“Sickies” and Public Holidays

by | Jan 28, 2021 | Blog

With employees returning to work after Christmas, so to returns the slump from having had a break from work. With Australia Day nearly upon us, data provided by the Australian Payroll Association (“APA”) provides clear and unequivocal evidence that a large number of Australian employees will seek to utilise their personal leave before or after a public holiday.

According to a 2019 APA survey, 86 per cent of payroll managers surveyed admitted that at least one per cent of employees will take a sick day before or after public holidays. Furthermore, the survey also indicates that the larger the organisation, the more likely the organisation will see employees take sick leave during these periods with:

  • 52 per cent of organisations with up to 10 employees;
  • 76 per cent of organisations with 11 to 50 employees;
  • 86 per cent of organisations with 51 to 200 employees;
  • 93 per cent of organisations with 201-500 employees;
  • 96 per cent of those with 501-1000 employees; and
  • 97 per cent of those with 1001-5000 employees

seeing at least one per cent of employees utilising sick leave around public holidays.[1]

Under the National Employment Standards (‘NES’), which are set out in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), permanent employees are entitled to ten days paid personal leave per year to recover from personal illness, or to provide care and support to a member of the employee’s immediate family. Employers are, however, entitled under the NES to ask the employee to provide evidence for their absence.  

Annual leave, on the other hand, is designed to allow employees adequate time to rest each year and enable them to remain efficient and effective in their employment. Accrued based on the employee’s ordinary hours, under the NES, all employees (except for casual employees) are entitled to up to at least four weeks paid annual leave for each year of service.

So what can employers do to discourage employees from taking a “sickie” the day after public holidays?

We recommend that an organisation formalise their approach by implementing an overall leave policy. In doing so, organisations will provide to their workplace clear and unambiguous directions with respect to how employees may apply for leave – that is, who they should contact and what methods are acceptable when notifying the employer that the employee will be absent.

[1] ‘New data shows impact of sick leave around public holidays’, The Real Estate Conversation (Web page, 17 June 2019) <https://www.therealestateconversation.com.au/news/2019/06/17/new-data-shows-impact-sick-leave-around-public-holidays/1560711655>.

Finally, if this article has raised any questions or concerns for you or your organisation please do not hesitate to contact either John Hayward or Kate Smith on (07) 4046 1124, for advice specific to your circumstances. 

This article has been prepared with the assistance of Ruby Hedrick, law graduate. 

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