Sick leave can be an ongoing issue for businesses, especially regarding the impact that regular employee absences can have on the overall running of a business as well as the ramifications on staff workloads and morale.
Continual absences have flow-on effects throughout an organisation so it is essential that businesses manage the situation with a balanced approach, particularly where an employee is taking regular single days off or there is a pattern to the absences.
Employers should be aware that an employee has an obligation to provide their employer with notice of their illness and if required by the employer, provide evidence as soon as reasonably practicable.
Employers should also be aware that employees must have a full clearance to recommence work. For example, if an employee has a medical certificate for Monday to Friday, or any extended period of absence, that says they are not fit for work during that period, they cannot resume work any earlier, unless they provide a medical clearance.
It should be noted employees who exhaust their sick leave entitlement should not be paid for their absent days. If they do not provide evidence while on unpaid sick leave, it becomes a disciplinary issue because they are absent without leave and in breach of their contract.
To help businesses manage and establish requirements, employers should have a formal approach for dealing with sick leave and should ensure that their employees are aware of the requirements. For example:
- establishing a policy and procedure for when leave can be taken;
- notice requirements, especially before or after weekends and public holidays;
- evidence requirements; and
- disciplinary procedures where employees fail to provide evidence while on unpaid personal/carer’s leave.
Sick leave falls under the banner of personal/carer’s leave, as outlined in the National Employment Standards (NES) of the Federal Fair Work Act 2009.
Full-time and part-time employees are entitled to a minimum provision of paid personal/carer’s leave under the NES. However, it should be noted that Modern Awards and enterprise agreements may have additional leave requirements. Personal/carer’s leave includes sick leave and carer’s leave.
Full-time permanent employees:
- receive ten (10) days of paid personal leave per year;
- it accumulates progressively throughout the employment relationship;
- it is cumulative from year to year; and
- all paid sick leave taken is deducted from the employee’s accrued leave entitlement.
Part-time employees accrue personal/carer’s leave on a pro rata basis.
Casual employees are generally not entitled to personal leave, other than unpaid carer’s leave.
Employees must give their employer notice, as soon as possible, that they will be taking leave from work, which may be before or after the leave starts. Employers should be notified of the approximate period of time of the leave and provide evidence if required by the employer.
Employers are allowed to ask employees taking sick leave for evidence, which is generally a certificate from a medical practitioner (which is not necessarily limited to only doctors) or a statutory declaration.
Where an employer has established the requirement to produce evidence and an employee cannot produce evidence, or sufficient evidence, then they are not permitted to any paid leave entitlements.
Want more information?
Contact Business SA’s Business Advisory Centre on 08 8300 0101.