Time management

Unsick Days? Exploring PTO to Prevent Sick Days

We all have time off policies around sick days but do any of us have policies on how to prevent them from actually happening?

We all have policies around sick days. We set up how many days we offer to our staff and what the rules are. We tell them what to do if they need a sick day, some of you may receive requests in PurelyHR, others may have a hotline your staff can call. But do any of us have policies on how to prevent sick days from actually happening?

It’s an interesting policy we’ve come across recently, the idea of offering a paid time off type to staff in order to aid them in hopefully preventing the need to use their sick time. They’re called “unsick days” and here’s how they work.

Preventative HealthCare PTO in Its Entirety

Preventing sick days is probably something you’ve been doing without even knowing it. Traditionally included in sick time is also stress leave, which is much more likely to take place in offices where employee wellness or workplace culture is an afterthought at best. So if you’re an organization who puts a lot of time and energy into those two things then congratulations, you’re already dabbling in preventative measures to prevent sick days, not cure or eradicate entirely, but definitely minimize its occurrence.

What we’re talking about in today’s post is going a step further and offering a time off type dedicated to allowing employees to ensure they’re physical and mental health is always top of mind.

How to Communicate Effectively

One concern we see popping up with this time off type – is that staff may feel stress when taking an “unsick day” even though they aren’t sick. This is where clear communication becomes necessary for its success. Communicate to staff that unsick days are not the same as regular sick days and are meant to be used for preventative health care measures. Advise them of the priority of employee wellness in the workplace and that this is just another benefit for them to ensure they’re in their best health.

This should alleviate their concern or any questions they may have about the difference between unsick days and a regular sick day.

What Should you Take Unsick Days for?

Another question your teams may have about this type of sick day, is what is considered appropriate? And honestly, that’s probably going to be up to them. The day could be used to get a problem that they’ve been worried about checked out (ie, a mammogram or prostate exam), or just a means to provide them with peace of mind (ie, an annual physical).

A few other examples include dental cleaning, vision exam, skin screening, checkups with an OBGYN, mental health, pediatrician appointments, etc.

Here at the PurelyHR HQ we offer what we’ve always referred to as “Unlimited Appointment Time” that doesn’t dip into the employees time off bank. The purpose for it has always been to separate the time off that’s needed for health and the time off that’s needed for recreation and recharging.

Here’s some food for thought:

In a recent survey, 86% of employed Americans said they would cancel a preventative health care appointment due to workplace pressures. Are we surprised? Not in the slightest, we’ve been talking for years on this blog about how in North America work always comes first for a number of reasons. But what’s extra fascinating about this particular statistic is that the CDC also reports that if every America received the recommended clinical preventative care, it would save more than 100,000 lives per year. That’s no small feat.


Who do we have to thank for this innovative time off type? Unsick Days are the brainchild of ZocDoc.

ZocDoc is an online medical care appointment booking service, providing free of charge medical care search facility for end users by integrating information about medical practices and doctors’ individual schedules in a central location.

After discovering that their own staff were avoiding taking time off for preventative health care measures they decided to introduce Unsick Days in order to correct that behaviour and remind staff of the importance, not just to the organization, but to the employees themselves.

What are you doing to prevent sick days and ensure your employees are healthy. If you’re offering Unsick Days in your office or are thinking about implementing after you read this post, let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you.

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