Sadly, Australia has developed a culture where sick days are considered as Australian as meat pies, eskies and an abundance of ads starring Sam Kekovich at this time of year.
The belief that sick days when you are not sick at all are a right can be blamed partly on former prime minister Bob Hawke, who famously said “any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum”, after Australia’s 1983 America’s Cup victory.
Now on that most Australian of holidays, the Australia Day long weekend, workplaces around the nation look like they are going to be short staffed on Friday as employees plan to extend the long weekend with a sickie.
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The NSW Business Chamber is predicting 173,000 workers will be faking a cough or feigning a migraine before the long weekend in a move that will cost employers more than $36 million, not including the cost of replacement workers and lost productivity.
That’s just in one state and on one day; across the country there has been a rise in the number of workdays being claimed as sickies throughout the year.
According to recent Australian research, the cost of sick days to the economy now sits at $3,619 per employee, with workers taking off an average 9.4 days a year.
About 2.7% of the working population is on a sickie every day and employers claim that up to 25% of sick leave is not genuine.
For SMEs, a sickie hits even harder, because the impact of being a person down is much larger when you only have three employees rather than 3,000.
So try to make sure you are not left short staffed this Friday by creating a workplace culture that doesn’t encourage the sickie.
First of all make sure staff are aware of annual and personal leave policies and are regularly taking holidays.
They should feel able to use their annual leave rather than stockpiling it until they are so stressed and overworked that they call in sick.
Also consider a sick leave policy where if an employee takes more than one day of sick leave or a day either side of a long weekend they are required to have a doctor’s certificate.
We need to make sure we’re not developing a culture of sickies around long weekends.