Sick time for an associate


What do I do when an associate gets sick? What do I need to know about disability insurance?

Q What do I do when an associate gets sick? What do I need to know about disability insurance?

"The most courteous option is to continue to offer compensation as long as the illness persists," says Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Karl Salzsieder, JD, a consultant with Salzsieder Consulting and Legal Services in Kelso, Wash. "Generally, any limitation on the time of absence that's covered under normal pay should've been spelled out in the employment contract. Most employment contracts also stipulate that the employee will use vacation time to cover any unplanned absence, if they have any."

Dr. Karl Salzsieder

At some point, Dr. Salzsieder says, your courtesy approach may become unreasonable for the practice. And if there's no specific state employment law about this issue, you might stop paying the employee's salary. "As far as I know, you'd only be at risk if you fired the employee," Dr. Salzsieder says. "In that case, he or she might be able to sue you for wrongful discharge."

Of course if the illness continues, it may turn into a disability, Dr. Salzsieder says. And holding disability insurance could spare you a decision about providing long-term compensation to an employee who's not earning income for the practice. "It's common for employers to provide this benefit after the employee has been on the job for one or two years," he says.

Costs for disability insurance are tied to several factors, he says. "The longer the payment period, the higher the cost. Usually companies let you decide how long you'd wait before you had the benefit kick in. Most plans allow the time to vary between 30 days and six months before there's any payment."

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