for a doctor’s appointment or you had started feeling ill and knew you would need the next day off? Forget it.

  45. NY Remote for now*

    It sounds so familiar! I suspect a super-micro-manager at the top of this.

    I worked for a large global company where control and micromanagement was the culture. I had seen a doctor and needed a follow-up medical procedure that would be scheduled. I submitted a request to use the sick day in advance for similar reasons: to provide notice to my manager and co-workers for planning. Micro-manager blindsided me while I was working at my desk to tell me that should would not to approve the sick day because “sick days for when you were sick, not to see a doctor and that I should use vacation or personal time”. I was so shocked I sputtered, “I did see a doctor on my time, and they told me I’m sick and need this procedure. (and — if someone needs to schedule heart surgery, were they supposed to use vacation for that too?)”. She huffed off stating that SHE would check with HR on the use of sick time….and of course HR confirmed that this is exactly what the sick time was intended for.

    You can’t make this stuff up.

  46. LGC*

    Okay, so this is actually something I’ve had to explain the reverse of! In certain states, this wouldn’t be allowed – for example, in my state you have to set aside a pool of leave for health concerns, and that specifically includes pre-scheduled doctor’s appointments and such.

    If I wanted to give your former boss the benefit of the doubt (I don’t, but for whatever reason I’m thinking of explanations): one reason is that your agency’s policy at the time was really strict on what sick leave could be used for. But on the other hand…it’s like, if you’d had another type of illness (like you came down with a bad cold or a stomach bug) start in the afternoon, would that also have been penalized? You’d also probably know whether you could make it in the next day by that afternoon.

  47. caseykay68*

    I’m late to the discussion but just had to share here that at my current org (small non profit – HR is through a PEO), we cannot use sick time for dr.s visits…..which boggles my mind.

  48. Mx*

    My work’s PTO setup seems a little weird now. New people and people with certain job titles start off with 3 weeks vacation time and 6 call out days a year. Only, they’re not separate and only semi-pooled. You have to have equal vacation time in order to take an 8-hour call out day. So 16 hours of vacation is equal to two call out days. No vacation time, no call outs. Unless you wanted points against your attendance.

    We can use the call outs however we want if we call ahead (even if we don’t feel like coming to work cause we’re being lazy). Until COVID hit, we could just say,, “I’m not coming in today, see you tomorrow.” Or we use call outs if we go home early.

    The truly awful thing is, we used to start with two weeks vacation and only THREE call outs for an entire year. The company was being “generous” and giving us more. I had to get FMLA or else I would have been fired very very early after getting too many points due to having appointments and fibromyalgia flareups.

  49. chewingle*

    Is it just me, or does micromanaging how employees use any of their time off just…not really worth the fight?

Comments are closed.