Why this ‘Week-End Sick Call’ Policy May Be a Bandaid Approach that is Harmful to Staff and Patients

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sneezeProblem-solving and good intentions may be the inspiration for this policy, but the organization may be missing an opportunity to solve underlying problems, punish hardworking staff, and spread disease!

The Policy:

“If you call in sick on a week end you are scheduled to work, you must make it up on the following week-end”

Granted, week-ends can be difficult to staff in a 24/7/365 operation such as a hospital or long term care facility and when someone calls in sick a staffing shortage may result.  But, is a policy that encourages staff to work when they are sick or force them to make up the time when they have scheduled time off the answer?

Talk about spreading germs!

There are three underlying problems that may be part of an organization that utilizes such a policy and discussing these may lead to healthier solutions.

1.  There may be 1 or 2 employees who have a pattern of using sick time on week-ends.  Doesn’t it make more sense to provide constructive feedback to these employees and pursue a path of discipline if the pattern continues?

2.  Why isn’t there a back up plan for getting staff to come in when others are sick.  This may involve some sort of “On Call” requirement with sneezereimbursement.  People get sick and organizations should plan for that.

3.  If none of the regular staff or per diems are willing or available to come in and help out this may be the result of chronic understaffing, fatigue and generally poor morale.  These are important clues about the organization’s interest in supporting and retaining quality staff.

Working on a unit that is chronically understaffed on the week-ends can be exhausting and administrative leaders may want to consider the above instead of such a policy.



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2 Responses to Why this ‘Week-End Sick Call’ Policy May Be a Bandaid Approach that is Harmful to Staff and Patients

  1. Thanks for your honesty, Elizabeth. It seems like an archaic policy and not at all supportive of staff…many of whom work so hard to care of others who are sick….OY!!

  2. WOW, I did not know that this was happening in some places!! Talk about decreasing staff satisfaction. I agree with your post- when I worked on my inpatient unit we had maybe 1-2, maybe 3 people that abused the weekend and called out a lot. But the rest of us just worked our weekends. I would have HATED if I was legitimately sick on a weekend and then had to come in on the next one off… talk about two weekends of not having fun! I would have quit in a heartbeat. This policy is ridiculous and a morale basher. Not to mention your point about sickness… you’re right- I would think to myself, “Well, I’m not deathly ill… so I better go into work or else there goes my next weekend!” WOW. Thanks for posting this to enlighten those of us who were unaware. That is terrible news. :- (

What are your thoughts?