Whether the scare-mongers are right in predicting that the flu will decimate workplaces this winter is anyone’s guess. Nevertheless, the Fair Labor Standards Act () has a lot to say about your sick-time policies.
Sick time mandates for nonexempts. Nonexempts who call in sick, and who don’t work from home, may use their accrued time for the time not worked. If they don’t have any accrued time left, and they can’t borrow time, you need not pay them. If they work overtime during a week they’re out and use some of their accrued time off, don’t include that payment in their regular rates when calculating their overtime rates. Reason: The payment is for idle time, which isn’t included in the regular rate calculation.
Nonexempts who work from home must still submit time records. It’s easy to lose track of time when working from home, especially when the couch beckons for a nap, so you should be wary if the work they completed doesn’t jibe with their time records.
Key: Impress upon employees that every work hour must be recorded; estimates aren’t acceptable. Also, they are not to work through meal and rest breaks. Remember, unrecorded working time is a common source of friction between nonexempts and managers.
Sick time mandates for exempts. Exempts who are out sick don’t need to be paid their full salaries, if your bona fide sick pay plan pays them for the lost salary. However, exempts need not be paid their full salaries if they haven’t yet qualified under your sick pay plan, they have already used up their benefits for the year or they haven’t yet actually received any benefits. They may use other accrued time, if they have any.
Exempts who are home because they’re taking care of a sick child, and who work from home, must be paid their full salaries. Flip side: Exempts don’t need to be paid their full salaries for the week if they take full days off for personal reasons. Upshot: Exempts who stay home, and who aren’t working from home, can use their accrued time; if they’ve run out of accrued time and can’t borrow from the next allotment, they can take an unpaid day off.
PREVENTIVE MEASURES: Closing the business because too many employees are out sick usually isn’t an option. Instead, think about offering flu shots to those few employees who haven’t yet submitted to the dreaded needle. If you’re too small to host your own flu shot clinic, consider partnering with other businesses in your building. You can also make generous amounts of hand sanitizers and disinfectant aerosol sprays available.