Hungover Kiwis really can claim sick leave

Parliament didn’t define “sick” in the Holidays Act so it’s open to interpretation, says one leading business advisor.

Hungover Kiwis really can claim sick leave
You’re absolutely certain an employee spent the night drinking heavily and now they’re suddenly “too sick” to come into work – so what can you do about it? Well, as it turns out, not a lot.

“While some may think that an employee who takes sick leave to recover from a bad hangover is committing an act of misconduct, this is not the case,” reveals leading business advisor Mark Robotham.

When the Holidays Act was introduced, legislators declined to include a definition of the term “sick” – so it remains open to interpretation.

According to Robothom, the last time the Court of Appeal was asked to clarify, it responded with the frustratingly vague:  “unfitness for health reasons of any nature and however caused.”

“An employee who is hung-over is just as entitled to claim sick leave as an employee with the flu,” he told Stuff. “Your employee may even admit they are hung-over, without comeback.”

In fact, it’s probably better if your employee did tell the truth and stay at home with that stabbing headache – they’d be at less risk of potential misconduct claims which could arise from being dishonest or turning up to work under the influence of alcohol.

Employment lawyer Craig Mundy-Smith told the news outlet that, in reality, employers should give a little slack to employees – as long as it’s not all the time.

“If this is an irregular occurrence, ‘suck it up’ and let it pass,” he said. “You do not want a hung-over person at work and everyone has the right to go celebrate once on a while.”

Mundy-Smith says employers should only start to worry if the issue is happening repeatedly – either with one specific employee or across the workforce in general.

“The bigger issue is if this is a recurring problem, and whether this is an organisational issue or specific to an employee? If it's a specific employee, I would be having stern words with them and noting it on their file,” he said.

“If taking sickies is commonplace in your organisation, this could be a sign of lack of clear leadership and direction on your part,” he warned. “As a leader it's your job to create a motivating and stimulating work environment where people want to come to work.”
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