Dealing with employee ‘sickies’


In Australia we’ve just enjoyed the Australia Day public holiday (Jan. 26th), which this year fell on a Thursday.  Given the day, a large number of people would have arranged to take the Friday off to give them an extra-long weekend.  Others would have had a long weekend without prior arrangement – by taking advantage of personal leave entitlements and feigning illness or injury, otherwise known as “chucking a sickie”.

‘Sickies’ are not new, but are more common either side of a public holiday, causing headaches for employers.  The lost productivity nation-wide from expected sickies last Friday alone has been estimated at somewhere between $54m and $62m.  It also put extra pressure on colleagues who already had their own workloads to manage – particularly in customer service/facing roles.  Unplanned leave taken for genuine illness or injury also puts pressure on colleagues, but is understandable and generally forgiven.  Most people would prefer an unwell colleague stayed home rather than spread their germs at work.  The same can’t be said though for unplanned leave taken simply because an employee wanted a day off.  Especially at a time when colleagues would also have liked a long weekend.

Sickies are dishonest and diminish trust with employers and fellow employees.  There is a basic expectation that an employee will attend for their usual shift/workday.  If an employer and/or colleagues can’t rely on employees to do this, what else do they need to question?

Finally, sickies reduce the entitlement available to employees when they are genuinely sick or injured.

So what can you, as an employer, do to manage sickies around public holidays in your workplace?

In terms of sickies already taken, it depends upon your leave policy.  If your policy requires a medical certificate or other form of evidence of illness or injury be presented before personal leave is paid then you can demand that this be done before honouring the entitlement.  Should the employee present a medical certificate or equivalent, then unless you have strong evidence to the contrary there’s not much you can do.  If your policy does not require evidence of injury or illness to utilise a single day of leave then again without your own evidence of dishonesty, there’s not a great deal you can do.

To reduce the incidence of future sickies around a public holiday (and at any other time), employers can:

  • Speak with employees prior to the public holiday and suggest that annual leave be applied for (if appropriate).


  • Highlight the problems (both for the business, colleagues and the employees themselves), caused by unplanned leave.


  • Amend current leave policies to require evidence of illness or injury for single days of sick/personal leave.  Alternately you could just require evidence for single days taken either side of a public holiday.


At the end of the day the incidence of sickies comes down to the attitude of your employees.  But by broaching the subject ahead of time, highlighting the issues involved and making it a little harder to get away with, you will hopefully reduce the risk.




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Disclaimer:  Blogs posted by MMO HR Solutions are for information purposes only and do not constitute professional advice.  The reading/use of any blog posts does not form a consultant-client relationship and such reading/use should not be used as a substitute for professional advice.