Why HR Shouldn’t Offer Cash-Out Sick Days And What To Do About It

sick woman sneeze cold
flickr: miss_rogue

An HR exec writes to Workforce, asking: “How could we reward employees who not take any medical leave throughout 2008?”

This is a tricky question. Sick leave isn’t like vacation time—it’s to be used when you’re sick, so how is it fair to reward people who have better immune systems/don’t have kids who are always dripping snot everywhere?

But employees, you know you take sick days when you’re out of vacation days, and conversely, you come in when you’re sick because you want to look good. (Presenteeism doesn’t help anyone!)

The exec asks if he should offer his employees a cash-out option for unused sick days. Workforce responds:

“Cash-out of unused balances to reward employees who have taken little or no sick time during a year is a fairly uncommon practice, with roughly one in five employers opting for this model… Can you afford the cash-flow impact? If saving sick time to get the cash award catches on, you might be looking at a growing payout every year…[and] will you be providing an incentive for sick workers to come to work when they shouldn’t?

“We favor using unused sick time to build a ‘safety net’ for more serious illness, such as creating and contributing to an ‘extended illness bank.'”

This sounds harsh at first blush, but actually an “extended illness bank” is a great idea. What if you get really sick? What about people with CFS or fibromyalgia or what have you, when sometimes you just need more than a couple days at home to recover from the flu? More companies should consider using this…