Sick of Sick Leave? Consider PTO


I’m in HR for a medium-sized company. I’m really tired of monitoring sick leave abuse. Our policy allows sick leave to be used for an employee’s own illness or medical appointments, as well as the employee’s immediate family. But it seems everyone has doctor’s appointments on Fridays, headaches on Mondays, and comes down with the flu during March Madness! It’s not fair to those of us who never take a sick day.

Dear “Policy Police,”

HR_HeadacheAttendance reporting, corrective counseling, verifying doctor’s notes, and meting out disciplinary action can take a copious amount of management time. My advice: Get out of the baby-sitting business by instituting PTO – one bank of Paid Time Off that combines vacation, sick days, and personal days.

Less supervisory oversight is just one of the advantages of PTO. Before making the switch, however, consider both the pros and the cons.

Pros & Cons of a PTO Policy

PRO: While private sector businesses are not required by law to provide paid sick or vacation time, most companies realize that offering PTO attracts and keeps employees, even more so than traditional sick/vacation/personal day policies.

CON: PTO tends to be viewed as one big vacation time bucket, so employees may take more time off than with a separate paid sick day/vacation day system. This could mean more staff coverage must be arranged.

PRO: Many companies find employees take fewer unscheduled sick days when they have the opportunity to plan and use PTO. Supervisors will likely get more notice of absences and find it easier to find coverage in advance than when someone calls in sick at the last minute.

PRO: No need to fake it! Employees like to be treated like adults rather than required to bring doctors’ notes. (And really, in this day and age, it’s incredibly easier to forge excuses than it was back in junior high when trying to ditch gym class).

Sick at WorkCON: People may come to work sick – spreading their germs – to save their PTO for a 2-3 week vacation. In the long run, this propensity could cause even more absences office-wide.

PRO: PTO can be used equally by all employees, including who get sick less frequently or don’t have to take time off for dependent appointments (whether child or parent).

CON: Like the unwise green protagonist in The Ant and the Grasshopper fable, some employees may use up all of their PTO for vacation time, creating a hardship when they or a family member becomes ill. (But adults need to accept the consequences of their actions.)

PRO: PTO is easier to administer, which can mean cost savings.

CON: In some states, the law treats PTO like vacation time when it comes to calculating final wages at termination. While companies generally are not required to “cash out” for sick time, businesses could end up paying out more for PTO.

One last California CON: If your company is in California, PTO may not meet the minimum level of benefits mandated by the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act (HWHFA), especially for part-time workers.

Readers: What do you think are the pros and cons of a traditional vacation/sick day policy versus PTO?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Proper Use of Sick Days
Asking for Vacation Time
The Importance of Vacations

What’s the Tress Code?


Interview Question: Do you wear your hair up or down?

Dear “Splitting Hairs,”

I myself have been wearing a stylish high bun long before Kim Kardashian popularized the hair donut. But I’m equal opportunity when it comes to hair. The loose curled hairstyle on the model (left) or the upswept ’do on the right are both winning looks for an interview.

Interview HairBe sure to tame any bedhead on the big day. If your mane tends to look unruly (or if it’s a particularly humid day), wearing your hair up may project a more professional image. Now don’t go overboard with an elaborate updo – you’re going to an interview, not a wedding! Save the milkmaid braids or Princess Leia buns for the Renaissance Fair and Comic-Con.

While I support the right to self-expression by hair, you don’t want your faux-hawk or dreads to distract the interviewer from your impressive résumé. Perhaps it’s best to wait until your down time to put your hair up if you have a curious undercut. Now is not the time to shave a new design into your hair; make sure your hair tattoo has grown out before the big interview. Hats, ball caps, fascinators and kerchiefs should be avoided (religious headwear such as hijabs and yarmulkes are the exception). While Baby Boomers dying their gray hairs may increase their marketability, coloring hair in shades not available in nature may decrease an applicant’s appeal.Lincoln-man-bun

Guys, I have to say that I’m not a fan of the man-bun. Call me old-fashioned, but remember that some interviewers may share my beliefs. I concur with Fast Company’s photo blog title, Try Taking These World Leaders Seriously When They Have Man-Buns.

Follow my three simple rules for interview hair:

  • Make sure it’s clean.
  • Avoid distracting hairstyles.
  • Verify it fits the company’s culture.

Check out my Pinterest board Tressed for Success for visual inspiration, and for cautionary tales, peruse the pins on A Hair Out of Place.

Hiring Managers: Voice your opinions on interview hair below.

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Dress for Success
Addressing the Dress Code
Hiding the Gray on Your Résumé (and Beyond)
Tattoos & Interviews

Bad Blood in the Workplace

I have two questions related to alleged nepotism that I’ll answer together:

Hello, Anita. I would like to know if it’s conflict of interest when the company owner’s sister is the Human Resources Manager. I’ve been asking for some needed information is she is not assisting me with what I need.

Dear Anita, I’ve been working for an Adult Day Care as a CNA [Certified Nursing Assistant]. My boss makes me and my co-workers clean the entire facility, even his desk. It’s a family business so they all have each other’s back. We only get 15 minute breaks when we work 6 hours, 5 days a week. The boss has cameras and is always looking at what we do or if we’re doing something bad, he will come out and stand there looking at us. Is it fair that only me and my other two co-workers clock in and out and the boss’s family don’t, they just leave whenever? Who to call? Or what to do?

In the U.S., 80%-90% of businesses are family-owned, ranging from mom-and-pops storefronts to Fortune 500 companies. You’re bound to work with blood-related employees at some point. But nepotism (preference shown because of a family or personal relationship) may or may not be present.

Reclining_Businesswoman_000026954117An Inc. poll explored perceptions on the factors that lead to getting ahead at work. Connections (e.g., being the boss’s sister) received the most votes at 48%. This real or imagined favoritism may result in bad blood. And as Taylor Swift says, “Now we’ve got problems.” But I think you can solve them.

So, “Waiting on HR,”

There is no legal conflict of interest when a relative serves as an HR manager – or in any position – in a company. (In a way, all of us may have conflicts of interest in the workplace when we are trying to please our supervisor, our co-workers, and other departments!) The issue here is one that could happen with any colleague – you are not getting the results you desire. The HR Manager may be busy (give her the benefit of the doubt), so be sure to remind her of your inquiry. If you asked in person, follow-up with email or vice versa. If she doesn’t honor your request after your reminders and a reasonable timeframe, go to your supervisor and ask him or her to get involved – without pointing out the familial relationship. Just reiterate the facts of your situation without emotion.

clocking systemAnd now, “Ticked Off CNA,”

If you are unclear about the job duties expected in your position, ask your boss for a written job description. If you are unhappy with cleaning tasks, and these were not expected when you were hired, talk with your boss about it. But there is no law against requiring an employee to clean; in fact, a CNA job description probably includes cleaning and sanitizing patient areas. Your boss can add his desk to your duties if he so desires. He may also supervise your work. As for breaks, there is no federal law requiring lunch or coffee breaks. Your state may have a law requiring a meal break or rest period; check these Department of Labor Meal Period and Rest Period Requirement charts.

Your boss and his family may run their business however they choose. As in many companies, some employees may be hourly while others may be on salary, not dependent on actual hours worked. Family members may be doing work from a home office. Some relatives may even work in a family business unpaid.

Just because it may seem unfair on the surface, as long as blood relatives are not impeding your ability to work, quite frankly, it’s none of your concern. Mind your own business, and do the job you signed on for to the best of your ability.

Readers, how have you learned to handle any “blood is thicker than water” situations at work?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit

Personal Personnel
Office Politics

Embellishing Your Résumé


I don’t have a lot of work experience. I’m in a dead-end job, and want to move up in the world. Is there anything really wrong with fudging my experience on my résumé or job applications? Like saying I have advanced Excel skills when I’m more intermediate? I’m sure I could google to figure out the answer to any questions that come up and no one would be the wiser.

Liar_Crossed_Fingers_000057522922Dear “Pretty Little Liar,”

Oh, really? You think you’ll be able to fake it ’til you make it when you need to use an Excel pivot table or complex formulas?

I believe everyone should wax eloquent about their qualifications on their résumé and portray themselves to potential employers in the best possible light. But enhancing your education, exaggerating your duties, and embellishing your skills is a horse of a different color.  Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” But only include it on your résumé if you can actually do it.

Résumé padding (doesn’t that euphemism sound a lot less consequential than “falsifying?”) seems to be a widespread problem. In fact, there are deceitful services out there – which shall remain unnamed – that offer counterfeit degrees and provide bogus virtual companies to add on résumés that will even supply fake job references when called. Sigh.

Pinocchio_Nose_000000335618A recent CareerBuilder survey found job seekers’ most common résumé lies:

  • Embellished skill sets – 62%
  • Embellished responsibilities – 54%
  • Dates of employment – 39%
  • Job titles – 31%
  • Academic degrees – 28%

Just because 62% of people fudged about their skill sets, doesn’t mean you should too. More than half of employers (56% to be exact) uncovered the résumé lies. Education credentials are easily checked. Dates of employment and job titles can be verified by previous employers. When interviewing for a specialized position, you may be asked technical questions that will show you’re obviously not qualified. (I heard of an instance where the candidate looked up answers on his smartphone!) Why waste your time and the interviewers’?

If you do manage to hornswoggle a company into hiring you, what happens when your deceptions are discovered? While you may root for Mike Ross on TV’s Suits who faked his way into a law firm position without the Harvard degree, in real life it could cost you the job, as these executives discovered. Where safety is a factor (claiming you are certified to operate a forklift, for instance, or have the necessary medical training for a healthcare position), your falsehood could have disastrous consequences for others.

A better way to move up in the world is to take classes in areas in which you need to gain proficiency. Then proudly list those courses on your résumé under “Education” to show prospective employers you proactively focus on career development.

Readers: Have you ever padded your résumé? How did your embellishments return to haunt you?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Applying for a Job When Not 100% Qualified
How to Get Hired if You Don’t Have Experience
Lack of Training


Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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