Adopt a policy that addresses absences


Suspicious that an employee is using sick time as vacation time? See why you need to have well-constructed policies in place.

Q: One of my employees called in sick today, the second time she has called in sick after a holiday. I am pretty sure she is taking sick days so she doesn’t have to use her vacation days after a holiday. What should I do? Do I have to pay her for today?A: Whether you pay your employee depends on your practice’s policy on vacation and sick days.

Most states do not require private employers to pay employees for any days not worked so long as the companies do not have policies requiring payment. So, if you have a written or verbal established paid time off, vacation, or sick days policy that your employees are aware of, you may be violating your own policy, which could cause problems for you with your employees.

For example, if you adopted a policy that states vacation days must be requested at least 2 weeks in advance and gives employees 2 sick days per year, and if the employee who did not come in today already has used her two sick days, then you were not provided adequate notice. Therefore, you may be entitled to forego paying the employee for the day’s work.  

I recommend you create a written record of the absence, review it with your employee on her return, maintain a record of this review, ask the employee to sign and date the report, and sign and date it as well.

Rather than guessing whether you are entitled to withhold payment from a “sick” employee, establish a policy that details the circumstances and opportunities employees have for sick days and other paid time off. You may elect to forego paid time off entirely, which is not standard but not prohibited, either.

Practices typically include vacation and sick day policies in their employee handbooks. If yours does, consider requiring every employee to sign, at the time of hire, a form acknowledging that they have read the employee handbook. Doing so will make it easier for you to remind your employee that she knows the rules regarding your practice’s policy on vacation and sick days.

The author is healthcare department manager for Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC, Garden City, New York. The answer does not constitute legal advice. Send your practice management questions to Also engage at and

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