Seven in 10 employers fearing Australia Day sickie surge

By Oliver Milman
Friday, 25 January 2013

More than seven in 10 employers expect staff to pull sickies due to the Australia Day weekend, although it appears that bosses can only do a limited amount in order to prevent them, according to a new study.


A survey by employment law consultancy Employsure found widespread anticipation of a spate of unauthorised sick days within businesses, with 77% of employers saying they don’t believe employees who call in sick around the Australia Day holiday.


The expected flood of sickies this year follows a slightly lower actual rate of absenteeism in 2012, where 57% of companies suffered from missing staff.


The problem is set to be amplified for small businesses, which struggle to cover absenteeism due to small workforces.


However, Edward Mallett, managing director Employsure, says that it is tricky for employers to combat the problem, even though it is so well identified.


“Australia Day weekend is a time when employees will no doubt take advantage and pull a sickie,” he says.


“Unfortunately for managers this is very hard to combat. If an employee calls in sick you can’t force them to come into work, even if you question the authenticity of their claim.”


“Last year businesses saw a rise in sickness on the Friday after Australia Day so that workers could enjoy a long weekend.”


“It’s cheeky but hard to defend against and more difficult for businesses, as the Fair Work Act makes it challenging for them to prevent sickies.”


“The Act also sets a very low bar, with little evidence required. This allows employees 10 days of sick leave a year, so with this in mind employees are going to abuse this around Australia Day.”


“With such a high percentage of employers expecting absences from workers, it might be the time to draw up stricter absence related policies and really enforce them.”


“Perhaps making employees call managers when they want to take personal leave and by conducting return work interviews may deter those tempted as employees are less likely to be untruthful about being unwell when face to face.”

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