Unfortunately, imposing disciplinary action on an employee for taking sick days can get you into a lot of hot water. The key message here is that sacking a person for taking too many sick days is probably going to land you in trouble.

Here are some ideas to help you deal with a regularly absent employee, who you suspect is abusing their entitlement to sick leave.

Set a Clear Policy

Make all employees aware of the appropriate use of sick days.  Ensure you have a company policy around their use and that it’s documented on their employment contract. Also, ensure these documents state that medical evidence of illness is required. A medical certificate is the most appropriate form of evidence.

Do Some Digging

Sit down and have a chat with your employee.  Try and work out what is going on.  Is there a medical problem here which needs to be addressed?  Is there something in the workplace which might be bothering them?  Are they okay?

Be Frank

Explain why it’s important for the employee to be at work and that reliability is an implied part of their employment contract.  Tell them how crucial they are to the operation of the business and that they simply cannot continue working at your business with such a high rate of unplanned absences.

Be Wary of Unfair Dismissal Laws

Under the Fair Work Act an employer is not allowed to dismiss an employee if the employee is temporarily absent from work because of illness or injury.  You may be liable to serious civil penalties if you sack someone just for taking sick days over a short period of time.

There are, however, limits to this rule. If an employee takes extended periods of time off work and in particular, if they exhaust their sick leave, then depending on the circumstances you may have a reasonable case for dismissing that employee.

Rachel Ward
Human Resources and WHS Manager