SMEs encouraged to adopt sick leave policy to counter Aussie culture of absenteeism

SMEs should “undoubtedly” have a sick leave policy in place, an expert says, after a report revealed Australians are taking a third more sick leave than their UK counterparts.

Direct Health Solutions, which describes itself as a leader in “positive absence management”, surveyed 112 organisations that employ around 500,000 staff. The survey found national average absence levels dropped to 8.75 days per worker compared with 2010 data.

But according to a 2011 survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, this was 30% higher than sick leave rates in the UK.

According to DHS chief executive Paul Dundon, there is a culture of absenteeism in Australia, and it’s being managed poorly.

Dundon estimates absenteeism results in $28 billion in lost productivity and wages per year.

Martin Nally, founder and managing director of HRanywhere, says businesses, especially start-ups, need to implement a sick leave policy before absenteeism becomes a problem.

“I would say undoubtedly. At the end of the day, you should start the way you mean to go on,” Nally says.

“We’re about to witness the biggest sick day in Australia’s history – the Monday before Melbourne Cup. If you don’t address that on a proactive basis, you get what you can expect.”

Nally says employers should be saying, “Let’s have some flexibility”.

“Flexibility is the new order. Demonstrate to people why you need coverage on a particular day, but say you’re more than happy for people to take another day off,” he says.

“Small businesses have to do something about it because the absence of one or two people has a big effect on the business… Organisations [need to] embrace transparency and openness.”

Nally says any policy should be outlined in writing, but needs to remain uncomplicated. He suggests employers should ask staff for input to the development of a policy.

“If you prescribe what happens, you’ll get what you get. If you consult your staff, you might be surprised.”

This article first appeared on StartupSmart.


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