Sick Leave and Absenteeism: How Do They Affect Your Workplace?

How do they affect your workplace?

Employee sick leave and absenteeism has a flow-on effect. Absenteeism could cause a loss of actual wages, as well as decreased productivity in the workplace. There can be impacts on employee morale where a worker is viewed as exploiting their leave entitlements.

High absenteeism can sometimes be a symptom of a greater cultural issue such as poor leadership, workplace bullying, or lack of employee engagement. All these issues require a whole different approach. It’s important to allow for instances where employees may genuinely need to access personal and carer’s leave. However, continuously high rates of employee absenteeism may indicate other workplace issues that need to be addressed.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what you need to know as an employer when it comes to sick leave, absenteeism, and when action needs to be taken.

Your employee’s
entitlements to sick leave

Personal and carer’s leave entitlements are governed by the Fair Work Act. There might be additional inclusions in an employment contract, modern award or enterprise agreement that need to be considered too.

In most cases, personal or carer’s leave may be utilised by employees when:

  • They’re not fit for work because of personal illness or personal injury (sick leave)
  • They must provide care or support to a member of their immediate family, or a member of their household who requires care or support because of:
    • A personal illness  or injury; or
    • An unexpected emergency (carer’s leave).

‘Immediate family’ only includes a spouse, de facto partner, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling (or those same relatives of the employee’s spouse or de facto partner).

It doesn’t include, for example, cousins, aunts or uncles, great-grandparents or great-grandchildren. The definition also doesn’t include pets, as much as we may consider them our children and part of our family.

Employer Responsibilities

Employees must give notice of the period or expected period of personal leave as soon as possible. The notice period can also be outlined in your Employee Handbook.

As an employer, you may request that notice be given before the start of a shift. Where this isn’t possible, the employee is expected to notify the business when they can.

Employers are entitled to request evidence to confirm that any personal leave is legitimately being taken for the reason specified.

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