Employees say the darndest things when they call in sick. “A bear is in my yard and I’m afraid to leave my house” and “I’m not sure how the solar eclipse is going to affect me, so it may be safer to stay home” were among the least believable sick-day excuses heard by company managers polled in a recent survey by CareerBuilder.

Nearly 3 in 5 employees who have paid time off programs said they felt they had to make up an excuse for taking the day off. This is despite 54% of employees working for companies with a paid time off program that rolls sick, vacation and personal days together.

And while it’s not uncommon for employees to occasionally call out sick when they’re actually fine, almost every small business has one or two sick-day abusers with too many call outs.

employee calling in sick often

Here’s How to Deal With Employees Calling in Sick Too Often

Not Sure How to Deal With an Employee Who Is Always Absent and Calling in Sick Too Much? Merge “Sick” Days With “Vacation” Days

To curb employees always calling in sick to work, a growing number of companies now allow employees a specified number of paid days off for any purpose—that is, both sick time and vacation time are considered the same thing and consolidated into one paid leave package. This is typically called Paid Time Off, or PTO for short.

By doing so, employers effectively reward employees who don’t have frequent illnesses and discourage employees from taking sick time when they’re not actually sick.

With such a policy in place, sick-day abusers may think twice before calling in because the absences cut into what could be their vacation. This is usually an effective way to deal with an employee who is always taking sick leave.

Employee Keeps Calling In Sick Reasons For Calling In Sick

Doing Away With Voicemails Can Keep Employees From Calling in Sick Too Often

One of the ways employees calling in sick too often abuse sick time is if they don’t have to speak with a supervisor and can simply get out of work by firing off an email or leaving a groggy-toned voicemail.

With this being the case, employers should require workers, especially those whose attendance record is sub-par, to speak directly to an immediate supervisor when they call in sick. Do not let a sick employee call—no voicemail, no text—they must speak to someone.

Employee Keeps Calling In Sick States That Require Employee Leave

Explore an Unlimited Vacation Policy, Get Rid of Sick Days for Part-Time Employees and Full Time Staff

It’s clear when employees can take days off from work, it leads to increased productivity. An unlimited vacation policy means your employees don’t have a bank of time to accrue or a set amount of days per year they can take off. Before you start worrying the policy could be abused, some companies found employees take the same amount of time off as they usually do after an unlimited vacation program was put into effect. It could be the makings of a very healthy workplace.

So, what’s the benefit of an unlimited policy? Increasing morale and building a culture of trust between you and your employees. Removing sick days for part-time employees and replacing them with vacation days encourages trust in your employees. Do the same for employees who are full time.

Employee Keeps Calling Sick Merge Sick Days

Relax Your Policies, It Can Reduce the Average Number of Sick Days per Employee

This one is a little counter-intuitive. But it’s possible that your strict sick-leave policy is actually having the reverse effect and causing employees to skip out on work instead of preventing unscheduled absenteeism.

Studies show the majority of workers who call in sick at the last minute do so for reasons other than physical illness, citing personal needs and stress as chief reasons for taking time off.

Workplace flexibility, on the other hand, has been shown to reduce worker stress. In other words, giving employees more freedom, so long as their share of work gets completed, makes staff more appreciative of the company and less likely to take advantage of paid leave policies, whether they are a part-time employee or full-time employee.

Employee Keeps Calling Sick Checklist

My Employees Keep Calling in Sick Too Often, Time To Talk

Okay, you’ve merged sick time with vacation time, done away with voicemails and boosted morale by increasing workplace flexibility, but there are still sick-day abusers at the company. There is such a thing as preventative care, but if the average number of sick days taken per employee is still high, or you have a select few employees calling in sick to work too often, it’s time to take them aside for a sit-down and let them know that you’ve noticed the days off.

Emily Dusablon, an advisor at Insperity, a provider of HR services, suggests asking employees whether there’s any reason, in particular, that is causing the absences.

“Maybe you’re not aware of an underlying condition,” Dusablon says. “Maybe the employee needs a schedule adjustment or accommodation based on the Americans with Disabilities Act. Don’t assume you know all the facts until you have talked with the employee.”

Make sure you familiarize yourself with both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Employee Keeps Calling In Sick Talk To Your Employee

When It Comes to How to Deal With an Employee Who Is Always Sick, Know The Law

If, after a sit-down, the absenteeism persists, and you choose to act, it’s necessary to first consider the laws associated with paid sick leave. Currently, there are not any requirements for a paid sick leave policy but it’s a good idea to check to see if your company is subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

For instance, under the Family and Medical Leave Act, certain employers are required to offer their employees sick leave to care for themselves or sick family members. Also, make sure you know the law for sick days for part-time employees as well.

Employee Keeps Calling In Sick Review Absence Policy

Determining if an employee’s circumstances qualify them for such legal protections, or if employers are on the hook for paying them during sick leave, is typically where things get sticky. In most cases, the safest bet is to consult an attorney before withholding pay or firing an excessively absent employee.

Next Steps: Imagine a world where your employees show up on time, work smart and deliver results for your small business day in and day out. Not there yet? Sign up for the weekly Small Biz Ahead Newsletter and we’ll send you the best science-backed strategies on managing productive, happy employees—including tips on how to get them to show up on time!

What are your thoughts on PTO issues? Let us know in the comments.