PTO vs Sick Days

Out of the office sign | Business Consulting, Healthcare Consulting, Alternative Medicine Consulting, Salsbury & Co.

Can you predict when certain employees may call in sick? It happens, but if it’s foreseeable, are they really feeling “under the weather”?

As a business you should be tracking each employee’s time away from work. It is interesting to see patterns emerge as you look at each person individually. One corporation did just that; they compared employees who rarely missed a day, to the employees who used all of their sick days. What they found was that there were a higher percentage of team members using all of their sick time compared to people who didn’t.

The company made changes to how sick time was allocated, as in they eliminated all sick days. The reaction from the employees was exactly how the company predicted it. The employees who used all of their sick time every year hated the change, while the other employees rejoiced. The thing was that nobody actually lost any time off; if anything, they gained days off.

Under the old rule, for example, employees would have ten vacation days and five sick days. After the change to the policy, the same employees would have fifteen PTO days. Personal Time Off (PTO) could be used for any reason; a vacation day or a sick day.

The employees who were upset over the change felt that it was unfair that they now had to use a vacation day when they were sick. Employee comments and feedback showed that there was a misunderstanding when it came to allotted time; even though they still had the same amount of days off.

The winners of the change were the employees who were not in the habit of calling in sick. The team members with perfect attendance now had five additional days (per the example) to do whatever they wanted with, which was to get away from work while getting paid. In the past, those sick days would have gone unused.

But is PTO fair? How would you ever track who had perfect attendance and who didn’t, if every day off was marked as a personal day?

The company from the example, already had a good employee tracking system, and so no changes were needed. Management simply used a password protected Excel spreadsheet with different tabs for every employee (it was broken down by department). They used a letter and color scheme to show preapproved absences, call-ins, tardiness, and no shows. They also had a text box where additional notes could be added. Transitioning to PTO was easy on the leadership team for attendance tracking because they kept it simple.

The bigger issue was with the employees (again) who called in a lot. The argument was made that, “I never called in to use a sick PTO day. I called in to use a vacation PTO day, and so I shouldn’t be getting written up for missing too many days because they’re all the same now”. The attendance policies never changed, but they were still challenged.

How does your company operate when it comes to sick time? Are there any takeaways from this company’s example to use in your own facility? Finally, without any more information, what should this company do differently?


April Salsbury, MBA is a strategist, an analyst, an operational guru, a recognized leader and C-suite global healthcare executive with drive and focus for competitive markets. Co-host of The Business Forum Show and regular contributor to various business journals, she possess multi-functional and multi-national competencies with more than 15 years experience in business and healthcare. Her expertise is in invigorating revenue growth and infusing value of lean practices in growing companies through improvements to cash flow and operations management.

Fueling revenue, growth and profit, Salsbury & Co. is a consultancy firm focused on helping businesses and healthcare organizations achieve excellency. Our specialists have executive experience combined with deep functional expertise to provide our clients with services that drive real impact and results.

Want to keep up to date with all the newest information and tips? Make sure you're a subscriber to our weekly newsletter.

Share or Connect with us!

Twitter | Google+ | Facebook | LinkedIn

Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square