Define your approach to managing absenteeism

by Stephanie Zillman18 Apr 2012

A common issue posed to Australian HR professionals and workplace consultants is in relation to best practice for managing personal leave entitlements, and more specifically those who obviously use their sick/carer’s leave as it accrues.

Sue Kelly, a senior workplace relations advisor at iHR Australia, said effective, reasonable management of absenteeism requires a three pronged approach, namely:

  • A Personal Leave policy and guidelines which clearly stipulate employee entitlements, evidence and notice requirements
  • Effective and appropriate follow up with the employee upon their return to the workplace
  • Education of employees and managers to ensure a clear understanding of policy, guidelines and organisational expectations

It is essential for HR and managers to be well informed of their legal rights and obligations, and to consult the Fair Work Act 2009, National Employment Standards (NES) provision for guidance.

Kelly warned that the utilisation of personal leave is a workplace right and as such organisations should not unnecessarily risk an adverse action or discrimination claim by requiring excessive evidence.

Kelly noted that part-time employees have the same entitlements as full-time employees, but on a pro-rata basis according to their nominal weekly hours. Additionally, all employees, (including casuals) are entitled to two days of unpaid carer’s leave for each permissible occasion.

Notice and evidence requirements

Employers are entitled to request evidence which substantiates a leave request, and requests can be refused if an employee fails to provide:

  • Notice (as soon as practicable)
  • Satisfactory evidence (upon request)
  • Some awards and agreements may include terms related to the kind of evidence that an employee must provide in order to receive their entitlement (such as paid personal / carer’s leave, unpaid carer’s leave or compassionate leave) – for example, a medical certificate.

Fair Work Australia has provided a comprehensive fact sheet on navigating personal leave entitlements, available here.


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