HR Base Camp Roundup – March 6th

In this week’s edition of the HR Base Camp roundup – Is it finally time to put that employee who’s consistently late on “probation”? Learn how this common practice can actually result in losing your businesses’ at-will protections, thereby making it much harder to terminate the employee if they don’t work out.

Plus, we provide info on how to support employees who have expressed suicidal thoughts, as well advice about offering a pay increase as a benefit to your employees who choose not to enroll in your company’s health coverage.

Here are the HR Q&As from our HR Base Camp Facebook Group and HR Solution Center:


Is it okay to allow an employee to opt out of medical coverage in lieu of a pay increase?

Believe it or not, this is a pretty common request. Sometimes employees have better coverage through their partner, or they simply don’t feel like they need health insurance, and it seems logical to ask for an alternative benefit. Unfortunately, offering a higher pay (or other monetary benefit) in place of health benefits introduces new unwanted problems.

Offering this alternative “benefit” sets a precedent. If you give this employee a raise, expect to have  multiple members of your team asking for pay increases and dropping their coverage. Is this something that you can afford? Are there enrollment requirements for your health insurance plan that could be impacted if multiple people decide to drop it? Does it seem right that your employees who have greater healthcare needs are being paid less than others?

More importantly, a salary increase  is hard to take back. Remember that you can’t waive their eligibility for health benefits just by giving them the pay raise. The employee may change their mind later on and decide they do want medical coverage through your business, or they might have a qualifying event outside of the open enrollment period and choose to enroll then. If this happens, attempting to take back that raise (that the employee now sees as part of their wages) will likely pose a challenge and result in a negative reaction. And it may cost you more in the long run if they end up with the raise and the benefits.

If you’re curious about other health benefit options, check out our health benefits guide.


How can I support an employee that has expressed suicidal thoughts?

We’re sorry to hear your employee is struggling. Unfortunately, the risk for suicide within the health care community is even higher than that in the general population. We’re glad you’re looking for guidance on the best way to support them as they’re going through some personal problems.

Our first suggestion is to meet with the employee to check in on them. You can use this meeting as a chance to let them know that you’re concerned about the thoughts they shared with you. Make it clear that there is no judgment – you simply want to be able to support them as much as you. You can take this time to share any resources that you think may be helpful. This can include information for a counseling services, an employee assistance program (EAP) connected to your insurance company, and/or the National Suicide Prevention hotline.

Oftentimes when employees are struggling with their mental health, be it mental or physical, taking time off can be beneficial. Make sure your employee is aware of any time off benefits available to them, such as sick time or a medical leave of absence, and ask them to let you know if they find themselves needing to use these benefits.

For other employees, coming to work may be important to give them structure and purpose during a difficult time. So be sure not to presume you know what’s best for the employee – if they’re expressing they want to be at work, don’t push the idea of taking time off.

Again, you want to make it clear to the employee that you are there to support them, not reprimand them for struggling. Continue checking in with the employee after this meeting to see how they are doing and so you can take immediate action if anything progresses.

One of my employees is consistently a few minutes late. Can I put them on probation until their timeliness improves?

We’re not big fans of the term “probation.” The reason for this is that it’s often linked to a suggestion along the lines of “You have X amount of time to improve your performance in this area.” Sounds harmless, right?

The problem is that this can be argued by employment law attorneys as “guaranteeing” employment for that length of time. In other words, an attorney can flip this to mean that you were promising the employee that they would be employed throughout the entire duration of their probation period, thereby nullifying your at-will employment relationship. This can make things tricky if you decide to terminate the employee at any point during their “probation.”

Also, the reality is you don’t want to give the employee a “probationary” period of time to fix their lateness issue. You want it fixed immediately.

Instead, we recommend using the progressive corrective coaching method to address this issue. This method doesn’t place the employee on any kind of probation, but clarifies expectations and tells the employee exactly what they need to do to improve their performance.

When you talk to the employee about this, you want to give them a detailed explanation of what the issue is and the impact it has – don’t generalize.

In this case, you could say something like “We’ve noticed that you’ve been late on [date], [date], [date], and [date]. When you’re late, it disrupts the flow of the office and can cause a delay in seeing patients. We need you to start coming in on time each day, effective immediately. If you are not able to do that, we will be considering taking other action, including potential termination”

Don’t forget to document any meetings you have with the employee about this and keep a record of any warnings you give.


At CEDR, we help employers protect their businesses and build stronger teams. Because stronger teams build better workplaces, and better workplaces make better lives.

Have an HR question you need to talk through with an HR expert? Reach out to the Solution Center for expert guidance, or get your questions answered in our private, professional Facebook Group, HR Base Camp.

Mar 6, 2023

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance based on applicable local, state and/or federal U.S. employment law that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.

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