What Should Your Startup’s Sick Policy Be?

sick policy

“When you’re sick stay home. When you’re healthy come to work.” That was the sick policy I had at my company.

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I didn’t ask my employees to fill out any paperwork. I didn’t have a maximum amount of sick days. And, for the life of my company, our simplistic sick policy worked really well.

Now, I didn’t invent the idea for our sick policy. I stole it, down to the wording, from Maxim Integrated Products.

The reason I went with Maxim’s sick policy, instead the heavy-handed sick policy of another company I worked at (more on this later), is Maxim’s policy worked. Let me explain why.

You don’t have to worry about employees abusing your sick policy if you hire the right people.


It always comes back to hiring great people that fit your company culture, doesn’t it? Great people aren’t going to abuse your policies and rules.

That’s why you want to treat them like adults. Think about the incentives you’re creating when you tell people to stay home when they are sick instead of forcing them to come to work when they are sick.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be in an office with a bunch of people that are sick. Especially today with COVID. You want your team to stay home when they’re sick.

Sometimes, you’ll have to tell your best people to go home when they are sick.

“Dave, go home. You don’t look well,” I said to the person who ran manufacturing for us.

“I’ll go home once I get this last bit of work completed,” Dave replied between coughs.

“How long will it take?” I asked him.

“A few hours,” Dave said.

“Can’t you do this from home?”

“I can,” Dave said. “But I want to do it since I’m here.”

I laughed. “Go home!” I said.

As usual, Dave refused. He was dedicated to his work.

That’s the bigger problem you’ll have when it comes to sick employees. If you hire the right people, their dedication to the job will take precedence over their health.


Don’t worry about the employees that try and abuse your sick policy.


My co-founders and I had a long discussion about implementing our sick policy when we were starting the company. We had a good discussion about the potential for abuse.

Adolfo, our VP Marketing, said it best. He said, “They’ll (the abusers) will stick out like sore thumbs.”

And Adolfo was right. The bad hires we made just didn’t get their work done, not because they were sick. They just weren’t as good as we expected them to be.


A heavy handed sick policy will alienate your best employees.


The alternative to the Maxim inspired sick policy we went with was going with a policy like Maxim’s competitor, Micrel, a company Adolfo and I worked at, had. Micrel’s policy was you had to file a form any time you were sick. There was a maximum amount of sick days you could have too.

If it ended with the form, then maybe it would have been okay. However, sick time included when you went to a doctor’s appointment or to the dentist.

In other words, as a salaried full time employee, you were docked when you went to the doctor. This never sat well with me because, as a full time salaried employee, I wasn’t paid overtime.

To me this demonstrated a lack of trust the CEO had in his team.

So, my advice to you is be pragmatic, and keep your sick policy simple like we did. Your team will appreciate it.


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