Why employers should prepare for ‘sickies’

by HRD19 Jan 2018
Summer in Australia brings with it fine weather, festivals, cricket and perfect beach conditions - all of which provide a temptation for workers to 'chuck a sickie'. 

Due to legal situations HR is sometimes scared of tackling this issue, according to Andria Wyman-Clarke, professional career expert and Job Toolbox founder.

“You can tackle it using the legal means of checking everyone’s Facebook account, and some people have been successful with that in the courts because it was very obvious that they are not sick,” she said.

Employers have also had success with things as simple as better communication with employees, Wyman-Clarke added.

It’s important to note that Australians generally have lots of unused annual leave, so instead of taking an annual leave day they will chuck a sickie.

The manager can proactively say ‘who wants to take the day before or after the public holiday off?’ And then hand out annual leave forms at the time, Wyman-Clarke said.

Moreover, senior employment relations adviser from Employsure Lea Fox added that the impact of unplanned absenteeism in the workplace is much greater than the actual financial cost of wages.

“It affects sales, places unnecessary stress and morale implications on your remaining staff and customer service is also compromised,” said Fox.

Fox offers the following advice for employers:

Check public holiday entitlements

Fox reminds employers about additional entitlements: “full-time and part-time employees who would normally work on the day that a public holiday falls, are entitled to have a day off and be paid their base pay rate. Casual employees are entitled to take the day off but they are not entitled to be paid for that day.”

She advises employers to “check the provisions of the relevant Awards or Agreements, along with employment contracts for any terms relevant to a public holiday such as penalty rates or loadings.”

“We hope employees wanting to take the extended break this Australia Day will do the right thing by applying for annual leave on the Thursday or Monday, rather than claiming a sickie.”

Have a leave policy

Employers could also inform staff that medical certificates would be required for any absences during this time. “Implement a policy where workers must provide a doctor’s certificate if the sick period falls on either side of a public holiday or weekend," says Fox.

Discussion with staff is best

Fox believes a discussion with staff is the best way to approach Australia Day: “Tell employees they will need to put in an annual leave request if they are hoping to take a day off. For those who don’t submit one, make sure you let them know they’re expected to attend work.”

Related stories:
The importance of financial wellbeing in the workplace
Five ways to manage unpredictable employees
What are the risks of dismissing a long-term absent employee?


  • by Michael Minns 19/01/2018 12:23:30 PM

    The starting point in any action concerning unplanned absenteeism is to determine if sick leave is an entitlement or a benefit of employment.
    I agree that the actual costs, which includes loss of productivity costs are far greater than the financial cost of wages.
    Creditable research suggests that the average number of sick days (unplanned and planned) per person in Australia is about 9.5 days per year.
    I have worked with organisations where we have reduced the number per employee per year to less than 5

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