Sick leave should only be used when you’re sick

Sick leave is considered such an important benefit that Congress passed a Family Medical Leave Act (more commonly known as FMLA) in 1993.

FMLA applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. These employers must provide an eligible employee with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for any of the following reasons:

1. For the birth and care of the newborn child of an employee

2. For placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care

3. To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition

4. To take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

Many employers also provide a certain amount of paid sick leave to their employees, typically based on the number of years of service.

Sick leave can be a very valuable benefit for employees, especially when they are allowed to accumulate the leave and save it for a potential longer-term illness or need such as maternity leave or any of the FMLA criterion.

But sick leave is meant for nothing more than that – to be used when someone is sick. It provides employees with a type of insurance policy for their continued uninterrupted paycheck while they are sick.

Unfortunately, over the years, some employees started to look at sick leave not as an insurance policy but rather as vacation time or a kind of paid leave that they are owed regardless of whether they are sick or not.

This is a little like wanting to receive the benefit of your own life insurance policy without fulfilling the death requirement part.

Sick leave was intended for people to use when they are sick. Even the FMLA Act stipulates exactly what it can and cannot be used for.

The Marshall County Bord of Supervisors recently turned down a request by a jail supervisor who wanted to be demoted with only a few days until retirement. The supervisors presumed he wanted to be demoted because he could then join the union and collect $10,300 in unused sick leave benefits. According to the county supervisors, union members can be paid for a larger percentage of their unused sick leave time than non-union members.

This begs the question – why would anyone (union or non-union) be paid any amount of “sick time” when they are not sick? Sick leave should only be granted for what it is intended to be used for – as a benefit to insure the employee’s paycheck when he or she cannot be there to do the work because they are sick or due to one of the FMLA qualifiers.

The county (and all taxpayer funded entities) should rethink paying out tax dollars for a benefit that was never established to be used as paid leave for anything other than being sick.