Experts have warned Aussies not to chuck a sickie on Christmas Eve. Picture: iStock
Experts have warned Aussies not to chuck a sickie on Christmas Eve. Picture: iStock

Big mistake many will make next week

We're in the final stretch before the Christmas break - but next week, countless Aussies are expected to make one whopping workplace blunder.

Paul Dundon, the CEO of absence management firm Direct Health Solutions, told news.com.au he expected a "huge surge" in sickies nest Monday.

"We expect a surge in absenteeism on Christmas Eve as history tells us absenteeism increases by around 40 per cent when there is a holiday event attached close to the weekend," he said.

Mr Dundon said one in 25 workers called in sick on an average Monday - a figure set to double on Christmas Eve to two in 25.

"There are about 3.6 million workers in NSW. Next week (we) could see up to 150,000 workers off on sick leave," he said.

"The cost of sick leave on average is $350 per day according to the latest absenteeism research conducted by Direct Health Solution."

Earlier this year, Mr Dundon told news.com.au people tended to take sickies for different reasons, including a "sense of entitlement", a lack of flexibility from employers and, of course, genuine illness.

"People see that they have 10 sick days a year and they feel that they might as well take them," he said.

"Some people do the right thing and take no sick leave, some people take the full 10 days and a bunch of people take well over that."

But Shine Lawyers' workplace law expert Christie Toy said it was important to resist the urge to call in sick.

"Look, it might be tempting given it means five days off in a row, but there could be real repercussions for your job if you do decide to chuck a sickie," she said.

"December 24 is not a public holiday so it would be considered a normal working day and the normal rules around sick leave apply."

Ms Toy said it was essential to confirm your workplace's sick leave policy.

"It will be specified in your contract or in your workplace policies so make that the first place you look," she said.

"Some employers will ask for a certificate if you have more than three days off and some have a policy that for any sick day you need a medical note.

"It is common for a workplace policy to say that a medical certificate would be required for a sick day either before or after a public holiday."

Ms Toy said that under the Fair Work Act, workers can even be asked to prove they were sick if they apply for less than a day or even a couple of hours of sick leave.

People tend to take sickies due to a ‘sense of entitlement’, a lack of flexibility from employers and genuine illness. Picture: iStock
People tend to take sickies due to a ‘sense of entitlement’, a lack of flexibility from employers and genuine illness. Picture: iStock

"You might have a case to answer if you call in sick but are found to be faking it - usually people get busted when they post social media photos of themselves at an event which confirms they may not actually be sick - for example, pictures at a pool party or Christmas party would be concerning," she warned.

"If your boss finds out you were faking there could be grounds for you to be dismissed.

"The Fair Work Commission has found in many cases that fake sickies can be a valid reason to sack an employee."

However, if you are genuinely sick on the 24th and can prove that you are unwell with a medical certificate, Ms Toy said you are protected by the law from any adverse action, which means you can't be demoted, sacked or have your hours cut or changed as a result of genuinely being sick and having the day off.

"Normal rules apply for a public holiday so if you are required to work on a public holiday but are sick and can prove that then you still get paid for the public holiday," she said.

"If you are normally entitled to penalty rates for working on public holidays, you won't get those and you will only get your ordinary rate of pay.

"Your day off sick should not come off your sick leave balance as it is classified as a public holiday not worked."

According to Australian staffing platform Sidekicker, employers face a $350 million loss in productivity in the lead up to Christmas, with over a million "sickies" likely to be taken this month - causing the so-called "Christmas Absenteeism Spike".

And with Christmas Eve falling on a Monday this year followed by several public holidays, it's likely to be a prime day for workers calling in sick.

 

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