How to handle employees who are often sick or late for work

Having all employees at work on time and for every shift is vital for your company’s success. We all recognise that sometimes an employee runs late – a car breaks down, a bus is missed – or that they get sick. But, if you often find yourself pondering the following questions, then it may be time to nip a problem in the bud:

He’s always late…but he always has a good excuse… what should I say?

She takes more sick days than anyone else… can I ask her about it?

He called in sick yesterday morning, but when I tried to call back I couldn’t reach him…what can I do?

In these situations, business owners rightly think about:

  • Human Rights
  • Employee privacy
  • Sensitively dealing with an ill employee

So, what can you do? Being proactive is your best approach – put in place a written company policy with clear guidelines for employees around contacting the employer when they will be absent. The policy will support employees who are always there on time and for every shift, and also help you manage the day-to-day running of the business in terms of staffing levels.

When you are creating your policy, you should consider:

  • Employment Standards requirements about sick time – how many days? Is it paid or unpaid? Can you request a doctor’s note?
  • Who should the employee contact - Business owner? Supervisor? Team Lead?
  • How should they contact them – Telephone? E-mail? Text?
  • When should they contact them – as soon as they know they’ll be absent? Half an hour before the shift?
  • How should employees put in a request for time off in advance (i.e. vacation time) – in writing? Using a specific form? In person? Via e-mail?

The policy will also ensure that employees, who are ill and cannot work safely and productively, will feel comfortable staying at home until they are well enough to return to work. This may increase overall productivity by reducing the transmission of germs around the workplace.

Whether your business offers paid sick leave or not, setting attendance expectations, and communicating the value of each employee’s contribution to the business and the impact of any absences, will help your business meet customer needs and keep costs in check.