With businesses across Australia losing billions of dollars a year due to excessive sick leave, what should employers be doing to address the issue?
There are several theories on best practice when it comes to dealing with absenteeism, but the key is for employers to show an interest.
Staff who regularly take sick days without repercussions are likely to continue doing so – this will have a negative impact on other workers who may soon start to follow suit, or feel aggrieved because they are at work doing the right thing.
However, managers need to be careful about how they address perceived sick leave abuse, as this could be construed as an adverse action under the Fair Work Act.
There are various ways in which the situation can be dealt with in a professional manner.
Why not provide a medical service to discuss any health-related issues that individual employees might be suffering from?
Another approach one company employed was to have a policy of sending the employee’s supervisor to the employee’s home with a get well card and gift to show that there is support for them in the workplace – of course the employee also had to be at home to receive the gift.
If this approach does not work, then bosses might want to take more direct action.
Individuals who regularly take sick days should be asked to provide medical certificates for all absences, otherwise they will not be paid for their time out of the office.
It is common for certificates to make ambiguous claims such as “absent due to medical condition” – requiring more specific reasons will help stamp out those abuse of the system. The employer is entitled to ask for evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person that the absence was legitimate.
Disciplinary action may be appropriate for serial offenders.
Once the necessary action has been taken, employers may want to use this as an opportunity to determine what is encouraging people to take extended sick leave.
For example, they may want to look at the working conditions – are members of staff under more stress than they realise? Are employees engaged in their work, or looking for reasons to escape it?