Human resources questions: how to handle half a day of sick time for employees

June 7, 2012
If an employee goes home sick, are you required to pay her four hours of regular work time and four hours of sick leave, or can you count the entire eight hours as sick leave? Human resources experts Tim Twigg and Rebecca Crane offer guidance.

Q: I had a staff member go home sick after working a half day. Is it required that I pay her four hours of regular work and four hours of sick leave, or can I count the entire eight hours as sick leave? I want to encourage employees who are sick to stay home and not bring the illness to work, which has the potential of infecting other staff.

While I agree with your philosophy, the approach may put you at risk. Wage and hour laws require the employer to pay for “time actually worked.” If the employer recorded the employee as out on sick leave the full day when the employee had actually worked four hours, this could be construed as a technical misrepresentation. Additionally, if the employee filed an on-the-job injury claim during a time when the employee's time record showed sick leave, then that, too, could cause the employer problems.

We recommend that you emphasize with employees how significant their disservice is to the practice, both to coworkers and patients, when they attempt to work while visibly impaired due to illness. Certainly the problem is one of judgment, but by emphasizing the rationale for wanting the employee not to return to work prematurely, it will assist staff in making those decisions.

The opinions expressed above are based on the writer’s comprehensive background as a human resources professional and the policies in our Bent Ericksen & Associates products having been reviewed by legal counsel. The writer is not an attorney, and the advice provided in this message should not be construed as a legal opinion. If you have legal questions after considering the advice and reading any materials referenced, it is recommended that you consult with your attorney.

Author bio
Tim Twigg is the president of Bent Ericksen & Associates, and Rebecca Crane is a human resource compliance consultant with Bent Ericksen & Associates. For 30 years, the company has been a leading authority in human resource and personnel issues, helping dentists deal successfully with the ever-changing and complex labor laws. To receive a complimentary copy of the company’s quarterly newsletter or to learn more about its services, call (800) 679-2760 or visit