According to Direct Health Solutions recent absenteeism survey, Direct Health Solutions employers pay $347 per day on average for a workplace absence, which is in excess of over $32.5 billion per annum for our national economy in terms of payroll and lost productivity costs.
Under the Fair Work Act 2009, employees are entitled to take leave of absences such as personal (sick) leave, carer’s leave, and compassionate leave, but this does not give them a right to take advantage of an employer.
An employer does have the right to ask for evidence of personal leave (sick or carers), if they suspect that the leave was not taken for a legitimate purpose. It is important that this be articulated in any leave policy so that employees are aware that the employer can make this request.
To manage absenteeism try the following:
- Keep records of absences including patterns such as Mondays or Fridays.
- Provide options for the employee to return to work if they are struggling with an illness, injury or disability.
- Communicate absenteeism in HR Policies & Procedures. Having a well-defined process in place to handle absenteeism can prevent repeat absenteeism. The benefit of clearly articulated policies is that it can be as specific as the organisation needs it to be to avoid any abuse or misinterpretation of entitlements. For instance, clarifying what happens if employees arrive late or leave work early or take excessive leave.
- Talk to the employee about the absences before it becomes a performance management issue.
Absenteeism tends to happen when employees are unhappy either at home or in the workplace and there could be a myriad of reasons for this. If employees who are constantly being harassed, bullied or intimidated are frequently taking time off work, the employer must take ‘all steps reasonably necessary to ascertain what the problem is and then attempt to resolve it.
It is not sufficient for an employer to simply dismiss the employee, without first consulting with the employee, seeking reasons for the delay for the return to work and then considering the options.
To minimise the risk of a termination being considered unfair, an employer must ensure that a valid reason for termination exists. This may include the extent of absence, the reasons for absences, and whether the termination process was in accordance with procedural fairness requirements.
If you have any questions, or would like more information on this or any other HR issue, please contact us.