The classic sickie: what can employers do?

It’s important to know where you, as an employer, stands in relation to employees’ entitlements and protections in this circumstance.
The classic sickie: what can employers do?

Unfortunately, we’ve all been there. Your employee has called in sick. You’ve managed to cover their shift and work around their absence. But later, you discover that the sick day might not be legitimate.

This can be a frustrating situation for businesses that find their employees calling in sick with some very fortunate timing. It’s important to know where you, as an employer, stands in relation to employees’ entitlements and protections in this circumstance.

When can an employee take personal/carer’s leave?

Permanent employees are entitled to paid personal/carer’s leave under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (‘the Act’) where they are not fit for work because of illness or personal injury or are required to provide care or support to a member of their immediate family or household who is suffering from an illness or injury or the effects of an emergency. The Act provides unpaid personal/carer’s leave to casual employees and permanent employees who have used all of their accrued personal leave in the same circumstances.

The Act requires employees to give notice of their inability to work as soon as possible, along with information as to how much leave they will require. If they fail to do this, they may not be entitled to paid personal/carer’s leave.

What can employers do if you suspect the sick day is illegitimate?

If you suspect an employee to be taking advantage of their entitlement, you are well within your rights to request a medical certificate to support their claim.

Unfortunately, there are now a variety of services that allow employees to receive medical certificates online, without leaving their homes. If you do receive a certificate that has been issued by an online service, be careful to review the certificate carefully. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for employees to submit fraudulent medical certificates. However, if the certificate is signed off by a registered medical practitioner, then this will be regarded as sufficient proof of evidence.

Taking any kind of adverse action against an employee for taking personal/carer’s leave is prohibited. Doing so may leave you vulnerable to a General Protections claim, as taking this leave according to the Act constitutes exercising a genuine workplace right.

How can I prepare for sickies?

You can prepare for the long weekend by making sure all of the above requirements are clear to your employees. Consider developing a leave policy – our software has a library of policies, documents, and templates available to clients – consider signing up to Citation HR’s monthly subscription if you don’t have watertight policies in place. If you do, a refresher on your policies and employees’ obligations when calling in sick may be a good deterrent for employees considering taking a sickie.

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If any of this information has raised questions about sick leave or you have another workplace matter, please contact our workplace relations experts via our HR Advice Line

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