The percentage of sick days taken because workers see them as a use-it-or-lose-it entitlement has doubled since 1995, according to a new survey by CCH Inc. As a result, the cost of unplanned absences was up to $602 per employee in lost production, extra overtime pay and slower service last year, $200 more than in 1996.
- Replace separate sick and vacation leave with one "bank" of days to be used for illness, vacation and family needs.
- Cash out unused sick days at a certain percentage.
- Dangle a carrot, such as a day's pay or tickets to a game or show, for no absences over six months.
- Offer extended sick leave. One company cut its regular sick leave from 12 days to five days a year but offered 12 weeks of extended sick leave with a doctor's note. Sick-leave absences fell 44 percent over the next three years.
- Ask references about a job candidate's work ethic when hiring.