Will HR leaders face a raft of 'sickies' this Friday?

Report finds Thursday's National Day of Mourning could trigger absenteeism and cost economy millions

Will HR leaders face a raft of 'sickies' this Friday?

Employers could see more than $461 million lost in productivity this coming Friday, with many Australians predicted to skip work and enjoy a long weekend following Thursday’s bank holiday. Leaders across Australia declared Thursday a National Day of Mourning following the death of Queen Elizabeth II – and there is a fear the move may spur a slew of :sickies".

"Workers are trying to take advantage of the bonus public holiday by turning it into an extra-long weekend," said Taylor Blackburn, personal finance specialist at Finder, in a company article. "This is how Black Friday got its name in the US – with the Thanksgiving holiday always on Thursday, many workers would not come in on the Friday – hence it was a dark day for owners."

Read more: Australia announces National Day of Mourning for Queen Elizabeth

And according to Finder's report, the possibility of a spike of absences on Friday could cost employers hundreds of millions in lost productivity. Andrew McKellar, chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said employers will still be expecting staff to report to work on Friday, unless employees made prior arrangements otherwise.

"There is no doubt that the public holiday will inconvenience many businesses that have already had much to cope with, however, it is also acknowledged that this is an exceptional circumstance," McKellar said as quoted by The Guardian. "If you are having a long weekend by arrangement with your employer, make sure you get out and support a small business."

Read more: Absenteeism and the link to workplace productivity

Absenteeism in the workplace

Meanwhile, Finder's report also found that one in eight Australian employees have already called in sick this year for a non-health-related reasons, costing employers $354 per employee per day. According to the report, the following reasons were cited by employees for taking a sick leave:

  • I don't work (34%)
  • I've only taken sick days when I've been sick (20%)
  • I haven't taken any sick days this year (17%)
  • Mental health day (16%)
  • Have a day off (13%)
  • Taking care of a sick family member (11%)
  • Shopping (4%)
  • Taking care of a pet (4%)
  • Gamble (2%)
  • Go to the beach (2%)

Read more: 9 in 10 workers come to work even with cold or flu symptoms

HRD previously spoke with Alex Boucher, principal and total health management leader at Mercer, who explained that absenteeism can stem from genuine medical reasons or employees' lack of satisfaction with their roles. For the latter, that could include general overstress or not getting along well with colleagues and leaders, explained Boucher.

"This can even stretch to conflicting familial obligations – whereby workers are forced to use their annual leave days to look after children or older parents," said Boucher.

He then suggested taking an "attendance support programme" that will look at factors that support attendance, such as opportunity, desire, and ability.

"These attendance support programmes can address culture, they can make co-worker relationships more agreeable, they can train employees and provide supportive benefits and tools to enable employees to maintain their health. These types of initiatives tend to have much better results than run-of-the-mill management schemes," he said.

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