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Sickness spreads quickly within the workplace. When an employee shows up to work sick, not only are they more likely to spread their illness, but they also cost your business money. On average, each employee loses 6.5 working days of productivity annually due to employees coming to work sick. So, what can you do when one of your employees comes to work sick? This article explains how to manage sick employees and sets out the key laws surrounding taking sick leave.

How Much Sick Leave Can Employees Take?

The amount of leave your employees are entitled to will depend on how often they work. At a minimum, full-time employees are entitled to ten days of paid personal leave. Part-time employees are entitled to pro-rata of ten days each year, depending on their hours of work. Casual employees are excluded from paid personal leave. 

Employees may be awarded more generous sick leave entitlements depending on their: 

What Are the Notice Requirements for Taking Sick Leave?

If a permanent employee wishes to take sick leave, they must provide notice as soon as practically possible and set out their expected period of leave. 

When an employee takes sick leave, you can request evidence, such as a medical certificate, that sets out the reason for the leave. The relevant modern award may also contain provisions about the type of evidence that your employee must provide.  

Do I Have Any Obligations When an Employee Is Sick?

As an employer, you must ensure the health and safety of your workers. Conversely, your employee must take reasonable care of their health, and not adversely affect the health of others. 

Therefore, if you suspect that an employee is posing a health risk, you can ask them to obtain a medical certificate to indicate whether they are fit for work.

For example, if an employee has signs of a contagious disease such as chickenpox, you will not want them to be in the workplace. You may need to ask them to get a medical cirtificate to confirm whether or not they have chicken pox.

Top Tips for Employers

1. It Starts With Culture

Setting up an organisational culture which supports employees taking personal leave in appropriate circumstances will avoid the spread of sickness to other employees.

2. Sick Leave Policy

You should create a workplace leave policy and establish expectations around when employees can take sick leave. Your employees must be aware of any notice requirements around taking sick leave and any expectations that you have regarding coming to work sick. This will avoid employees coming in when they are unwell because they were not sure whether they were able to take sick leave.

3. Clear Employment Contracts

To clearly outline your position, you may wish to include a clause within your employment contracts about sick leave. This clause should acknowledge that your employee may have to attend a medical examination to determine whether they are fit for work.

4. Wellbeing

To improve health within the workplace, you may wish to focus on health and wellbeing within your business’ culture. This may include offering:

  • wellness programs;
  • subsidised gym memberships; or
  • annual flu vaccinations.

Key Takeaways

As an employer, it can be stressful when sickness spreads around the workplace. Therefore, you should clearly set out what your employees’ responsibilities are if they are sick. This might involve working on improving a culture of health within your workplace and including sick leave clauses in employment contracts. If you have any questions about your employees taking sick leave, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page. 


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