Sick of Sick Notes


Everybody gets sick. Think about the last time you were sick. Perhaps you had a nasty cold or the flu which included fever, body chills, sweating, aches, pains, coughing, and a number of emissions from various body parts. Perhaps you were so sick that you could not go to work and you needed to stay home to rest and recover.

Instead of staying at home in bed, however, you had to go to your doctor’s office. Unable to get a same-day appointment with your doctor, you then had to go to your local walk-in clinic or to the hospital and wait for service in an already busy health-care space. You had to do all of this not because you needed treatment, but because your employer needed a note from a doctor verifying that you were actually ill and not able to go to work.

It seems a ridiculous scenario.

Unfortunately, it is one that plays out every day in workplaces and health-care settings across the country. Rather than focusing on priority patients who need urgent medical care and assistance, the employer requirement for doctor’s notes from employees, who are legitimately ill, clogs up an already overloaded health care system for no apparent purpose.

Why does this happen? A recent article published by Maclean’s magazine explores this question and provides some not very comforting responses.

Click here to read the Maclean’s article.

A more practical and responsible approach to dealing with employee illness and absence can be found through the design and implementation of a comprehensive attendance management program (AMP). An AMP forms part of an overall compensation strategy. It provides for both indirect and direct pay options that acknowledge the need for employees to be absent from work and promotes attendance at work in a proactive manner.

The AMP provides context and content for a reasonable workplace approach to the management of employee attendance and absenteeism. For example, instead of focusing on the requirement for sick notes from employees for every absence due to illness from work, an AMP would provide a layered approach, defining when, how and for what purpose sick notes are required. Most AMP’s outline the requirement for verification of absences from employees in the case of ‘patterned absenteeism’, rather than the single incident focus as noted in our sick note scenario.

‘The 5 Key Elements of an Attendance Management Program (AMP)’ provides us with a legal insight into the components of this type of program along with a rationale for implementing it in the workplace.

Click here to read about the insights for an AMP.

With clear compliance requirements, a good AMP lets us let go of the need for unnecessary sick notes. It gives us time and a plan that moves towards a healthy, wellness-focused approach in supporting employee attendance at work.

Discussion Questions:

  1. As an HR practitioner, what will you include in an Attendance Management Program regarding timing and requests for sick notes from employees? Explain your rationale.
  2. What types of employee sick-time costings would you include in the design of and budgeting for an indirect pay plan?
  3. Instead forcing employees to use ‘sick days’ for non-illness related absences, what other types of paid or unpaid leaves from work would you put into place for employees through an Attendance Management Program?

The HR Pressure Cooker is Heating Up

Santhosh Varghese/Shutterstock

Wages have always been at the forefront of any HR Department’s concerns, but it seems we are now approaching boiling point and that something may blow. Recruitment company Hays notes in its 2018 Salary Guide “a building pressure and awareness around compensation that [they] have not seen in previous years.” (Hays 2018 Salary Guide, p. 20.)

What does this mean for HR Departments? It is clear that they are feeling the pressure. Eighty-five percent say they want and need to improve their compensation plans in order to hire and retain top employees, but according to the Hays study, only 24% of HR Departments are allowed to offer more than a 3% compensation improvement.

Here is where the pressure is building for HR Departments — in recruitment. Compensation challenges and an inability to hire locally sourced talent is making it very difficult for HR departments.

The pressure is on, then, for HR to develop sophisticated, integrated strategies that address compensation levels, organization culture, and recruitment challenges. Perhaps HR professionals will increasingly need to show evidence-based research to convince senior leaders that they may have to increase their compensation budgets in the very near future.


Discussion Questions:

Research companies that lead the market with their compensation strategies. Identify why they have pursued these strategies.

Develop a 3-minute presentation to convince a Chief Financial Officer that an increase in the compensation budget is needed.


To Disclose or Not Disclose?

What is the big workplace secret?

Employee compensation economy. Man working on laptop sitting next to young woman under money rain. Pay difference concept.
pathdoc /Shutterstock

We have it in the public sector: it is called the sunshine list, but should we have complete salary disclosure in the private sector as well?

In an interview with David Burkus, an Associate Professor of Management at Oral Roberts University, Sarah Green Carmichael from Harvard Business Review brings the topic of salary transparency right to the forefront.

Click here to read the complete article.

David Burkus is the writer of a book called, Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual. His research says that complete pay transparency makes for a better workplace for both employees and employers. His thesis is that when we keep salaries secret people feel they are underpaid and this breeds disengagement.

Click here to watch David Burkus speak on this issue.

Salary disclosure is a topic that many employees and employers are not comfortable talking about. But does it happen anyway in the workplace? Everyone has some idea of what their coworker makes, but no one has complete information, so assumptions are made and we know how often assumptions are wrong or inaccurate. Having access to accurate information helps: it can possibly create a more trusting and collaborate working environment. If so, perhaps more employers should consider removing the veil of salary secrecy, as David Burkus suggest.

Discussion Questions

  1. With a partner, have a debate and discuss the benefits and negatives of salary transparency in the workplace. Please research your arguments and plan on using your arguments to defend your position.

The Perks of Perks

Employee incentive business concept as a group of businessmen and businesswomen running on a track towards a dangling carrot on a moving cable as a financial reward metaphor to motivate for a goal

When considering the components of a compensation strategy, indirect pay options can provide a significant boost to the value of the overall plan. There is no doubt that both the employer and the employee seek to establish financial stability through competitive base pay components in the form of an annual salary or an hourly wage. Salaries and wages, forming part of the monetary components of the compensation plan, are built on the premise of a fixed amount. As a result, once the compensation plan is put into place, it usually does not need too much tinkering over time, subject to a periodic strategic review.

This is where the value of indirect pay options comes into play. If the monetary plan is bound by  financial constraints and budgets, sometimes the indirect pay plan can expand the options for compensation without incurring significant additional costs. This does not mean that indirect pay plans deserve lesser consideration in the planning stages. In fact, indirect pay plans need a higher level of scrutiny and due diligence in order to ensure that they provide their intended value to the workforce.

Further, the flexibility of indirect pay plans allows for the creation of motivational incentives that can be adapted based on changing organizational need.

A recent article posted by B2C (Business 2 Community) outlines a seven-step approach to using indirect pay plans effectively for short-term gains as part of a long-term rewards system.

Click here to read the article.

As noted in the article, indirect pay plans can include monetary items such as bonuses or commissions which must be included as part of the funding allocated to the organization’s compensation systems. More importantly, non-monetary incentives can provide a creative push that achieves increased productivity and high employee engagement without having a negative impact on the bottom line.

These types of plans depend on the inputs of adaptability, focus, and commitment in order to achieve an output of successful rewards for all.

Discussion Questions:

  1. As the Compensation Specialist for your current organization, outline three short-term non-monetary rewards that would provide effective incentives to boost morale.
  2. What types of measures can the employer put into place to ensure that incentive planning adapts to the changing needs of employees?
  3. In addition to a base salary/hourly wage, what types of incentives are important to you as an employee?