Most sickies are legit: new report

by Astrid Wilson28 Aug 2012

The very existence of the term ‘chuck a sickie’ is testament to the fact that taking sick leave is inevitably viewed with a degree of suspicion. Yet a new report from a leading absence management firm has found that the vast majority of sick leave taken by Australian employees is genuine.

In its annual Absence Management Survey Direct Health Solutions (DHS) found that non-genuine sick leave accounts for just 15% of all unplanned absences. Despite this figure, more than half of all employers believe that at least 25% of sick leave is faked. “They think a lot of people are taking the mickey, but that is not always the case,” Paul Dundon from DHS told BRW.

The report found a staggering 83% of organisations believe non-genuine sickness is a significant cause of absenteeism – yet 20% of employers also believed that the instances of sickies are on the decline. There are also certain sectors with experience higher rates of sick days – call centres experience the highest rates of sick leave, while the manufacturing and production sector enjoy a relatively low level of unplanned absences.

One reason for this may be the highly publicised spate of redundancies, leading to a fear of taking sick leave among workers in manufacturing and production. Indeed the number of days away in this sector dropped from an average 8.5 days per worker in 2011, to 6.5 days in 2012.

Other findings of this year’s report are that absences:

  • Overall have fallen to the lowest level in four years to reach 8.75 days per annum for each employee (the average target for Australian businesses is 7.3 days)
  • High absence levels in call centres distort the findings (10.7 days per employee)
  • Once call centre absences are omitted, the Australian average falls close to 7.5 days
  • Are higher (10.8 days) in larger organisations of more than 1,000 employees
  • Are highest in the telecommunications and utilities sector: 13.1 days are lost per worker
  • Are 20% higher in the public sector than in the private sector
  • Are of one to two days’ duration in up to 90% of cases


  • by S.B. 28/08/2012 2:57:05 PM

    Although there might be a real medical condition behind a short term sick leave, but whether it is necessary to be off work due to the medical condition is another issue. Having a back pain or shoulder pain does not necessarily mean that the person needs to stay off work for 1-2 days. It is very important to know what is the underlying cause of the short term sickies and is it legitimate to have time off work due to the medical condition?

  • by Siobhan Harling 3/09/2012 1:06:04 PM

    How is "non-genuine" sick leave defined? If someone has taken sick leave who is not actually sick, would they really admit it? I'm not convinved by DHS's statistics.

  • by what 3/09/2012 3:00:56 PM

    S.B who are you to make that decision? Do you really think a HR professional should be making the decision about how much time off a sick person needs over the directive of their doctor? Most ridiculous thing i've ever heard.

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