Fake sick­ies a costly ex­er­cise

The Weekend Post - - Views -

TAK­ING fake sick­ies is noth­ing but a form of bludg­ing.

Those who do it let down both their em­ploy­ers and their co-work­ers.

If you’d rather sit around at home than at­tend work – i.e. the place that pays the bills – ei­ther take some an­nual leave or re­sign from your job and give some­one more ded­i­cated a go.

Due to in­fluenza, I had two days off my job this week.

And I’m talking about the real thing here, not some kind of pre­tend flu: my joints ached, I al­ter­nated be­tween shiv­er­ing and sweat­ing, my head hurt and, worst of all, my throat was so sore I could hardly speak.

What I’ve never done is use a hang­over as an ex­cuse to bludge.

On April 25 this year a Tas­ma­nian fish fac­tory worker named April Chap­man rang her em­ployer (sal­mon pro­ces­sor Tas­sal) and left the fol­low­ing mes­sage: “Um, it’s An­zac Day, my birth­day, and I ad­mit I have overindulged so I’m tak­ing into ac­count one of the golden rules, be fit for work and I’m not go­ing to be fit for work, so I won’t be there … ”

The mes­sage was left about 5pm the day be­fore Ms Chap­man was ex­pected for her shift.

She had plenty of time to stop drink­ing and pre­pare her­self for work.

But in­stead she chose to con­tinue hit­ting the grog at a party with friends, and “chucked a sickie” the next day.

Tas­sal promptly sacked her for mis­con­duct. Bizarrely, how­ever, the Fair Work Com­mis­sion as­sessed the ter­mi­na­tion as “harsh” and “in­ap­pro­pri­ate” and awarded Ms Chap­man $8229 com­pen­sa­tion.

Were we to adopt FWC’s logic more widely, then ap­par­ently any em­ployee who drank to ex­cess, took co­pi­ous amounts of drugs or stayed up all night par­ty­ing (or all three) would be en­ti­tled to sick leave on full pay sub­sidised by his or her boss. What non­sense is this? Why should busi­ness own­ers be ex­pected to pay for some em­ploy­ees’ hang­over-in­duc­ing so­cial lives when those same work­ers can’t or won’t ap- pear at work when re­quired? Per­haps for­mer prime min­is­ter Bob Hawke is partly to blame.

In 1983, Hawke pretty much gave his ap­proval to the il­le­git­i­mate sickie when he ap­peared on na­tional TV just af­ter Aus­tralia II’s his­toric vic­tory over Den­nis Con­nor’s Lib­erty in the Amer­ica’s Cup and stated: “Any boss who sacks any­one for not turn­ing up to­day is a bum.” Cue much laugh­ter all around. Who wouldn’t want to cel­e­brate (as Hawke was clearly do­ing at the time) a great sport­ing win like the one achieved by owner Alan Bond’s skip­per, John Ber­trand, and the crew of Aus­tralia II?

The prob­lem is that all those days off must be paid for some­how. Every time an em­ployee chucks an un­war­ranted sickie, his or her boss ei­ther must fork out for a re­place­ment or suf­fer lost pro­duc­tiv­ity.

And be­cause a ma­jor­ity of us work at small-to-medium-sized firms, those busi­nesses pay­ing for hang­over-re­cov­ery ses­sions, days off ad­ja­cent to long week­ends and spon­ta­neous birth­day cel­e­bra­tions are hardly the big end of town – rather they’re just fel­low Aus­tralians also bat­tling to make ends meet.

Sick leave is not a pot into which you can dip when­ever it suits you; rather it’s a spe­cific en­ti­tle­ment only to be used when you are gen­uinely ill.

If you never fall sick, then you have no right to claim that cat­e­gory of leave.

Don’t be­lieve me? Con­sider what hap­pens when you re­sign from a job.

Any un­used an­nual and long-ser­vice leave is usu­ally paid out in cash.

But ac­crued sick days are al­most al­ways for­feited. And why not?

No one should be fi­nan­cially com­pen­sated for the en­vi­able cir­cum­stance of good health.

Tak­ing more than a day off work with­out a doc­tor’s cer­tifi­cate is of­ten a scam. Like­wise, em­ploy­ees who ring in sick every Mon­day be­fore the Mel­bourne Cup should be treated with the ut­most sus­pi­cion.

And if you know, in ad­vance, that you’re go­ing to overindulge in al­co­hol due to a birth­day, An­zac Day, sport­ing event or com­bi­na­tion of all three, then re­quest a day of an­nual leave to re­cover.

The costs of par­ty­ing to ex­cess should rightly drain your own pocket, not your em­ployer’s. Some­thing a beer-soaked Bob Hawke prob­a­bly would have strug­gled to com­pre­hend on live TV al­most 35 years ago. Tom El­liott is 3AW driv­e­time host

NOT ON: Fake sick­ies can be costly for em­ploy­ers. Pic­ture: IS­TOCK

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