Educating Your Employees about Absences

Clarifying your company policy on various time-off claims is essential!

What is it … sick time, family leave, paid time off, or just a non-paid absence from work? Employees are not the only ones confused!

For years California employers used attendance policies that assigned an “occurrence” for unscheduled, unapproved absences. Employees who incurred excessive amounts of  “occurrences”  received counseling, then discipline; if the absences continued, termination usually followed. This policy was characterized as a “no-fault” policy because the reason for the employee’s absence was irrelevant: it was merely a matter of the employee being absent from work so often or for so long, that termination became the only option for the employer.

Then came the California paid-sick-leave law, known as the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, which required employers to provide paid sick leave beginning on July 1, 2015. The law required employers to provide at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked or a minimum annual lump sum of 24 hours. Sick leave could be used for the diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition of—or preventive care for—an employee or an employee’s family member, and also for an employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Some employers don’t note the differences until they are sure an employee may be abusing one of the classifications. Here’s a 3-step process that can help you reduce employee confusion and abuse when recording workplace absences.


Step 1: Develop a clear company policy on absences.

Absences are a constant issue so employers must develop a company policy covering all the different types of absences.  When your company decides to clarify its absence and time off policies, the first rule is to review current federal family leave laws. Then be sure to check the latest information from California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) department, which recently published an updated FAQ that addressed the state law.


Step 2: Record your policy in the company handbook.

Publish this policy in your company handbook—don’t forget to include within this policy a list of consequences if the employee has been found to abuse any of these classifications. This list would consist of warnings, probation, and termination protocols. Remember—your handbook is your go-to document that supports the company in case of employee claims.


Step 3: Communicate, communicate, communicate!

It is imperative that a company communicates this policy to all staff yearly, not just to your HR Manager, but communicated to senior management, supervisors, and every employee. This communication may be done through a company-wide memo or employee meetings. An initial review of this policy can be done during the “on-boarding” process with any new employee you hire.


Clarification is your insurance policy against employee abuse of absences.

Some employers avoid telling their employee’s what their legal rights are when it comes to claiming time off for fear that their employees may try to play the system.  But employers have already informed their employees of these laws—they are found on each Labor Law poster every employer is mandated to post in their workplace! By actively reviewing your policy with all staff on an annual basis, you create a culture of awareness that will prompt your staff and employees to self-classify their absence.  If you have an employee that seems to be abusing a classification, then you, as an employer, have already established the legal grounds to invoke warnings or take disciplinary action.


Sequoia Personnel Services has your workplace solutions!

Our services include helping you develop company policies that are compliant with state and federal labor laws. We can provide you with handbook templates, or help you create a customized handbook specifically tailored to your company or industry. As a professional employment services provider, Sequoia has many years of experience in helping growing companies develop and implement employment policies, including those covering employee absences and providing HR services that take the stress out of disciplining employees.

 Call today to get the help you need (707) 445-9641