The great Aussie ‘sickie’ guide for employers
19 January 2023
With Australia Day falling on a Thursday this year, some of your employees might be tempted to chuck a sickie on Friday; a sneaky move so that they can enjoy a four-day weekend! While your employee may very well be sick, it can be a frustrating situation for businesses that find their workers calling in sick with some very fortunate timing. If you believe they’re being dishonest, what can you do as an employer? If you receive the inevitable call on Friday morning, here are some tips to help you understand your employer rights and obligations.
It’s important to know where you stand with employee entitlements and protections. So, when can an employee take personal/carer’s leave?
Permanent employees are entitled to paid personal/carer’s leave under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (‘the Act’) where the employee is:
- not fit for work because of a personal illness, or personal injury, affecting the employee; or
- required to provide care or support to a member of the employee’s immediate family, or a member of the employee’s household because of a personal illness or injury affecting the member or because of an emergency affecting the member.
The Act provides unpaid personal/carer’s leave to casual employees and permanent employees who have used all their accrued personal leave in the same circumstances.
The Act requires employees to give notice of their inability to work as soon as possible, along with information as to how much leave they will require. When providing notice of their absence, employees must comply with any company policies or procedures when calling in sick. For example, some employers may have a policy which states that employees must call, rather than send an email or text message. If they fail to do this, they may not be entitled to paid personal/carer’s leave.
What can employers do if you suspect the sick day is illegitimate?
If you suspect an employee to be taking advantage of their entitlement, you are well within your rights to request a medical certificate to support their claim.
Unfortunately, there are now a variety of services that allow employees to receive medical certificates online, without leaving their homes. If you do receive a certificate that has been issued by an online service, be careful to review the certificate carefully. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for employees to submit fraudulent medical certificates. However, if the certificate is signed off by a registered medical practitioner, then this will be regarded as sufficient proof of evidence.
Taking any kind of adverse action against an employee for taking personal/carer’s leave is prohibited. Doing so may leave you vulnerable to a General Protections claim, as taking this leave according to the Act constitutes exercising a genuine workplace right.
How can I prepare for Australia Day sickies?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the number of people taking sick leave the day after a public holiday rises. However, just like any other day when an employee calls in sick, you have the right to request medical evidence that the employee is ill or injured. Unfortunately, there are now a variety of services that allow employees to ask for and receive medical certificates online, without having to leave their homes. And while this can be irritating, it’s important to note that these documents are usually still issued by a registered medical practitioner. If this is the case, the certificate will generally be treated as legitimate proof of their inability to work.
If you have any doubts over any medical certificates provided, you may seek further clarification from the doctor who signed it.
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