Thanks for tuning in to Employsure Essentials. In this episode I’m speaking with Brad Mariano about a topic that can be difficult for employers – personal leave, better known as sick leave. We’ll discuss the do’s the don’t’s and everything in between. Brad’s a busy man but he’s our sick leave guru so we recorded this one on the hop as we know it’s a topic that’s a bit of a pain point for many businesses let’s get into it.
Scott: Hi Brad thanks for time today.
Brad: Thanks for having me.
Scott: So today we’re gonna have a bit of a chat about personal leave What are we talking about?
Brad: So personal leave is an entitlement that has two primary arms to it, the first being sick leave personal leave which is where an employee’s unfit for his occupation due to illness or injury, the
other side of the coin of course is personal and carers leave so carers leave where an employee is required to provide support to an immediate family member who might have an injury or illness that needs support.
Scott: Okay so what’s the entitlement? Does everyone get the same in every industry?
Brad: So the Fair Work Act provides a minimum of 10 days paid leave for all full-time employees, part-time employees will get a pro-rata lower amount casual employees are not entitled to paid sick leave but otherwise it is that 10 days will provide that baseline minimum however some Awards, some industries and of course some negotiated Enterprise Agreements may provide for a higher amount. So do check your industry but that 10 days is gonna cover the vast majority of our full-time employees Scott: Okay so it’s that 10 days across all industries unless you’re one of those with an agreement or a different Award so just make sure you get that right?
Brad: That’s right.
Scott: Great. This obviously keeps you guys very busy, I hear you guys down in advice very busy with this on stuff all the time What is the biggest mistake? I mean do employers make the same mistakes often? or is it, are you seeing one offs? What are the common traps?
Brad: I think the common trap is just to forget that at the end of the day there’s an entitlement
and it is there for a reason, furthermore it’s also an entitlement that has a certain level of protection around it it is a protected characteristic under the Fair Work Act and obviously an employer can’t make any sort of retaliatory action toward an employee for accessing it so that’s always an area to be cautious of.
Scott: Okay so some employers might get a bit carried away with trying to enforce whatever policy there is in place there?
Brad: Yeah or take any sort of action against an employee for accessing that whether that be
reducing shifts, whether that be discipline on the grounds of that and these are things that the Fair Work Act you know has a pretty strong protection around.
Scott: So I suppose going on from that is there a right procedure? I mean is there a best practice for every industry in dealing with personal leave as an employer?
Brad: As an employer absolutely I think the best practice is always going to be from our
end putting policies in place putting policies in place both surrounding A. the notification procedures – what an employee who does wake up unfit in the morning, what they need to do, how do they have to communicate it? and also if there’s any requirements for certification, for evidence, and what they might be and with that occurs.
Scott: Okay so I suppose let’s just really nail into that point then, is there, is it only a doctor’s certificate that you can prove that the employee can use to prove? or are there other options for evidence? What do they need?
Brad: Section 107 of the Act gives us a good guidance here it talks about the requirement that when an employer requests it, an employee has to provide evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person, so tellingly it doesn’t mention medical certificates specifically of course that does that does count other things I’ve been looking at with these statutory declarations potentially even even Chemist Warehouse certificates so it really is that evidence that satisfy a reasonable person that the person is ill for that reason.
Scott: Okay so it’s quite a broad range of things employees can use to validate that they were sick.
Yeah absolutely okay let’s, Brad, you and I’ve never done this I’m sure but I’m sure there’s some people out there they’re probably stretch just how sick they are or it’s been a really long Sunday for every Monday morning, what can an employer do if they think an employee’s probably not as sick as they’re letting on?
Brad: I think the best thing to do that situation is to rely upon that right under the Act, that employers have which is to request that evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person and if that medical
certificate doesn’t pass the sniff test for whatever reason we could certainly delve in a little bit there the vast majority are going to be pretty good we can we can set those at face value but again If we have some particular concerns or doubts about maybe a medical certificate we received there are things we can do we could contact the Medical Center and they would normally confirm whether or not that was issued, things of this nature, and then we can just make sure we’re satisfied that this is you know
Scott: Okay so even if it does seem a bit bit iffy there’s a couple of things that an employer can do to double-check that it was all above board.
Brad: Absolutely, and we spent a lot of time the advice team talking employers through that so absolutely.
Scott: Great okay Brad we’ve covered a lot what’s the top tip for an employer across any industry in managing personal leave in their business?
Brad: I think the top tip would be to make sure you have a developed policy in place to cover the access in your personal leave and that would be twofold for me the first would be to ensure that we have a policy in place for a notification, who the employee might need to speak to, how they need to do it and when and also that same policy regarding medical certificates – do they need it every day? do they need it after every two days off in a row? or whatever the case might be, keeping in mind obviously the culture of the workplace, things of that nature and ensuring those policies are adapted and applied consistently across the board.
Scott: Okay so get the right policies in place, follow the policy, employees and employers need to follow that policy.
Brad: Absolutely yeah and as I said we spend a lot of time with clients developing these policies really making sure they can look after this entitlement properly
Scott: Brad thank you for your time
Brad: Thank you.
Scott: Well there’s the essentials. Key takeout for me in this one is to make sure you have a personal leave policy in place and that your staff know what it means for them as always if you’re unsure call
our advice line on 1300 651 415 I’m Scott McGrath looking forward to discussing more workplace essentials next episode.