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When is it appropriate to take a sick day?

Inspired by this CBC piece reporting on the skyrocketing number of sick days being taken by OC Transpo drivers (no, I’m not surprised), I thought I’d express my opinion on when it is – and is not – OK to call in sick.

Go ahead and make the call

  1. You have been throwing up like an engineer during frosh week
  2. You have been expelling the contents of your bowels in a non-stop fashion.
  3. Coughing so badly that you can be heard by staff 2 floors above or below. Or, so badly that you sound like a smoker with emphysema on a bad day.
  4. Stuff is coming out of your nose that is green, yellow or red.  And you have to rid your sinus passages of these wonderful liquid every 60 seconds or so.
  5. You pass out during a Board. For non-guvvies, that is a meeting where one is grilled for an hour or so to determine whether or not you should get a promotion. It’s a pretty important thing to stay awake for.
  6. You have been diagnosed with something really communicable. Like Ebola, for instance.

Um, I think you’re well enough, don’t you?

  1. You are using the pretence of being sick as a non-strike job action (see opening paragraph).
  2. You just called the course to see if there was a 9 am tee-time available.
  3. Avoidance of a meeting.
  4. Coughing less than 3 times per hour for a duration of less than 5 seconds per occurrence.
  5. Your fave team has an afternoon game.
  6. You’re well enough to go for your morning run.
  7. You HAVE to use all of my annual allotment of sick days.
  8. Your justification is “aw, I NEED a mental health day!”

Any others?


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    1. One thing I’d do, if I was Emperor… I’d make taking vacation compulsory. No accumulation from year to year. You take your time off or you’re just kicked out for time off at the end of the year.

      The purpose of vacation is so that people don’t need “mental health” days. If you look in any office, the most cranky, wound-up ass is almost always the guy with the most accumulated vacation. That is a situation that is so easy to fix… all it takes is for management to grow a pair.

    2. I’d say “no” on the pet thing with regard to sick day entitlement. To say it’s appropriate invites all sorts of abuse. What kind of pet? Gerbil? Dog? Chimpanzee? Harp seal pup? Why not other possessions too? Have to get a new car, take a sick day. Cutting down the big tree that’s been in your yard for 3 generations, take a sick day. I understand that you’re getting at an emotional attachement argument, but I’m not convinced that justifies unmonitored use of a sick day.

      However, if one of an employee came to me and asked for a day to deal with that, I’m likely to say yes depending on the general work habits of the employee, and perhaps the day can be made up in overtime later.

    3. raino says:

      what about when you have to put your pet down. is this appropriate? just curious.

    4. I caused a big stink at a company I used to work for. HR had put out a policy regarding sick days (at that company sick days weren’t limited – if you were sick, you didn’t go in). In HR’s opinion, people were taking too many and they released a really whiny, childish email to all.

      Being the shrinking violet that I am, I replied to all and said that it had come to my attention that 40% of sick days were being taken on Mondays and Fridays, and I wondered if anyone had considered that?

      An investigation was begun! Stats were examined, reports were written, people were questioned… then it finally dawned on one of the brighter bulbs that maybe since monday and friday constitute 40% of the work days, that they might also result in 40% of the sick days.

      Surprisingly, I didn’t get spanked for that, but it was the last we heard about sick days from HR.

    5. XUP says:

      Pretty much any Monday or Friday (especially adjacent to a long weekend) is suspect. Tuesday is the best day to pull a sickie. Nobody would every question you being sick on a Tuesday.

    6. If you honestly believe you are in the early stages of a disease: a cold, for example, it is best that you take a sick day. You are most communicable before you start exhibiting full-blown symptoms. If you wait until you can’t stand it, you’ve infected your co-workers and ultimately costing the employer more money. Odds are you got the cold from someone who should have taken a sick day and didn’t.

      In any case, if you take a sick day, you should welcome the opportunity to get a doctor’s note.

    7. Ken says:

      ” Your justification is “aw, I NEED a mental health day!” ”

      And here I was thinking this was a valid reason! To hear this coming from a civil servant… well! Colour me surprised!

    8. trashee says:

      Let me emphasize that “mental health day” is not intended as a true and serious time needed to meet one’s real mental health needs… Depression, anxiety etc, are real problems that are faced by everyone at one time or another and sometimes some days away from the routine really helps. I was using the term in it’s more subtle way… like skipping off work to go golfing because you needed a “mental health” day when really you just would have rather had golfed than went to work.
      Um, wait, that’s me just about EVERY day! 🙂

    9. Required says:

      I may have misinterpreted Valid Excuse #1.

    10. Required says:

      I love how depression, anxiety, phobia and every other serious mental health issue is summarily dismissed. But being too drunk to go to work, that’s just fine.

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