I recently had a reader ask about a sick leave policy.
This reader had a church employee who was unexpectedly dealing with a serious health issue that would require a lot of time away from work.
Since the church didn’t have an existing policy they were scrambling to write one to cover the sick leave.
Her story was not unlike a lot of churches – policies and procedures are written on the fly when the need for a policy arises.
Unfortunately, that is probably the worst time to write a policy because it is usually a time of an urgent need to make a decision. And no one wants to make a decision in haste.
Here are some things to consider as you draft your sick leave policy:
Who (is covered), what (health events are covered) and how (much) will benefits be paid.
The worst time to think about writing policy is when an employee suddenly becomes sick.
People dealing with health issues are also dealing with the stress that goes along with it.
This makes it difficult to communicate a new policy at the time of a health crisis.
Taking the time to create a written policy, that is easy to understand, helps not only the employee – but also the church. No one wants to communicate a new policy that was created on the fly.
Be proactive and write a policy that makes it very clear what the ministry will pay and how sick benefits and short-term disability coverage can help bridge the gap in compensation.
A sick leave policy communicates the benefits and expectations that the organization has for the employee.
This document helps employees understand what portion of their salary will be compensated, how long they can be away from the job and what criteria needs to be met to qualify for the benefit.
A sick leave policy is intended to help employees through health problems, manage time off budgets and to comply with FMLA regulations.
3 Things a Sick Leave Policy Should Include
- Purpose/definition – the purpose clarifies why the policy exists
- Accrual Rate – shows how sick time will accrue
- Usage/Eligibility – clarifies criteria for using paid sick time
Example Sick Leave Policy
ABC Community Church recognizes that employees will occasionally have a need to take days off from work to deal with personal illness and medical needs. This policy is intended to clarify ministry support for employee illness events through compensation for unproductive hours as outlined in this document.
2. Accrual Rate
Employees will accrue sick leave as follows:
Full-time, non-temporary employees will receive 40 hours or 5 working days of sick leave each calendar year, cumulative up to 480 hours or 60 days, to be used in case of illness.
This is merely an example of what an accrual may look like. In this model, the employee accrues 40 hours per year and is allowed to accumulate as many as 480 hours. As you can also see if the employee never uses this sick bank of hours it will take 12 years to max out their accrual.
- Sick leave is accrued at a monthly rate.
- Employee is not eligible for unused sick leave at time of termination – whether voluntary or involuntary.
- Employees who are, according to certification by a licensed physician, temporarily disabled and who are not covered by a required state disability plan, shall receive full salary and benefits for a period of such disability not to exceed 12 weeks.
- Employees requesting a medical leave of absence must first use any available paid leave (sick and vacation hours) to which employee is entitled.
- If disability continues after 12 weeks, employee may apply for long-term disability.
- This policy shall apply to all medically certified disabilities, including pregnancy-related disability.
Sick leave may be used in accordance with the following provisions:
- Sick leave may not be used prior to accrual.
- If sick leave is exhausted, annual leave will be used in its place.
- Sick leave may be used for an employee’s personal illness, well-care and medical and dental appointments. Sick leave also may be used for illness and well-care of a member of an employee’s immediate family (including the employee’s spouse, children, mother and father).
- If the employee is on leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), paid sick leave or paid annual/vacation leave must be used initially as part of the FMLA leave.
- An employee who has a sick leave absence in excess of three consecutive work days must present medical documentation for the absence.
- If the employee is absent unexpectedly due to personal or a family member’s illness, the employee should notify his or her supervisor or the director of human resources as soon as reasonably possible.
- Employees are not paid for unused sick leave upon termination of employment.
This is merely an example of what your sick leave policy could look like. Use it as a guide as you take the time to think through the benefits your church can afford to provide and write a sick leave policy. Writing this policy now will ensure that your church is prepared when the inevitable situation arises of an employee needing time away from their duties to deal with a health issue.
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Sick leave policy template courtesy of SHRM