Time to review required doctor note policy for illness?

Time to review the sick-day, doctor’s note policy?

Illness costs employers and employees in lost wages, lost productivity, and cost of medical care. (photo by Linda Barlett, wikicommons)

Illness costs employers and employees in lost wages, lost productivity, and cost of medical care.
(photo by Linda Barlett, wikicommons)

 

Many companies have policies in their employee handbooks requiring doctor’s notes if the employee calls in ill.  The 2008-2013 economic crisis, the mess with the Affordable Healthcare Act (AHA), and the trend of reducing hours to avoid offering any health and welfare benefits, requires this policy to be revisited.  Because many companies don’t offer medical insurance or only offer major medical, the requirement for a doctor’s note may be economically crippling to a part-time employee.

Some companies have hourly workers they have invested in through a full-cycle hiring and vetting process, as well as training to the minimum standards of the job requirements. The recruiting process is not cheap in cost or manpower.  Managers need dependable employees at work and have guidelines for minimum attendance requirements, including the requirements for a doctor’s note if the employee calls in ‘sick’ for a full work shift or more.

When the company does not provide health care benefits to the employees, it may be crossing a financial and ethical line for requiring a doctor’s note as a confirmation of the illness.  If the employee is part-time and working at minimum wage, the requirement for a doctor’s note may cost them more than a normal shift or day’s wages.  At $8.00 an hour, the employee may be netting under $200 weekly, or perhaps $35 or less daily; the visit to the doctor’s office may cost the employee $180 to obtain the excuse note.

Is the company prepared to pay for the cost of seeing the doctor? Does the policy need to be reviewed for unfair, differential treatment between full-time employees versus part-time employees based on the medical benefits offered (or not) to either class of employee?  Is a requirement for more than two days of absences requiring a medical note versus a one-day absence more fair?

What is the gain for an employer to require a doctor’s note? Employees who are vested in employment and their benefits will only have a co-payment for the physician’s office visit and are incentivized to avoid playing hooky when required to document an illness.  Some employers’ requirements for an employee to be at work is critical to business, so the company needs a punitive action to discourage employees from missing work for reasons easily shifted to other family members or scheduled ahead of time using bona fide vacation days. If the illness (or injury) results in multiple lost work days, the employer wants to ensure the employee is healthy enough to come back to work (to avoid spreading communicable illness such as pink-eye, flu, severe cold, or for a temporary disability), which helps protect liability if something happens later at work related to the illness.

When should an employer not require a doctor’s note?  Requiring a doctor’s note from an employee for one day’s illness may result in additional lost time – if the doctor is not available until the patient is already well enough to be back at work.  The employee may not have the financial capability for a physician’s appointment, and risks losing the job for failure to bring in the note. If failure results in suspension or firing, this results in more costs to the company to replace the employee.  If the illness is for one day, and the employee doesn’t show a ‘trend’ for calling in sick (Ex: every Monday after a binge weekend), then the occasional sick day should be overlooked.

Disparate treatment may result in EEOC or ADA charges.  If employees are required to bring in doctor’s notes, then part-time employees could be discriminated against for the cost, if the full-time employees have benefits the part-timers do not.  If the company is willing to fund the doctor’s visit minus the co-pay (required of full-time employees with benefits), the discriminatory factor is eliminated against the part-timers. But now the business has discriminatory factors against the full-timers who are paying out of pocket for all or a portion of their benefits (unfair to fund the part-timer’s visit, but not the full-timer’s visit).

Be careful in doctor’s notes requirements – HIPPA law requires medical privacy, so it may be best to totally eliminate the requirement. The bottom line is – requirements for doctor’s notes for a simple illness such as a severe flu, cold, or 1-2 day absence, as long as not consistently occurring, should not require doctor’s notes (unless the employee shows a pattern of abuse; which may require other remediation action). Companies should review policies in their employee handbooks to ensure there is no discriminatory potential for communication and documentation of illness policies.

 

Dawn Boyer, Ph.D., is the owner of D. Boyer Consulting – providing resume writing, social media management, business development, and human resources consulting. Reach her at: Dawn.Boyer@DBoyerConsulting.com or http://dboyerconsulting.com.

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Time to review required doctor note policy for illness?

Time to review the sick-day, doctor’s note policy?

Illness costs employers and employees in lost wages, lost productivity, and cost of medical care. (photo by Linda Barlett, wikicommons)

Illness costs employers and employees in lost wages, lost productivity, and cost of medical care.
(photo by Linda Barlett, wikicommons)

 

Many companies have policies in their employee handbooks requiring doctor’s notes if the employee calls in ill.  The 2008-2013 economic crisis, the mess with the Affordable Healthcare Act (AHA), and the trend of reducing hours to avoid offering any health and welfare benefits, requires this policy to be revisited.  Because many companies don’t offer medical insurance or only offer major medical, the requirement for a doctor’s note may be economically crippling to a part-time employee.

Some companies have hourly workers they have invested in through a full-cycle hiring and vetting process, as well as training to the minimum standards of the job requirements. The recruiting process is not cheap in cost or manpower.  Managers need dependable employees at work and have guidelines for minimum attendance requirements, including the requirements for a doctor’s note if the employee calls in ‘sick’ for a full work shift or more.

When the company does not provide health care benefits to the employees, it may be crossing a financial and ethical line for requiring a doctor’s note as a confirmation of the illness.  If the employee is part-time and working at minimum wage, the requirement for a doctor’s note may cost them more than a normal shift or day’s wages.  At $8.00 an hour, the employee may be netting under $200 weekly, or perhaps $35 or less daily; the visit to the doctor’s office may cost the employee $180 to obtain the excuse note.

Is the company prepared to pay for the cost of seeing the doctor? Does the policy need to be reviewed for unfair, differential treatment between full-time employees versus part-time employees based on the medical benefits offered (or not) to either class of employee?  Is a requirement for more than two days of absences requiring a medical note versus a one-day absence more fair?

What is the gain for an employer to require a doctor’s note? Employees who are vested in employment and their benefits will only have a co-payment for the physician’s office visit and are incentivized to avoid playing hooky when required to document an illness.  Some employers’ requirements for an employee to be at work is critical to business, so the company needs a punitive action to discourage employees from missing work for reasons easily shifted to other family members or scheduled ahead of time using bona fide vacation days. If the illness (or injury) results in multiple lost work days, the employer wants to ensure the employee is healthy enough to come back to work (to avoid spreading communicable illness such as pink-eye, flu, severe cold, or for a temporary disability), which helps protect liability if something happens later at work related to the illness.

When should an employer not require a doctor’s note?  Requiring a doctor’s note from an employee for one day’s illness may result in additional lost time – if the doctor is not available until the patient is already well enough to be back at work.  The employee may not have the financial capability for a physician’s appointment, and risks losing the job for failure to bring in the note. If failure results in suspension or firing, this results in more costs to the company to replace the employee.  If the illness is for one day, and the employee doesn’t show a ‘trend’ for calling in sick (Ex: every Monday after a binge weekend), then the occasional sick day should be overlooked.

Disparate treatment may result in EEOC or ADA charges.  If employees are required to bring in doctor’s notes, then part-time employees could be discriminated against for the cost, if the full-time employees have benefits the part-timers do not.  If the company is willing to fund the doctor’s visit minus the co-pay (required of full-time employees with benefits), the discriminatory factor is eliminated against the part-timers. But now the business has discriminatory factors against the full-timers who are paying out of pocket for all or a portion of their benefits (unfair to fund the part-timer’s visit, but not the full-timer’s visit).

Be careful in doctor’s notes requirements – HIPPA law requires medical privacy, so it may be best to totally eliminate the requirement. The bottom line is – requirements for doctor’s notes for a simple illness such as a severe flu, cold, or 1-2 day absence, as long as not consistently occurring, should not require doctor’s notes (unless the employee shows a pattern of abuse; which may require other remediation action). Companies should review policies in their employee handbooks to ensure there is no discriminatory potential for communication and documentation of illness policies.

 

Dawn Boyer, Ph.D., is the owner of D. Boyer Consulting – providing resume writing, social media management, business development, and human resources consulting. Reach her at: Dawn.Boyer@DBoyerConsulting.com or http://dboyerconsulting.com.

Be Sociable, Share!


Follow my podcasts

Available on iTunes and Podomatic:

Add to Google

addtomyyahoo4

The Best Host for Websites – Highly Recommended for Customer Service

InMotion Hosting Affiliate