While Australia Day falls on a Friday this year, businesses are being warned to prepare for a mass of sick days being called in on surrounding days, as workers try to create an extra-long weekend.
According to Employsure senior employment relations adviser Lea Fox, employers face the prospect of “double the amount of sick leave requests” than usual on Thursday, 25 January, and Monday, 29 January.
Sydney businesses are likely to be particularly hard hit, as the threat of strike action by rail workers on Monday, 29 January, threatens to bring the city to a standstill. Many employees may be tempted to give up trying to work from home and instead call in sick to extend their weekend.
“Ideally, leave on Thursday or Monday should be pre-planned as annual leave. It’s the unplanned days off or “sickies” that kill business and impact employers,” Ms Fox said.
“The impact of unplanned absenteeism in the workplace is much greater than the actual financial cost of wages. It affects sales, places unnecessary stress and morale implications on your remaining staff, and customer service is also compromised.”
Ms Fox stressed that employers should be proactive in addressing the situation to avoid being sprung by an unusually high number of staff calling in sick.
“Tell employees they will need to put in an annual leave request if they are hoping to take a day off. For those who don’t submit one, make sure you let them know they’re expected to attend work,” she said.
Employers should also ensure their leave policies are up-to-date and that employees know the procedures for calling in legitimately sick, including when a medical certificate is required.
Conversely, though, some employers will continue trading even on the public holiday, and may have an abundance of staff eager to work in order to receive penalty rates for the hours worked.
Ms Fox urged all employers to confirm they pay their staff the correct entitlements over the holiday weekend.
“Full-time and part-time employees who would normally work on the day that a public holiday falls are entitled to have a day off and be paid their base pay rate. Casual employees are entitled to take the day off but they are not entitled to be paid for that day,” said Ms Fox.
“Check the provisions of the relevant Awards or Agreements, along with employment contracts for any terms relevant to a public holiday such as penalty rates or loadings.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.