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NJ firm finds an easy way to reduce last-minute sick calls

Experience is often a manager’s best education. Such is the case for the long-time manager of a practice in New Jersey, who has found that the best way to prevent the last minute sick calls is to allow staff to carry their sick days over to the next year.

But instead of transferring as sick days, the time becomes personal days to use however they want. As in any office the sick calls always came in at the last minute and left the office shorthanded.

Use it or lose it

What’s more, the office had a use-it-or-lose-it policy, so there was invariably a surge of absences at the end of the year.

Making matters worse, Mondays and Fridays, which are the busiest days, are the most tempting times for people to be out.

The carry-over system ended that, and to everybody’s satisfaction. For the office, there’s full coverage for all positions; for staff, there’s a bonus of added personal time.

The potential for more vacation

Each employee starts the year with five sick days and ends by taking the unused days into the next year. Thus, staff can potentially add as many as five days to their vacation time. Most people carry over at least three days, and one staffer who has been there since the carry-over began has carried over five days every year. The manager asks staff to request the personal time at least a week ahead so she can cover the work, though usually they arrange the coverage themselves before making their requests.

Plus protection for holidays

There’s more to the picture: an added a provision to prevent unnecessary call-ins around holidays.

To miss the day before or after a holiday, staff have to get the absence approved in advance or bring a doctor’s note verifying illness. Otherwise, they don’t get paid for the holiday. With most holidays falling on Monday, the following day is invariably a Monday-Tuesday day with twice the work, so the office needs that provision to ensure full coverage. The manager adds, though, that enforcement follows common sense. If a staffer is obviously ill, the doctor’s note is not necessary. But having the provision in the handbook allows the office to enforce it if there’s doubt.

If your law office has a system that helps operations run smoothly, Law Office Manager would like to write about it. Contact the Editor at catherine@plainlanguagemedia.com. We pay $100 for every idea we write about in this column.


Editor’s picks:

90 minutes of unpaid time off ends a bookkeeping nightmare


This year’s craziest excuses for calling in sick


Paid time-off gives unquestioned days off plus a bank for catastrophes


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