Why Australia Day is a favourite for pulling sickies

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Why Australia Day is a favourite for pulling sickies

Business owners might be at risk of poor staff turnout if employees celebrate Australia Day a little too hard.

A survey of 2024 Australians by Clipp found 16% of Aussies have chucked a sickie after Australia Day at least once, which makes it a more common occurrence than workers taking a day off after Anzac Day, Melbourne Cup and footy grand final weekends.

The culprits appear to be younger workers, with almost a quarter of those surveyed in their 20s and 22% of those under 20 admitting to pulling sickies.

Faking illness appears to decrease with age, with 16% of 30-somethings, 12% of 40-somethings, 9% of 50-somethings and 4% of those aged 60 and above admitting to taking a sickie the next day.

Ben Watts, director at human resources firm wattsnext, told SmartCompany managing employees that take sickies can be tough for SMEs.

 “There’s a couple of different approaches; you could potentially give them that day off if you think it’s not going to be a productive day… but that’s a big cost to small and medium businesses, especially with all the public holidays we’ve been having,” he says.

Alternatively Watts says business owners could take a harder line on sickies.

“Have a policy that after a weekend or public holiday, you do need to get a medical certificate,” he says.

“There definitely is a risk to culture [and] a lot of businesses already have that as a policy built into their enterprising bargain policy… If you’re just creating the rule a week before then it will create bad culture.”

 “Sick days are there for the wellbeing of the individuals, if somebody gets ill, or their children get ill, or they break a leg that’s paid time there for them to use when needed,” Watt says.

Watts says Australia Day this year is a little awkwardly placed, particularly as some schools are going back Monday and some are back on Wednesday, making it difficult for working parents.

However, he says the best thing for small and medium business owners is to speak to their teams and explain the potential cost of sickies to the business and ask anyone wanting the day off to put in an annual leave form.

“Often if it’s raised then it’s difficult for people to turn around and call in sick,” he says.

“It’s very hard to not trade for that day and for small and medium business to pay out sick leave if they’re paying out for the public holiday the day before or the next day.” 

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Ronelle Richards is a former journalist at SmartCompany. She is currently studying a Masters of Journalism at The University of Melbourne and has previously worked as a journalist and photographer in rural newspapers.

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