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Controlling Abuse of Sick Leave

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 71 Issue: 3 Dated: March 2004 Pages: 39-42
Dwayne Orrick
Charles E. Higginbotham
Date Published
March 2004
4 pages
This article examines the abuse of sick leave within law enforcement agencies and ways in which to both control and prevent sick leave abuse.
Sick leave is a benefit afforded to employees in their compensation package, as well as an essential part of their package which was originally designed as a privilege. However, over time this benefit has come to be expected in the fringe benefit program by law enforcement agencies. Sick leave abuse by a few employees creates problems for departments and violates the department’s policy or collective bargaining agreement, hurting the entire organization. The abuse of sick leave has several impacts, such as organization impact, financial impact, interpersonal impact, and ethical impact. Many law enforcement agencies have begun to consider making excessive sick leave usage an indicator in their early warning system. In order to effectively control and manage sick leave, police departments must have a clear policy regulating leave, track each employee’s use of sick leave, and take corrective action when abuses occur. To ensure compliance with their policy, good records are essential. The tracking of information is critical to demonstrate a policy violation. With the working policy in place, establishing the standards of conduct and a records system, measuring usage of sick leave supervisors can more readily watch for compliance. Enforcing leave policies requires discretion and good judgment on the part of the supervisor and the department. The most successful corrective action occurs when the subordinate takes part in developing the solution. There have been various incentive programs developed which serve to reduce leave use and in the long run save money for the community and include: (1) employees are allowed to accrue sick leave to an established level; (2) departments provide the employee with a cash payment for a percentage of unused sick leave; (3) employees accrue a specific amount of leave and any leave earned beyond this limit is forfeited and credited toward years of service upon retirement; and (4) departments allow officers to accrue unlimited amounts of sick leave throughout their career and pay the officer for a percentage of the unused leave with a set dollar amount limit.