Cup day legal warning: Don’t let your staff get away with sickies

Employees and employers alike are no doubt gearing up for tomorrow’s Melbourne Cup festivities, organising last minute sweeps, competitions and making sure everyone on staff knows not to drink themselves stupid in the office.

But experts warn there’s another danger businesses need to be aware of – the dreaded sickie.

Today isn’t a public holiday, but many employers find they turn up to work and, lo and behold, workers have taken it upon themselves to have a four-day weekend.

People + Culture Strategies partner Joydeep Hor says if this is happening to your business, then you need to make sure it’s under control.

“I talk to a lot of my Victorian clients, and they say some employees take Monday as a leave day. If there’s fraudulent sick leave happening there, you’ve got the right to look into it.”

The first line of defence is a well-established sick leave policy, Hor says. If you haven’t already articulated when people need to present medical certificates, instances of sick leave happening inappropriately can occur more often.

The second is to send a communication to employees about what’s expected regarding sick leave, and remind staff about how the sick leave policy works and any exceptions for days around public holidays.

“Many policies we’ve seen require certificates for single day absences where those days are connected to a public holiday,” Hor says.

But if a business doesn’t have policies in place, Hor warns they can’t just persecute an employee because they have a suspicion the sick leave may be fake.

However, he says evidence the sick leave is fake would be a step in the right direction – and there are plenty of ways you can find it.

“If someone within management has observed something being posted on Facebook that suggests the sick leave was not legitimate, that’s fair and you can look into that.”

“How you become aware of the information doesn’t change, as long as it’s not illegal. So obviously asking people to disclose their Facebook passwords is not appropriate.”

That issue turned into a controversy earlier this year when American businesses started asking staff for their Facebook login details.

Hor says if you’re suspicious of sick leave being taken fraudulently, and you can’t prove it, there’s not much more you can do than simply reiterate your sick leave policies – which you should have had in the first place.

Two years ago, a survey found Melbourne Cup day results in more than $1 billion in lost productivity.



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