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86% of workers call in sick around public holidays

New research shows that an overwhelming number of organisations see staff taking sick leave before or after a public holiday, including the Christmas period.

The Australian Payroll Association recently surveyed 601 payroll managers across the country’s big and small businesses, and across myriad industries, in order to gauge how often employees take sick leave around public holidays, including last Easter and Anzac Day, as well as the Christmas holiday period.

Eighty-six per cent of payroll managers admitted that at least 1 per cent of employees take a sick day at their organisation before or after public holidays, and 47 per cent said at least 5 per cent of employees generally take a sick day, and 18 per cent said at least 10 per cent of employees take a sick day.

The problem was particularly acute over the last Easter and Anzac Day period, APA added, with 26 per cent of organisations seeing at least 10 per cent of their staff taking sick leave during this period.

The research also found that the bigger the organisation, the more likely it was to see “the sick leave problem” around public holidays, APA continued.

Just 52 per cent of micro businesses (up to 10 employees) see at least 1 per cent of staff taking sick leave around public holidays. This jumps up to 76 per cent of organisations with 11-50 employees, 86 per cent of organisations with 51-200 employees, 93 per cent of organisations with 201-500 employees, 96 per cent of those with 501-1,000 employees, and 97 per cent of those with 1,001-5,000 employees, APA recounted.

Bigger organisations also see higher rates of sick leave, it said, with just 14 per cent of SMEs (up to 200 employees) see at least 10 per cent of their workforce take sick leave before or after public holidays. However, an average of 25 per cent of organisations with 501-10,000 employees see at least 10 per cent of their staff take sick leave around public holidays and Christmas periods.

When payroll managers were asked the reasons that employees give for sick leave, many said most of “the reasons seemed genuine, such as the standard gastro and vomiting”.

APA CEO Tracy Angwin said: “Sick leave – now classified as personal/carer’s leave – gives each employee 10 days of paid leave a year. This entitlement is specifically for unplanned personal illness or injury that leaves the employee unfit to work. It excludes days off for elective surgery, planned medical procedures or sick pets, which should be taken as annual leave.”

“Carer’s leave is part of the 10-day paid entitlement. It can only be used if an employee is required to look after a sick immediate family or household member: their spouse, de factor partner, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling (including the equivalent in blended families), or any household member,” she continued.

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