Can you and your business afford a sick day?

As an entrepreneur, you’re likely trading time for money.  You probably feel like you can’t take a day off, especially if you’re the sole person working in your business.  If that’s the case, what happens when you’re sick or your family or loved ones are sick?  Can you afford to take a sick day to take care of yourself or a loved one?  If not, keep reading!

Do Small Businesses Need to Give Paid Time Off?

If you used to work in Corporate America, you likely got a certain number of paid time off for vacation days, sick days, bereavement leave, holidays, etc.  This is a benefit offered by many companies which allows employees to take off for a certain number of days and still receive pay.

However, I find that most small business owners don’t factor in taking days off into their schedule and in their financial planning.  Taking any time off can feel scary because if you’re not working in the business or finishing a client’s job, you’re not getting paid.

If corporate companies budget and allocate sick and vacation days, as a small business owner, you should too.

Can you afford a sick day?

How Can Small Businesses Afford Health Insurance?

Health insurance premiums can get pretty steep as a small business owner.  If you can’t afford health insurance through the traditional insurance providers, one option to consider is Medi-Share.

Medi-Share is a nonprofit health care sharing ministry.  It’s not insurance or regulated as insurance, but you can apply to become a member where all members voluntarily share each other’s medical expenses. I’ve had several colleagues who have been long-time members of Medi-Share and have found it is significantly cheaper than getting a traditional health insurance policy.

Real Life Story:  

Several years ago, one of my colleagues had been sick for almost ten days after our annual financial conference.  She posted on Facebook that she was one day away from having to quit her freelancing business and “get a real job” because she couldn’t afford to be sick any longer and not generate income.  I remember feeling sad that she didn’t have a bigger emergency fund to handle unexpected, but normal life events, such as getting sick. She was really good at what she offered in her small business, and had even won awards for her work and impact.

What Happens if a Family Member Gets Sick?

Do you have any family members or loved ones who depend on you?  If so, what happens if a family member gets sick and you need to take days off to take care of them?

Personal Story:

Several  years ago, my husband could barely get out of bed and said he needed to go to urgent care.  It was a Sunday morning, so our primary doctor’s office wasn’t open.  After a two hour wait at urgent care, he was diagnosed with the flu, bronchitis, and the start of pneumonia.  He needed two prescriptions and over-the-counter medications that totaled up to over $130.  And that didn’t include the urgent care bill.

Then, right before putting the kids to bed that night, I noticed my youngest son was coughing and having breathing issues.  I rushed to take him to urgent care before they closed, and was told he also had the flu. Given that it was almost 9pm on a Sunday night, I needed to find a 24-hour pharmacy that could fill the prescription. I called several pharmacies.  One pharmacy was 60 minutes away and had a 1+ hour wait.  The second pharmacy didn’t have it available.  The third pharmacy was 20 minutes away and didn’t have any wait time. After driving to the third pharmacy, the pharmacy staff told me that they didn’t have the generic version of prescription for children, and that the brand would cost $350!?!  She asked if I still wanted to fill the prescription.  I paused.  I needed a minute to think…

Wait. Don’t judge me yet.

Of course, I was going to fill the prescription!  (*Note – Someone shared with me two days later that they read in the news about a woman diagnosed with the flu, who passed away because she didn’t have the money to purchase the medication.) 

I was trying to decide if it was worth driving an hour to the second pharmacy that I had called, which had confirmed that they had the generic version of the medication, but said it would be at least a one hour wait.  I was quickly weighing the pros and cons of time and money.

In the end, it was 9pm and my child was miserable and fast asleep in his car seat.  I told the staff to fill the prescription.  Sigh.  $350 for his medication, $130 for my husband’s medication, and then two urgent care bills that I hadn’t received yet.  Thankfully, we have health insurance through my husband’s employer or the bill would have been much higher.

Needless to say, my business plans and goals were put on hold that week as I took care of my husband, youngest son, and tried to keep myself and my oldest son healthy.


How to Afford a Sick Day as a Small Business Owner:

  1. Budget to take a certain number of sick days per year, based on prior history and the family’s.  If you have children, remember to account for days that you will need to stay home from work to take care of them.
  2. Have an emergency fund for personal and business to handle expenses during sick days. Budget for personal items such as medication, taking time away from the business (and not generating income), and childcare as needed. Also, budget for business expenses that need to be paid regardless if you are working or taking time off.
  3. Leverage your staff or hire virtual assistants to keep the business running while you are out of the office. If you’re the only person in your business right now, be sure to use a scheduling tool to help you easily reschedule meetings.
  4. Have back-up family members, friends, neighbors, and/or colleagues who can help you out in an emergency, especially if you have young kids, pets, or other dependents.
  5. Make sure you have adequate health care coverage. High deductible plans tend to be better for single, healthy, young adults who don’t visit the doctors frequently. Consider an alternative medical sharing program like Medi-Share if you find traditional health insurance premiums too pricey.

Have you been in a similar situation or wish you had thought of these lessons as you planned your business and finances?  If so, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

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