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Absence does not make the heart grow fonder

Absence does not make the heart grow fonder (Last Updated On: October 30, 2014)

With summer and the festive season well on its way, employees may be tempted to chuck a sickie to stretch their holiday just that little bit more. According to the 2013 Direct Health Solutions Absence Management and Wellbeing survey (DHS Survey), Australian employees take an average of 8.93 sick days per year, at a cost of $2,741 per employee for the year. The DHS Survey also found that the majority of employers felt that absenteeism is a significant cost to their business.

These shocking numbers make it clear that it is essential for employers to have strategies in place to manage absenteeism within their business.

Managing these absences is a challenging issue for employers, made difficult by the fact that leave is a basic entitlement under the National Employment Standards. Employers will need to tread carefully so as not to fall foul of employment law. Implementing and communicating clear absence policies to employees are a cost-effective method to manage this issue.

What can be included in an absence policy?

  • Requiring employees to notify supervisors and managers before their start time each day they are going to be absent. You should ensure that this is communicated by phone.
  • Requiring medical certificates, particularly if the sick leave occurs on Monday, Friday or before and after a public holiday. This policy is a good deterrent for employees using their personal leave to extend their weekends.

As part of a comprehensive absence policy, you can also implement return to work interviews across the business. These can be used to touch base with employees when they come back to ensure they are actually fit to return.

These interviews can also be used to ask the employee if there are any issues within the workplace that may be causing them to take more time off. The DHS Survey found that absence levels are higher where employees are unhappy with their job, or there is a general “sickie” culture in the workplace. Introducing return to work interviews gives employers a chance to try and address these issues before they start affecting productivity.

If you’re worried that your staff may be exploiting their personal leave or if you need more information on this topic, consider signing up for one of our national workshops. Our workshops cover issues around staff leave and tips on how manage them.

By Jessica Gei, Document Consultant

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