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Watch out for Australia Day sickies

Instead of taking annual leave it may be a 'sickie'.
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Watch out for Australia Day sickies

Watch out for Australia Day sickies

20 January 2021

By Siobhann Provost

A four day weekend sounds very appealing with Australia Day being on a Tuesday this year. That's what some employees may do except instead of taking annual leave it may be a 'sickie'.

When can personal/carer's leave be used?

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Act) states paid personal leave can be used by employees where they are not fit for work because of illness or personal injury.

Ultimately, an employee can take paid or unpaid personal/carer's leave on the Monday as long as they follow company policy or any relevant awards.

Engaged employees tend to take less personal/carer's leave than disengaged employees. However, disengaged employees often have higher leave absences or regular patterns of personal/carer's leave which can be frustrating for employers. Absenteeism causes lower productivity levels and decreased team morale not to mention the salary costs and time it takes a manager to work with the employee.

What is the company's position when it comes to Australia Day sickies?

It is an employee's workplace right to be absent from work due to illness. It may be considered adverse action if a company disciplines an employee for exercising this right.

There are some simple steps an employer can take to remind employees of their obligations:
  1. Have a clear personal/carer's leave policy. Make sure there is a clear process for managing personal leave that is communicated to all employees. For example, you can make it mandatory that the employer or their carer call in sick by phone, rather than by email or text message.
  2. Record employee personal/carer's leave. Having the ability to review employee absence history records to check if there is a pattern or higher absences helps to discuss the behaviour with employees.
  3. Know and enforce your rights. Employers can initiate the company disciplinary procedure if an employee doesn't follow the personal/carer's leave policy requirements. For example if the employee doesn't provide a medical certificate as per policy. Although employees can claim illness in the hope of enjoying an extra-long weekend, employers are within their rights to request medical evidence to support their claim.

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