When you create a time off policy, there are many variables to consider. While time off is necessary for employee morale, and to a limited extent paid time off can be beneficial by reducing the necessity of management oversight, your time off policy also needs to consider what laws require.
Understand and State What the Law Requires
There are certain occasional situations where, by law, an employee may miss work. These occasions include the minimum of two weeks per year that every employee must be paid for holiday. There may be additional provincial laws that you must abide by and clarify for your employees.
Clarify Disciplinary Steps
When employees do not know what the disciplinary process is, at best this tends to lead to a large number of "freebie" days off for those who abuse the lack of clarity and lowered morale among employees who do not. At worst, this can lead to costly lawsuits if someone is terminated without a clearly-stated policy in place to legally protect your position. Each unscheduled off day that is not requested sufficiently in advance must be addressed, and a rolling schedule for verbal or written warnings should also be included. Being as specific as possible about how many days an employee may miss prior to a given disciplinary action is essential.
Define Eligibility for Paid Time Off
As a benefit to employees, PTO or paid time off in addition to legal mandate may be accrued. It is important to specify which employees are eligible to receive PTO. If a given class of employee is not eligible, this must be clearly written to avoid lawsuits or at best, uncertainty and damage to morale. In some cases, an employee must attain a certain level of seniority before accruing PTO.
Specify Paid Time Off Accrual
PTO accrual is guaranteed by law, but is not limited by it. Once you have clarified based on both national law and your province's laws how paid time off is accrued and to what extent, you can then designate how much more you offer your employees. This must be written clearly and in certain terms, in order to avoid misunderstandings and attempts to take off time that the employee believes will be paid, but which will not. It is also important to specify that having time off accrued still requires forewarning before the employee takes the time off.
In some cases, an employee will fail to show up for work. As irritating as it can be from an employer's perspective to shrug off how "life happens," this must be accounted for in your time off policy. If an employee misses a day without making contact with their supervisor in any but an extreme circumstance, ie if the employee is physically unable to make contact and medical personnel do not have the means to know your contact details, this requires a warning due to its seriousness. In some cases, as little as two consecutive days of non-attendance without reporting it promptly can and should be considered to be voluntarily quitting one's job. Clarifying this in your policy booklet is essential for staving off unlawful termination lawsuits.
Ask and Answer as Much as Possible
The purpose of your time off policy is to be as specific as possible, so it is important to internally play devil's advocate. Ask yourself every question that you would want to know if you were an employee working for you, and answer these questions in a detailed fashion. Even an aspect of your policy that sounds obvious may not be so to someone else.