While the culture of a ‘sickie’ appears to be declining, employee absenteeism continues to represent a significant cost to the Australian economy.

As a business owner or manager it is important that you are aware of the notice and evidence your employees are required to provide and in what circumstances you can or cannot take disciplinary action.

When can an employee take ‘sick’ leave?

Traditionally referred to as ‘sick leave’, in accordance with the Fair Work Act 2009 employees are entitled to take paid personal or carer’s leave when they are either:

  • “…not fit for work because of personal illness, or personal injury…” or
  • “to provide care or support to a member of the employee’s immediate family, or a member of the employee’s household, who requires care or support because of:

(i)  a personal illness, or personal injury, affecting the member or

(ii)  an unexpected emergency affecting the member.”

What notice and evidence is the employee require to provide?

Employees must advise their employer of the period, or expected period, of the leave as soon as practicable.

Employers have the right to ask for evidence that the leave is taken for the reason specified. A medical certificate or statutory declaration will typically satisfy this requirement, however, the evidence required will vary depending on the reason given for taking the leave.

If you have concerns about the accuracy or authenticity of the medical certificate provided, you can seek clarification from the doctor who signed it. If the doctor verifies the certificate, no further action should be taken.

When can you take disciplinary action?

You may take disciplinary action in a range of situations, including if the employee has failed to provide notice or evidence of being unfit for work. Disciplining employees who have taken a period of personal or carers leave should be done cautiously.

The Act protects an employee from adverse action taken:

  1. because the employee is absent for a temporary period of time (3 months) due to illness or injury; or
  2. because the employee has exercised a workplace right (including the right to take sick leave); or
  3. because of the employee’s physical or mental disability.

What does this mean for you?

Absenteeism is costly, both in terms of lost wages and reduced productivity. While is it inevitable that an employee will be sick from time to time, high rates of absenteeism generally indicate underlying systemic issues which may need to be addressed.

For more information on personal or carers leave, clients should contact the HR Assured team.  If you’d like more information about the benefits of becoming an HR Assured client contact us today for an informal chat.