A majority of hiring decision-makers (87%) prefer sick workers stay home and take the day off in what many see as a shift in company culture regarding sick employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is according to a newly released survey conducted by The Harris Poll and commissioned by Express Employment Professionals.
While only 1 in 7 (14%) hiring decision-makers would rather sick employees come into work, 44% say the COVID-19 pandemic has made their company more accepting of working from home if an employee doesn’t feel well.
“We need people to do their jobs, so if someone is running a temperature, it’s best to keep them home but still allow them to work,” said Stacey Snodgrass, Express franchise owner in Everett, Washington. “Personally, I will allow this moving forward.”
Forty-two percent of respondents say this shift in company culture regarding sick employees could be more than temporary as their companies plan to offer more flexible sick-day policies.
“I think companies will have to become more flexible in order to protect their workforce and business,” said Mike Brady, Jacksonville, Florida, Express franchise owner. “They cannot risk an employee exposure to COVID-19, so they will have to adapt.”
And if employees do come to work sick? Nearly one-third, 31%, of hiring decision-makers say those workers will be reprimanded for putting others at risk. Snodgrass agrees sick workers on the job should be reprimanded, because one single COVID-19 case could devastate the business.
“We all need to be following the CDC and local health department guidelines so we are not bringing an illness that could shut the company down if everyone has to quarantine,” she said. “You also want to retain your current staff and make them feel safe.”
In Boulder, Colorado, Express franchise owner Todd Isaacson agreed that coming to work sick is a serious issue during the pandemic, but employers should be more understanding and provide warnings first.
“You have to give them some grace initially, because in the past, coming to work with a minor cold was no big deal,” he said. “And another factor is many workers desperately need to work and get paid.”
For those who do stay home, 1 in 4 hiring decision-makers (26%) think after the COVID-19 pandemic, employees will be more likely to lie about feeling sick thinking they will not be questioned for staying home.
Snodgrass, however, says lying about being sick to stay home could easily put workers in a bind.
“Staying home sick puts you in a situation where you may not have enough sick leave, and some companies are making employees do a COVID test before coming back to work or waiting 72 hours before returning to work,” she said.
Isaacson agrees. Once those sick days are used up, employees won’t get paid, he added.
“The American economy depends on a healthy workforce, and everyone has to do their part to prevent virus exposure,” Express CEO Bill Stollers said. “The ‘new normal’ may require some businesses to be more flexible when employees are under the weather to not only protect their workers, but also company operations.”
The survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Express Employment Professionals between April 21 and May 6, 2020, among 1,005 U.S. hiring decision-makers (defined as adults ages 18+ in the U.S. who are employed full-time or self-employed or have been laid off, furloughed, or given a zero hour schedule in the past 60 days but worked full-time or were self-employed full-time prior, work at companies with more than 1 employee, and have full/significant involvement in hiring decisions at their company). Data were weighted where necessary by company size to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.