Canadian Underwriter

How some insurers handle sick days

November 11, 2019   by Adam Malik

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If you’re feeling a cold coming on, you could be doing more harm than good if you make your way to the office, a workplace expert warned. And for some in the property and casualty space, employers allow for staff to take it easy.

With cold and flu kicking into high gear, the tendency for many workers is to suck it up and head into work, according to research from global staffing firm Accountemps. In fact, almost nine in 10 (89%) of respondents said they come to the office with cold and flu symptoms (27% said they always do, while 62% said sometimes).

Why are they making the trek? More than half (54%) said it’s because they have too much work to do and don’t want to fall behind. One-third said they didn’t want to use up a sick day, so they instead decide to go to the office. Pressure from their bosses to be present at work is why more than a quarter (28%) went in and 18% do so because they see their colleagues doing the same.

Intact and Aviva both told Canadian Underwriter that they don’t put a cap on sick days. “At Intact, our employees are our greatest strength. Their health and well-being are important to us – that’s why sick days are not limited,” an Intact spokesperson told Canadian Underwriter, adding that an absence of five straight days will then trigger its short-term disability program.

At Aviva, which doesn’t formally keep track of sick days, “employees have the flexibility to take time off or work from home if they need to recover from an illness or want to prevent germs from spreading in the office,” a spokesperson said.

The fear of falling behind because you’re sick is a mentality that is doing more harm than good, said Koula Vasilopoulos, district president for Accountemps. “A healthy workplace is a happier, and ultimately more productive, environment,” she said in a statement discussing the research. “Taking the time to stay home and get better is not only good for your own wellbeing, it also shows consideration for your colleagues, your quality of work, and the overall success of your team.”

A proper tone from the top can go a long way in ensuring employees are working on getting themselves better rather than potentially making things worse, Vasilopoulos advised. “It’s up to managers [to] set the example by steering clear of the office when under the weather, and ensuring their teams follow suit.”

If handling sick employees is a challenge, Vasilopoulos suggested working with employees to figure out solutions. “Maintain open lines of communication to better recognize when employees are ill and provide solutions for managing sick days ― like remote work options or bringing in temporary help ― so workers feel supported and encouraged to get healthy,” she said.

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2 Comments » for How some insurers handle sick days
  1. Filip says:

    I enjoy seeing how the big companies are placing trust in their employees with the uncapped sick days. Both Aviva and Intact as excellent work environments!

  2. David Carps says:

    I think this article is pretty accurate. Most employers frown upon employee sick days and quite often discourage them from using the allotted sick days. Quite often and from what I usually hear is a trust issue! they are afraid that by encouraging this mentality, employees will slack and abuse it (I strongly disagree!). I see this a failed leadership method more than anything else.
    Also, when it is said there is no capping on Sick Days, does that mean employees can take as many “paid” sick leaves as they need, or does this mean they will take “non-paid” sick leaves? this is quite often what I’ve seen. Companies are taking away paid sick leaves and replacing them with non-paid sick leaves [!?]. employees often need to dig into their paid vacation time to avoid the non-paid sick leaves; meaning they will end up with less actual vacation time to actually enjoy time off work.
    The average, otherwise healthy Canadian gets sick 6-12 days in a year; that is an average of 4% in a year. I think if we provide an average of 10 paid sick days per year it would eliminate a big portion of the problem.

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