Australia’s industrial relations system continues to be a source of confusion, with an unusual catch identified in employee leave allowance rules.
My Business recently reported that employers may have inadvertently been paying out sick leave when they didn’t need to because of a little-known rule around pre-scheduled medical appointments and elective surgery.
However, it turns out that nothing is as simple as it may look on face value, as one My Business reader pointed out.
“If someone has an elective surgery, they most likely aren’t eligible for sick leave on the day of the surgery BUT it is very likely that if that causes them to have time off for the recovery, then they would be eligible for sick leave.”
In other words, the very procedure for which an employee is not covered for sick leave would actually cause them to need to take sick leave.
The Fair Work Ombudsman did not respond to a request for clarification on the matter.
Elective surgery may not sound like something many business owners would need to consider, if your definition is restricted to procedures such as facelifts and and lap band surgery. However, the government’s definition of what constitutes “elective surgery” includes an enormous array of medical procedures many people would not deem to be elective at all.
Figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) show that around 748,000 people were admitted to public hospitals in the 2016-17 financial year, and that rate has grown by around 2 per cent every year for the last five years.
The most common procedures were general surgery on abdominal organs and breast surgery – including for lump removals and biopsies – as well as orthopaedic surgery (such as knee and hip replacements) and the removal of cataracts.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.