HR Home Forums Private Employee Calling in sick – Pending Termination


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  • Jackie Northcott
    Post count: 2

    Hello! I have an employee who we were planning on terminating this week but she keeps calling out sick. Today is the fourth day in a row. My question is do we wait until she is better and reports back to the office to terminate or do we plan the termination over the phone? For context, this employee has called out of work excessively in recent weeks. I know personally I would rather wait for her to return to work and terminate in person with respect and dignity, but we also want to move forward and onward.

    Rick Tobin
    Post count: 58

    Provided that you are looking to terminate the employee for something other than being sick and that you have documented everything through the progressive discipline process, you can terminate the employee remotely.

    However, there are some things that you should consider:
    – Is the employee calling in sick because they are having mental health/wellness issues (re stress) that might be impacting their work and their avoidance of coming in?
    – Are there any other factors that may be impacting their attendance issues, such as a long-term illness?

    It is best practice to do a termination in person, and for you to say to the employee that we need you to come into the office tomorrow or X date for a management meeting. (As an aside, have you requested a medical note for these prolonged absences? Is that part of your current policy?)

    Odds are that the employee knows what is up and is just trying to avoid the whole thing or is trying to obfuscate and delay for other reasons. You would have a strong case for this causing you undue harm, but to protect yourself, you should probably:

    1. Request a doctor’s note
    2. Communicate the need for attendance for a management meeting – preferably more than 24 hours in advance. Say something like, we would like to have you in at 10am on Monday for a management meeting, please confirm.
    3. Have all your documentation ready for the termination

    When it comes to terminating an employee who has been repeatedly calling out sick, it’s important to handle the situation with sensitivity, empathy, and compliance with employment laws. Here are some general guidelines to consider:

    Review Company Policies: Before taking any action, review your company’s policies and employment contract to ensure you are following the proper procedures for termination. Pay attention to any policies related to absenteeism, sick leave, and termination.

    Medical Certification: If the employee has been calling out sick for an extended period, you may request medical documentation to verify the illness. In Canada, employers can request medical certificates for sick leave purposes, but the employee is not obligated to provide one.

    Consult Legal Counsel: It’s advisable to consult with legal counsel or an HR professional experienced in Canadian employment laws to ensure that you are proceeding in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Employment laws can vary by province, so it’s important to get guidance specific to your jurisdiction.

    Communication: If you decide to proceed with the termination, communicate with the employee professionally and empathetically. Termination is a sensitive matter, and it’s essential to be respectful and understanding, even if the employee has had attendance issues.

    Consider Alternatives: Before terminating the employee, consider if there are any alternatives, such as providing additional support or accommodations, that might help address the attendance issues. Be sure to document any discussions and efforts made to resolve the problem.

    Termination Meeting: If termination is necessary, it’s generally recommended to conduct the termination meeting in person if possible, rather than over the phone. This allows for a more personal and compassionate approach. However, if in-person meetings are not feasible, you can conduct the meeting over the phone or via video conference while maintaining professionalism and empathy.

    Documentation: Properly document the reasons for the termination, the steps taken to address the attendance issues, and any communication with the employee. This documentation is crucial in case of any legal challenges.

    Final Payments and Benefits: Ensure that you provide the employee with their final paycheck, any accrued vacation pay, and information about continuing benefits (if applicable).

    Jackie Northcott
    Post count: 2

    Thank you for this response.

    The employee has Covid-19 (has not shown us a positive test but also isn’t required to). But she called in sick right before Christmas on a day that she had originally booked off for vacation (it got denied for reasons we could not avoid). Then we were shut down over Christmas, and now she has Covid.

    I should note that this employee is under her 3 month mark (NL) – so is in her probationary period.

    Rick Tobin
    Post count: 58

    The fact that she called in sick on a day where her original vacation request was denied is suspect to say the least, and you would be within your rights to request a doctor’s note for that instance; however, as it is passed it may be moot.

    COVID protocols are no longer what they once were, and given the time that has passed between when this question was originally asked and this follow up, the employee is beyond the new suggested quarantine rules – so there isn’t an issue.

    I would recommend that because the employee is within the probationary period that you can terminate for any reason, and it sounds like you have many, but you should be clear that it has nothing to do with illness or COVID, but attendance, communication, and productivity.

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