Have you ever wondered if every sick day taken is actually due to sickness? Or is your employee using it as an excuse for a day off to hang out with friends or binge-watch Netflix at home? You are not alone! Most employers have these suspicions, but generally speaking, they are not born out by research. According to the “Workplace Wellness Report 2021” by Southern Cross Health Insurance, the average number of sick days taken by employees in New Zealand in 2020 was 4.2 days, which cost the country’s economy $1.85 billion.
Sick leave is a significant inconvenience for employers as it can have a significant impact on businesses, and lead to reduced productivity and increased expenses. Small businesses are especially affected as they struggle to manage workloads with fewer staff, resulting in delays and missed deadlines. This can negatively impact profits and cause other employees to become disengaged due to increased responsibilities.
It’s important to note that while the majority of employees use their sick leave appropriately – even though it doesn’t feel like that sometimes – there are some individuals who may take advantage of it. Watch out for employees who:
- frequently take one-day absences,
- use up all their paid sick leave shortly after their anniversary date, and
- tend to be absent on Mondays and Fridays.
There can be various reasons for taking non-genuine sick leave, ranging from sheer laziness to experiencing workplace bullying or issues with company culture.
We usually suggest it’s not a good idea to grant annual leave to employees who have already exhausted their sick leave. This can leave them with limited time off for company shutdowns or personal vacations. However, there may be exceptions to this rule, for instance if an employee requires hospitalisation or an extended recovery period due to illness. It’s important to note that if an employee fails to provide a medical certificate when requested, you’re not obligated to pay for their sick leave. In such a case, you can mark their absence as sick leave without pay.
Sometimes you may have an employee who is absent frequently for genuine health reasons. It is a good idea to manage this proactively so that you can plan. To begin, arrange a meeting with the individual to gain a comprehensive understanding of the potential impact their absence may have on the business. It is often not the absence itself that is the issue, but the lack of notice so that you cannot plan for the absence. If an employee’s excessive or long-term absence from work becomes unmanageable, it may be necessary to terminate their employment. It’s important to follow the proper “medical incapacity” process in this situation. This is not an easy out – removing the right for someone to work is understandably a complex process. We are here to get you started and guide you through this if you need it. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call for assistance.
One effective method for reducing sick leave absenteeism is to cultivate a positive company culture that values open and transparent communication. When an employee is approaching the end of their sick leave allowance, it’s advisable to schedule a meeting to discuss your expectations regarding their attendance, the consequences of frequent absences, and to clarify that they won’t be able to use annual leave in case of absence, which will be unpaid. This meeting also serves as a chance to offer assistance and resources to employees who may be grappling with health or personal difficulties.
When it comes to human resources, the specifics matter. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to us. We’re here to assist you in resolving any potential issues before they escalate.