Ethics of Calling in Sick When You’re Healthy

It was just the other day that I was chatting with a friend of mine about how much time off we get from our day jobs. The conversation started after I learned that my dad gets 35 days off from his job. While he’s been working a lot longer than I have and probably deserves it since he is only 4-5 years away from retirement, it still made me feel jealous. I currently get 10 days of PTO along with major holidays, not including 10 sick days each year.

Now, I should preface this conversation to say that I am happy that I have that many days off. I have many friends that don’t have any paid time off, so it is a real financial burden when they have to take time off. I can’t imagine having to work longer hours before or after vacation to make it up or taking a pay cut just for taking a couple days off each year. In that light, my conversation may seem petty, but I wanted to share it anyway.

Here’s the conversation…

Me – Can you believe my dad has 7 weeks off each year, in addition to holidays? I’d kill to have that many days off. It’s not like I don’t enjoy my work, but I do feel like I need more vacation.

Friend – Don’t you have sick days too?

Me – Yeah, but I just don’t feel right using them when I’m not sick… and I don’t get sick that often.

Friend – Those are your days. You should take them.

I hate to admit it, but this is something that I’ve thought about a lot since then (and it’s not just because I didn’t get a yearly raise). I can’t help it. I have worked hard to get to this point and the days are given to me to use. But, I know what you are thinking. They’re SICK days, not days off. I know, I know…

Ethics of Calling in Sick

While I am not perfect, I don’t try to cheat the system. But, (there always is a but, right?) where is the line drawn.

Do you go to work if you can drag yourself out of bed and get there?


Or at the slightest hint of feeling sick, you stay home because you don’t want to pass on the sickness?

I’m convinced that people get sick most often because of the first situation. There are too many people going to work when they shouldn’t and it causes more people get sick who shouldn’t. Yet, at the same time, I am sure there are tons of people calling in sick to go to a movie or take a day off.

While I’m not trying to justify blatant violation of regulations, I am convinced that the best way to solve this moral ambiguity (if there is any) is to join the sick and vacation days. That way people will only be sick if that are really sick and they can take more vacation days.

What do you think about calling in sick when you’re healthy? Where’s the line?

3 Responses to Ethics of Calling in Sick When You’re Healthy

  1. Money Beagle says:

    Most every job I’ve had lately has been with PTO, where it’s up to you how you want to manage it. Our current company does it pretty well as we have a bank that does not expire at the end of the year but it has a cap on time, so once it hits that you wouldn’t accumulate any time off.

    In your case, the policy seems to punish those who are well. It’s up to you on how you’d handle. I’d likely take a day or two here and there.

  2. Christian L. says:

    If you work hard and spontaneously take a sick day here or there, I don’t see the problem. It’s a gamble, sure. You might actually be sick and have few sick days left, but at least you got away for that one day, right?

    Also, what if it’s your significant other or kid who’s sick? Why can’t you take a sick day to take care of them?

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

  3. I think for union/hourly worker positions, for the most part, everyone treats them like vacation days and uses them up each year. The mentality is that by not using sick days, you’re leaving time off on the table at work. For white collar workers, I think most people should be able to show up to work every day or at least work remotely if you have a bad cough or whatever. Our company has no sick days/unlimited sick days, however you look at it. They don’t measure you by day. If you’re out all the time, you’re known as a lousy worker probably milking it or have some serious health issue that is perhaps affecting your ability to do the job. In about 14 years, I’ve missed work one day due to illness when I started throwing up at work from a stomach virus. I know many people who use sick days all the time when their kids are sick because both parents are working but they try to work from home to compensate. As an employer, I’d want these days to be so few and far between that it’s not really an issue; unfortunately, some employees make it an issue.

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