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How Many Sick Days Should You Offer?

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At some point, all of your employees will get sick or need to take care of a dependent family member who is under the weather. As an employer, it is your responsibility to treat your employees fairly and offer the right amount of sick days so you can remain competitive with other companies and continue to meet your bottom line. Here’s some food for thought on how many sick days you should be offering your employees.

What are Your Options?

On average, companies in the private sector offer their employees the following number of sick days.

  • 7 sick days per year for less than 5 years of employment.
  • 8 sick days per year for 5 to 10 years of employment.
  • 9 sick days per year for more than 10 years of employment.

This may be a good starting point for how many sick days you should offer, but keep in mind that these averages may not be accurate for your industry. It’s a good idea to research local competitors to find out if they are offering more or less sick days per year.

Remember to consider whether your employees work full-time or part-time or are paid hourly or salary. You may want your employees to accrue sick time based on the amount of hours they’ve worked, rather than giving them a set amount of sick days per year. Many companies in the U.S. offer an average of one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. For someone who works 2000 hours per year, that’s about 8 days of sick time accrued.

Some companies have also adopted a policy of grouping vacation and sick days into a less specific PTO day. This type of policy grants employees more flexibility and can give you a leg up on your competition. Read more about this type of policy in our blog, “Ditch Your Sick Time Policy: Why PTO is a Better Plan”.

Another option is unlimited PTO or sick days. The benefit of this type of policy is that your employees will likely be more innovative and productive in the long run because they’ll have the freedom to manage their own sick or PTO days. Your employees will be happier with the additional flexibility and you’ll be more likely to retain them. The disadvantage, of course, is that some of your workers may take advantage of this policy and take off more time than you’d like them to.

What Does the Law Require?

The federal government does NOT require employers to provide their employees with any paid sick leave. However, eleven states, and some local municipalities, have instituted laws that require employers to offer paid sick leave.

In addition, companies affected by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are required to offer up to twelve weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for specific medical situations that affect employees or their immediate families. These regulations apply to you if you have at least 50 employees, are a public agency, or a private elementary or secondary school

If you are changing or initiating your PTO and/or sick leave policy, consult a labor law attorney to ensure your policies are crafted correctly.

Summing It All Up

There is no one-size-fits all sick time or PTO policy that is a good option for every company.  Designing the ideal policy and granting the correct number and type of sick days requires abiding by federal, state, and local law, staying competitive in your market, and considering how your company will be affected financially.