So many sick days, so little work being done

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Aussie employees will take more than one million “sickies” this festive season, ringing up a tab of some $350m in lost productivity.

A key reason is the simply the unfortunate way the calendar falls, with both Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve both falling on Mondays. Anyone ringing in a sickie on December 24 will then have a five-day break, and those not presenting for work on December 31 will get four days out of the office. Some 570,000 sickies are expected on these two days alone.

More workplaces than ever before now operate over the Christmas-New Year period, and according to one absenteeism expert, the time is ripe for increased absenteeism either side of the festive season public holidays. Service and production roles are at full capacity during the Christmas period and are also at the highest risk of unplanned absenteeism, Paul Dunden of Direct Health Solutions (DHS) said.

Yet employers should also be cautious of unfairly labelling all sick days of the Christmas period ‘sickies’. In its annual Absence Management Survey DHS also 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.

What’s more, don’t forget that festive hangovers are in fact cause for legitimate sick leave. While many organisational polices dictate that a hangover does not constitute legitimate grounds for sick leave – perhaps because it’s self-inflicted – workplace experts attest that employees are entitled to access sick leave for any sickness which prevents them from presenting for work.

Placing a clause in an employee’s contract specifying that a hangover is not a valid excuse for the purpose of securing paid sick leave is in direct contravention of the Fair Work Act.

Key Takeaway

Employers have the right to request a medical certificate at any time and may impose rules as to when this documentation is necessary.

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