Five practical tips for coping with staff absenteeism

Five practical tips for coping with staff absenteeism

With the flu season upon us, it’s worth considering that about 15% of Australian adults will be infected by the flu this year. 

Many of these people will be employed and will reasonably take personal leave until they get better. Many others will soldier on, infecting others at work. As you can imagine, the cost to workplace productivity is significant.

In addition, the hot-desking trend seems to be making matters worse. When you’re changing desks every day, the risk of cross-infection is so much higher.

While a great number of people do show up for work when they shouldn’t, on any given work day in Australia, 5% of the workforce will call in sick. Indeed, according to Direct Health Solutions, a consulting firm specialising in absence management, absenteeism accounts for 8.93 days per employee per year.  

DHS defines absenteeism as all unplanned absences, including sick leave, workers’ compensation leave and compassionate and carer’s leave. It costs Australian businesses more than $1billion every month.

Of course, the ability to throw a sickie is enshrined in Australia’s workplace law. Under the National Employment Standards, employees are entitled to 10 days of paid personal/carer’s leave each year.

Yet just because your employees are given the right to take 10 days’ sick leave, as a business owner or manager, you don’t have to tolerate the abuse of this entitlement.

At the same time, when one of your employees is genuinely ill, you want to ensure that they take time off to get better.

As absenteeism affects your bottom line, it’s important to adopt proven strategies to manage sick leave, and enhance employee well-being at work by promoting a healthy workplace environment.

Sound policies

While it’s unlawful to discipline an employee should you suspect them of faking sick leave, you can establish clear guidelines and write them into your employment contracts and workplace policies.

As part of the induction process, ensure all your employees understand the appropriate use of personal/carer’s leave and the consequences of abusing this entitlement.

In terms of process, insist that your employees telephone you or their manager directly when they are unable to come to work, rather than allowing them to send an email. Also ask them to provide a medical certificate upon their return to work if the absence is for three or more days.

It’s also good practice for you or your managers to check-in with the employee on their return to work, even if it’s only after one day’s absence. A direct, one-to-one conversation, asking them how they are feeling often works wonders. Not only does it show that you are genuinely concerned for their wellbeing, but it also helps to stem fake leave.

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