Female nurse lying down on a couch.

The holidays are a time for joy, celebration, and cherished moments with loved ones. However, while nurses, like everyone else, can fall ill or experience emergencies, the question lingers: Can nurses face extra discipline for calling in sick on a holiday? We’ll shed some light on the potential consequences and provide nurses with a clearer understanding of their rights and responsibilities during the holiday season.

Holiday Nursing and Staffing Challenges

The holiday season often brings a slew of unique challenges for nurses. While others relax by the fireplace, spending time with their family, nurses remain on the frontlines, dedicated to patient care. Several of the challenges nurses face include:

Increased Patient Admissions: During the holidays, hospitals tend to see a surge in patient admissions. This increase is due to various factors like the flu and respiratory illnesses. As a result, nurses often find themselves with higher patient loads and increased responsibilities.

Staff Shortages: Like everyone else, healthcare professionals want to spend the holidays with their families. As a result, hospitals may experience staffing shortages during this time, leading to overworked and fatigued nurses.

Emotional Strain: Holidays can be an emotionally charged time for patients. Being in a healthcare setting during these days can intensify feelings of loneliness or sadness. Nurses often take on the role of emotional support, adding to their workload.

Balancing Personal and Professional Life: Nurses demanding schedules can make balancing work and personal life challenging, leading to potential stress and burnout.

Legal Rights for Calling in Sick

Nurses have legal rights when taking sick leave, even on holidays. These rights are outlined in employment contracts, local laws, and company policies. 

Reviewing your employment contract is crucial, as it often contains specific provisions regarding sick leave entitlements. Additionally, regional laws can significantly impact your rights, so it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the sick leave laws in your area. 

In some cases, nurses may have access to Paid Time Off (PTO), which can be used for illness or holidays, providing flexibility. Also, in the United States, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) grants eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain medical situations, including illness.

If you have a disability, you could get holiday shift adjustments under disability laws for reasonable accommodations. Employer-specific policies regarding sick leave can vary widely, so it’s advisable to thoroughly review your company’s policies. By being aware of these legal rights and effectively communicating with your employer, you can navigate holiday sick leave situations while minimizing the risk of legal complications.

For nurses in California: This year, California legislation AB 1359, was introduced. It strengthens sick leave protection for all healthcare workers. Previously, nurses were only protected for three days of sick leave, but this new law extends this protection to seven days of accrued sick leave. The law was created to protect healthcare workers from retaliation or termination when they utilize their earned sick time.

Protect Your Nursing License and Career with RN Guardian

Protecting your rights as a nurse when calling in sick on holidays is crucial. Always be aware of your hospital’s attendance policies and adhere to them as closely as possible. If you genuinely need sick leave, provide notice as early as possible, following the established protocols.

Also, legal representation (like us!) can be a valuable resource in navigating these situations. We specialize in nursing license defense and can provide expert guidance on your rights and how to handle disciplinary actions that may arise from taking sick leave on holidays. Contact us today to learn more.