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You need a long term sick leave policy. Here’s why.

Michael was the founder and CEO of a successful real estate agency with 10 employees (not including agents). He started the firm in the 1990s and continues to work in the business. His accounting manager, Ameena, worked for him for several years. She often worked overtime for free when the company was small and struggling. She was always smiling and was very popular among employees.

Michael was asked by his broker about his sick leave policy. “What sick leave policy? We’ve never had a problem before,” he replied. “We don’t pay sick days. Either you work and get paid or you don’t.” The broker asked him what might happen if an employee would need 10 months off work. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Two years later, Ameena came to Michael. She was diagnosed with breast cancer with a life expectancy of 2-3 years depending upon if the treatment worked. He hugged her and told her that he would be there for her to help. She asked what will happen to her job, and how does sick leave work? She was a single mom with no other source of income.

Michael felt embarrassed to be caught without a policy, and didn’t want to be cruel. He blurted out, “don’t worry Ameena. You take all the time off you need and you can work from home. Your salary will be here for you.”

Ameena worked from home and her health and productivity declined. Michael kept her on payroll and hoped she would come back soon. A year later, he noticed he had paid out 100% of her salary for almost no productivity. He called his broker. “What can we do? I can’t keep affording to pay $50,000 for no output! But I don’t want to be mean!” His broker advised that he could add a policy going forward, but would not apply to Ameena retro-actively.

Michael paid Ameena until she sadly passed away 3 years later. He paid $150,000 out of pocket and contributed $5,000 to her son’s education fund.

The cost of short term disability would have been $900 per year, which could have been cost-shared with employees.

Outcome: Adding insurance coverage can prevent anyone from awkward conversations, unforseen expenses, and provide peace of mind.