Hangovers and Sick Leave


A few months back, HRM Online posted an article about Sick Leave, asking the question: Does a hangover constitute as Sick Leave?

It made us really think – is a hangover considered illness? If so, should sick leave cover self-induced illnesses? HRM unearthed these key points:

  1. Much like cosmetic surgery or sunburn, a hangover is not a determining factor for sick leave under collective agreements in Canada
  2. However, the Ontario Ministry of Labour point out that despite an individual’s role in an accident they are always eligible for emergency medical care.
  3. Intention plays a part. An employee who expresses an intention to get so intoxicated they will be too unwell to work the next day may require disciplinary action.
  4. Beware of frequency. An employee simply has to say “I’m using a sick day” and generally, employers won’t ask questions. At what point is it no longer ‘occasional illness’?
  5. The responsibility for personal health and wellbeing ultimately falls on the employee.

Clearly there are mixed views around sick leave and it is the responsibility of each organization to decide what parameters are most suitable for their business. In deciding what your company considers injury or illness, where do you draw the line between unavoidable and self-induced?

  • A pilot chooses not to skateboard while on overnight trip, knowing that if she gets injured she will be leaving the aircraft and passengers stranded
  • A nurse prioritises immunization to prevent catching illnesses from patients
  • A surgeon wears thick protective gloves when doing dirty mechanical work to ensure he doesn’t harm or stain his precious hands.

For those responsible employees, having sick leave available when unavoidable illnesses occurs is a great benefit, yet seeing a fellow employee exploit this can be a little hard for them to swallow.

Our advice to you is to take a close look at your HR Policies. Does your organization have a clear policy around sick leave, the parameters and the requirements for paid leave of absence? Is there a disciplinary action process in place in case sick leave is exploited?

An effective Sick Leave Policy will demonstrate to employees your company’s commitment to maintaining a safe and healthy workplace and will detail the responsibilities of employees. It will also ensure processes and guidelines are in place to protect your organization from misuse of the leave.

Whether or not we agree that a hangover constitutes sick leave or not, let’s be honest, a hangover grouch is better off staying at home.

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