The Great Aussie Sickie!

Who saw an increase in sudden onset sore backs, gastro and migraines last Friday 27th January due to the Australia Day public holiday? If so, you may need a new sick leave policy.

If you did, you are not alone. Let’s face it though, who wouldn’t desire an extra day off to make a very long weekend to bask in the amazing Gold Coast sunshine. However while thousands of employees couldn’t resist the temptation to to take this well positioned day off as a sickie, you as the employer suffered with short staff and important work that had to be postponed.

Under the National Employment Standards, full time employees are entitled to 10 days personal leave per annum to deal with personal illness, caring responsibilities and family emergencies. Part time employees are entitled to a proportionate amount according to the hours worked.

So what can employers do to better manage employees taking illegitimate sick leave “The great Aussie sickie”?

Since the Fair Work legislation was introduced back in 2009, the sickie has been a tough one to manage. There are risks for the employer if disciplinary action is taken against an employee for a temporary absence due to illness or injury. While the balance of power does seem to sit with the employee in this space that doesn’t mean the employer cannot introduce strategies to reduce the amount of illegitimate personal leave an employee takes.

The number one strategy any employer can rely on is to implement a company sick leave policy, which outlines clearly the expectations for taking all types of leave, including personal leave. The sick leave policy might outline areas such as procedures for calling in sick (when to call, who to call), in what circumstances a medical certificate is required and who to contact for questions about the policy. Where the employee is in breach of the policy, the employer may have the right to take action. It is recommended that employers seek professional assistance to draft such a policy and when considering disciplinary action.

An indirect strategy for reducing illegitimate sick leave is to create a work environment where employees enjoy coming to work every day. It seems simple but so many employers fail to see the connection between an engaged employee and their sick leave balance. It is proven time and time again that a highly engaged workforce will have fewer illegitimate sick days than one which is disengaged. Employers can adopt simple strategies such as regularly recognising employees for their work, offering genuine flexible work practises, listening to and involving employees in meaningful work, and generally making them feel valued on a day to day basis.

For any questions about the above article, or to discuss how Industryus HR could assist you with developing a sick leave policy or better engagement strategies, call 07 5655 4047 or visit

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