She Was a Great Employee Until She Wasn’t {sigh}

September 13, 2018

She was a great employee until she wasn’t {sigh}.

I planned to write about intermittent leaves today, but something else came up that I think you may relate to. True story an intelligent, pragmatic, entrepreneurial friend called to pick my brain. She owns a small company, so how complicated could this absence stuff get, right? The conversation went like this:

Biz Owner: Do you have five minutes? I have an amazing employee who is pregnant. We don’t really have an absence policy. What would be generous and logical? I want this to be where people want to work!

Me: Umm, did you say you don’t have an absence policy? Like as in, at all? None?

Biz Owner: are all adults here and I treat everybody like one. They work incredibly hard and I don’t need to micromanage when they come and go. i’m going to ask what she thinks would be fair.

Me: There is good news and bad news. The good news is that I am happy to help you. The bad news is that this is NOT a five minute conversation. Buckle up!

Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. Our discussion touched on many points, but the one that hit home was, All employees are great employees until they aren’t. Do you ever think, Well, I’m betting this one will go off the rails and end up in litigation when you send out the offer letter to a new employee? No, but it happens.

Your absence policy may not feel as important as focusing on overall business infrastructure, etc. If you run out of product, you can tell your customer that item is on back order and now scramble. But if you have an employee claiming discrimination, you will not be able to walk-back that damage quite as easily. At the same time, I don’t believe in creating policies and programs with the abusers or the ones that do go off the rails in mind. That is neither healthy for your state of mind, nor fair to the 99% of your employee population who deserve your efforts. I spoke to this forever ago in my blog1% = A Bad Investment. My point today is more about getting a plan in place.

How do you start the process of creating a policy? The question that comes before that is, What do you already have in place? Depending on the size or your organization, this could vary greatly. Get any existing policies, such as your short-term disability program, EAP, collective bargaining agreements, etc. onto the table. This will ensure you done end up going crossways with an existing document. It’s not to say those won’t also require some modifications, but at least you’ll be able to be methodical about it.

Example: STD program already in place that provides pay after a 5 day waiting period, then you know to incorporate this provision into your absence policy.

Who are your resources in this space? Don’t do this alone. Do you already have a broker who helped with your STD policy? Are you subscribed to organizations, such as SHRM or DMEC?

Why think about tomorrow, rather than the company as it exists today? If you focus on both current and long term scenarios, you won’t need to update it in six months, which is costly in both time and money. The intention is to grow the business, so it makes sense here to behave like a bigger company.
How big is your organization and why does that matter? The number of employees and their location will make a difference with which laws you must be compliant. This is a big deal and we spent a bit of time on this in Employer Who is covered? And Employee Who is covered? As well, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has a relatively user friendly Q&A.

Whether or not you own the company you work at, you have a vested interest in its success. Don’t wait for somebody to have an absence need before giving this some thought. Stay tuned for the next installment covering having a healthy absence policy.