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I need a mental health day...


How often as HR professionals are we responsible for dealing with our employees not coming in to work? In some industry's we have to work to replace those shifts and in others, we have to put more work on other employees due to attendance. One of the things I've struggled with the most working for a smaller employee is being able to decipher a legitimate call out versus a non-legitimate one. After many years in HR, I hardly believe anyone, but in reality it doesn't change the outcome. We have to accept and rarely question why someone is unable to make it to work. I have always felt that asking questions leads to nothing more than changing my own perception about what's happening.


When it comes to mental health days it can be even harder to navigate as the definition is so broad. I truly believe we all have days in which we need a break or have a legitimate mental health condition that prevents us from working, but how do employers navigate the difference between legitimate and simply not feeling like working. Most states have mandated sick leave laws which can certainly help to ensure proper support is provided by employers. The issue that I see is in the definition. Take Arizona Sick Leave's definition of what it can be used for as an example, "Arizona sick leave can be used for the following: Medical care or mental or physical illness, injury, or health conditions. Circumstances relating to public health emergency or communicable disease exposure. Absence due to domestic violence, sexual violence, abuse, or stalking." (arizonapaidsickleave.com)


Given this definition, if an employee calls out for needing a mental health day should it automatically be counted as sick leave? What questions can we ask about the specific mental health condition they are referencing? Do we need to or should we? Under what circumstances can we or should we question it? These are the kind of questions I want to explore the answers to in my paper and better guide employers on what to do in scenarios with employees when not only they give a vague definition, but so does the law.



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