The Cost of "Sickies"

"Australia's 123,500 public servants take sickies at a rate 30% higher than the private sector, at any time 20% is absent, and this way they cost taxpayers $900 million a year by clocking up 1.4 million days away from work."

What a great headline! But let's not stop there, here are some others that I have found:

"56% of respondents had taken sick leave in the past for reasons other than illness".

"around 270,000 Australian employees are absent from work on any given day".

"30% of respondents said they had used their sick leave to relax with family, catch up on housework or go shopping".

"the loss of productivity to the economy due to absenteeism in 2006 was estimated at $18 billion".

Statistics like this abound, and I'm sure that you could find one somewhere to suit any industry, occupation or other demographic that you chose. So, when you see statements like this, just keep in mind the phrase that has been attributed to Benjamin Disraeli (or Mark Twain depending on who you ask) who said "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics"

So while we should be just a little wary of these types of statistics which are often contrived to suit a particular purpose, we all know that there is some truth to them. In fact, we all have experience, whether our own or someone else's, of having one too many at yesterdays barbecue, or deciding to catch up on some sleep on a rainy day or of having an appointment that you've been trying to keep forever then ringing work and telling them you aren't well and won't be in today.

In fact taking a "sickie" is something that most of us do and usually feel little guilt about doing. But think about it, taking an unnecessary day off work, particularly in a small team, does have consequences. It may mean that your colleagues have to pick up the slack, that delivery and service deadlines can't be met, or that production costs are blown out.

There are many reasons why we take "sickies", it could be that you need to stay at home to look after a sick child, or it may be that you have had an argument with someone at work or that you have just been working your butt off lately and need a day off to recharge.

Whatever the reasons, employers need to try to create a positive work environment, where a good work / life balance is considered, where employees are treated with respect, where they have realistic workloads and where hard work is recognised and rewarded.

Employers who have this commitment to their employees will do better at reducing "sickies" than those that don't.

Articles are intended to provide commentary and general advice only and should not be relied upon as legal advice.


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