Doctor’s Notes and a broken system

We recently had a news items here is Manitoba where an NDP member of the Legislature introduced a private members bill to remove the stipulation to require a Doctor’s note until you have been away for greater than 6 days. Seemed to me like a totally reasonable request. It also occurred to me how broken the system must be if someone thought getting a Doctor’s note was a good solution initially.

It appears that the Doctor’s notes were required to try to address unwarranted absenteeism. The problem with this policy is twofold:

  1. By forcing potentially sick employees outside and into a Doctor’s office you are potentially increasing the severity of their sickness and increasing the chance they will infect others.
  2. If they are unable to acquire a sick note because they lack a family doctor or have had too many sick notes, they will probably come to work and make more people sick. This in turn will result in point number 1. 🙂

Ultimately at the end of the day, you will need to trust your employees. If they are not engaged they possibly could take unwarranted sick days that could impact the business. But you know what? That impact would be minor to the impact to the business when they ARE at worked and not engaged. They could waste more time than during their unwarranted sick days. (especially when you factor in other employees they are also distracting)

When you are thinking about designing solutions to the problems, ensure you are treating the problem and not just the symptom. In this case, playing hooky is not the problem. It is just a symptom of being not engaged and not feeling valued.

BTW, increasing the procedure to only require notes over 6 days isn’t fixing things either. Spend the effort to talk to people and understand what they would like to do at work. What makes them feel like they aren’t working? What gives them a sense of satisfaction? What makes the day fly by for them?

How would they recommend getting employees more engaged?

You might be surprised at the answers you get. At the very least, just asking the question increases their engagement and probably starts the process to reducing absenteeism.

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