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How to Handle Employees Calling In Sick When Denied Vacation

Employees calling in sick when denied vacation is a common HR problem. Although companies vary in terms of vacation request policies, there are general considerations when looking to approve or reject a time off request. These can include staffing levels, peak seasons, and operational needs.

This being said, an employer has every right to deny a vacation request. Employers are not mandated by federal law to provide vacation leave time. Despite this, some employees will still try to get their way when the company denies their vacation time by calling in sick to work. As an HR professional, how do you handle this situation?

Spot the Signs

These are common signs to watch out for when you think an employee is trying to play hooky at work to get some vacation time.

Sudden Sickness: Some employees who have been denied a vacation leave may suddenly “get sick” on the day of their supposed leave. Although it can be purely coincidental, the chances of this being a non-genuine sick leave are very high.

Prior Absenteeism: Some employees may be absent the day before their denied vacation day and will claim to be sick on the following days. Oddly enough, these days may coincide with their denied vacation time.

Repeat Offender: There may be a couple of employees you can single out as the ones who always call in sick on the day of their denied vacation leave. These employees have developed the habit of being absent from work when their time off is rejected.

A Go-to Excuse: Employees who are constantly absent from work due to a non-genuine sickness are most likely to run out of excuses. Because they are always claiming to be sick, you may notice a pattern forming. Some of the common reasons for being “sick” include the following:

  • Stomachache

  • Headache

  • Toothache

  • Just “feeling ill”

How to Avoid Employees From Calling In Sick When Denied a Vacation Leave

Curbing absenteeism is an ongoing HR challenge in any organization. Here are some ways to control absenteeism related to denied vacation leaves.

Have a clear sick leave policy: Sick leave mandates are different in every state. To avoid disputes, you must ensure that your sick leave policy aligns with state laws. Make your sick leave policy clear and straightforward so that it is easy for your employees to understand and follow.

Require documentation: Most companies offer sick leaves as paid time off. To minimize the abuse of this benefit, you may need to require employees to present some form of documentation when they call in sick. Most companies will require a doctor’s note to validate the sickness. This may help deter employees from calling in sick when they don’t have a legitimate illness.

Be consistent: Ensure that you are consistent in communicating and implementing your company’s policies and procedures concerning sick leaves. This consistency also applies when you are approving or denying a vacation request.

Be transparent: The first reaction you will expect when you deny a request for vacation time is disappointment. This is expected, and you may have rejected the request for purely logical reasons. Be open in communicating your reasons for denying this time off request to your employee. When your employee understands the reason, this may help them understand their need to show up to work.

Offer options: An employer may deny a vacation request on specific dates. These dates may be crucial times that staffing is needed in the workplace. When you cannot approve a time off request, try to negotiate with the employee if they are open to taking time off on other days.

Tips For Dealing With Employees Who Call in Sick When Denied a Vacation Leave

There will always be an employee who habitually calls in sick even when you have tried your best to curb the behavior. Here are some tips on how to deal with this chronic absenteeism.

Call them out: Let your employee know that you know what they are up to. Some employees think skipping work is okay because they believe no one knows the real reason. When you let your employees know that you are on to them, it makes them more aware of their actions and how they impact their employment.

Keep documentation: Ensure that you keep proper documentation for filing leave requests. This will help you keep track of potential absenteeism problems when it comes to denied vacation requests.

Consult a lawyer: Sanctioning an employee who is habitually absent from work due to a claimed illness is tricky, especially if this employee always has a doctor’s note to back it up. When you think an employee is playing hooky on the job and claims to be sick only to go on vacation, consult with a qualified lawyer about the legal implications of sanctions. This will help avoid conflicts and potential lawsuits.

Check your policies: Ensure that your company has a progressive disciplinary plan for employees calling in sick when denied paid time off for a vacation.

Have a chat: Make time to chat with an employee who calls in sick when denied a vacation leave. This will let them know that you are aware of their actions, but more importantly, it will help you understand their point of view regarding the company’s policies surrounding a vacation leave. Some employees may not clearly understand the policies and the implications of their actions, so taking time to chat with them can help set better expectations.

Want More Tips On HR Best Practices?

At Teamworks Group, we help companies all across the country improve their HR processes. If you’d like more insights, check out our HR software solution or take a look at our additional HR resources. These resources include helpful tips, guides, and templates.


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