Is a ‘culture of entitlement’ driving absenteeism?

by Nicola Middlemiss09 Nov 2015
Australians seem to be pulling fewer sickies, with statistics showing that absenteeism has reached a seven year low of 8.6 days a year for each worker.

However, employers believe that employees still have an “entitlement mentality” which is contributing to a “sickie culture” that had a price tag of almost $3,000 per employee last year.

A survey conducted by Direct Health Solutions questioned 97 organisations that employed a total of 220,000 employees around Australia.

It was estimated that last year, absenteeism costed the national economy $32.5 billion in lost wages and productivity.

Almost half of those surveyed said that members of their workforce had taken time off over the last year to deal with stress, anxiety or depression.

However, researchers found that the most common reason given by staff for not attending work was care obligations – dealing with a sick child, partner, parent or other family member.

The employers who took part in the survey said that 70% of short term absences were caused by carers’ leave, with the next most common reasons being an unexpected sickness, ‘chucking a sickie’, and mental illness.

Paul Dundon, managing director of Direct Health Solutions, said that many employers believed carers’ leave was being used as a cover for personal leave. Consequently, many employers were reluctant to pursue medical certificates of other proof that carers’ leave was required.

It was also found that although there had been a drop in absenteeism, 65% of employers believed a “culture of entitlement” had developed in their organisation, which was a driving force behind high levels of absences.

According to the survey, transport and logistics workers took the highest number of days off, with an annual average of 12.3 days of absence. They were followed by call centre and healthcare workers, who took an average 11.2 days.

Public service workers also recorded levels of absence above the national average, recording 10.3 days off per year – 10% above the private sector average of 7.9 days off annually.

Direct Health Solutions’ researchers also found that Mondays were the most likely day for days off to be taken, while Tasmania, the ACT and Western Australia recorded the highest rates of absenteeism nationally.


  • by Jo 9/11/2015 12:17:53 PM

    I recall a discussion with a manager who was outraged by the number of Monday and Friday unplanned absences he noticed. He had a belief that this practice was rife. The data showed that approximately 40% of unplanned absences occurred on these two days. When I showed the manager this data, he took this as proof that he was right...until I pointed out that our business is only open Monday to Friday and that the two days in question actually represented 40% of the week. I post this because there is often a big difference in what people believe and what the relevant data may actually show.

  • by michael minns 9/11/2015 12:20:27 PM

    The culture of entitlement is a subset of an overall toxic workplace culture. What is needed is a change of attitude and definition. Sickpay is for sick people and is a benefit of employment not an entitlement. Any attempt to change the existing must start at the top

  • by KOD 9/11/2015 2:36:41 PM

    Given that most EBA's tend to have a provision for personal carer's leave of 10 days pa and it would appear from the article that employees are taking 8.6 days pa then that's 86% of their entitlement/accrual.

    On this basis I am of the opinion that we should simply increase the annual pay by the equivalent amount.
    The benefit for staff would be that this would then be included in their penalty and overtime rates as well as superannuation.

    Including it in salary would mean that employees would not be paid when they were absent but would need to manage their income to allow for such an event. At present the employer spends considerable effort managing absenteeism including recording and determining if the entitlement is paid or unpaid, obtaining evidence etc.

    So lets simply increase productivity by giving our people 1.4 days of pay that they do not already take and making it their responsibility.

    Now that's a unique concept in itself, one being "responsible for self".

    It is my opinion that if employees would not be paid for an absence that absenteeism would reduce considerably. But that's just my opinion.

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