Public holiday absences: managing employee sick leave to ensure workplace efficiency

March 21, 2024

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By Christina Wunder, Head of Direct Health Solutions (DHS), Australia

As Easter approaches, workplaces often find themselves grappling with the challenge of employee absenteeism. While time off is essential for rejuvenation and work-life balance, there is a growing concern about employees taking unnecessary sick leave to extend their holiday public holiday or significant sporting events. This trend not only affects productivity but also poses a significant risk to the overall well-being of the workplace.

A look at the numbers

According to Direct Health Solutions’ (DHS) 2023 absence management and well-being survey, there has been a noticeable increase in employee absenteeism. Overall, employee absenteeism increased by just over 2.6 days (23%) from 2019, with the most common amount of sick leave taken in 2022 being 14 days. 58% of companies surveyed believed their absenteeism increased during 2022. These increases led to disruptions in workflow and can negatively impact the morale of those who diligently fulfill their responsibilities.

Furthermore, the statistics from the survey indicate organisations that believe absence is underreported rose from 36% in 2019 (pre-COVID) to 55% in 2023 (post-COVID). This poses a clear risk to workplace efficiency and underscores the need for proactive strategies to address and mitigate the impact of unnecessary sick leave.

Next steps for employers 

Workplaces must recognise the multifaceted nature of this challenge, understanding that employees may feel compelled to take sick leave for various reasons during the holiday seasons. These reasons may range from burnout and stress to the desire for an extended break. Addressing these factors requires a holistic approach. In addition, some workplaces believe the stress of the pandemic fundamentally changed how employees feel about absences and led to a more prominent entitlement mentality.

DHS’ absence management and well-being survey study also reveals that absenteeism not only affects individual productivity, but also costs businesses billions of dollars. If left unchecked and unmanaged, it can have adverse impacts across a business, as well as signal wider problems in workplace health, safety and culture.

One effective way to tackle the issue of rising ingenuine employee absenteeism is by implementing a comprehensive well-being program that promotes a healthy work-life balance throughout the year. By fostering a supportive and inclusive work environment, companies can reduce the likelihood of employees resorting to unnecessary sick leave as a means of coping with stress or exhaustion.

It is important for organisations to provide tailored tools and implement practices to help workplaces navigate these challenges efficiently. One such tool is a proactive well-being platform that enables organisations to monitor and address potential issues before they escalate into extended sick leave. Such a platform leverages data analytics and employee feedback to identify patterns and trends, allowing companies to intervene and provide support when employees need it most.

Guidance from DHS 

DHS’ absence management solutions empower workplaces to implement fair and transparent policies around sick leave. By clearly communicating expectations and consequences, companies can discourage the misuse of sick leave while fostering a culture of accountability.

DHS’ absence management and well-being survey also emphasises the importance of communication in managing employee absenteeism. Clear communication channels between employers and employees help create an environment where individuals feel comfortable discussing their well-being and seeking support when needed. DHS’ communication tools facilitate open and honest dialogue, contributing to a workplace culture that prioritises the mental and physical health of its employees.

Furthermore, DHS offers targeted training programs for managers to equip them with the skills and knowledge needed to identify signs of burnout or stress in their teams. By providing managers with the tools to address well-being concerns proactively, companies can create a more resilient workforce that is less likely to resort to unnecessary sick leave.

As the Easter break approaches, workplaces must be proactive in addressing the risk of employees taking unnecessary sick leave to extend their time off. The statistics from DHS’ recent absence management and well-being survey underscore the urgency of implementing effective absence management strategies. By leveraging DHS’ tools and practices, workplaces can foster a culture of well-being, reduce unplanned absences, and ensure a more efficient and productive workforce. It’s time for workplaces to focus on employee well-being and take proactive steps to navigate holiday seasons without compromising workplace efficiency.

Learn more > For information or assistance with absence management, contact Christina Wunder [email protected]

Tags: Absence, Absence management, Absenteeism, DHS, Disability and leave, Employee, Holiday, Leave, People, Productivity management, Wellbeing