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Employee absenteeism – How to manage it

Every employee relationship is based on a legal contract containing a commitment by the employee to attend work as agreed and to perform duties to the best of their ability and in the best interest of you, their employer.

As an employer you juggle managing your business efficiently with employee absentism.  Whilst sick leave is not an employee entitlement, an employer has a legal and safety obligation to recognise that it is a benefit of an employees’ employment.

To effectively manage absences, an employer must have accurate information about an employee’s illness, limitations for work and expected length of absences.  This information can be obtained from a medical certificate.  Sections 97 and 107 of The Fair Work Act 2009 provide that if an employer requires it, an employee must provide evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person that sick leave is taken because the employee is not fit for work because of a personal illness or a personal injury. An employee’s entitlement to take sick leave is contingent on them complying with the evidence requirements (vii). What constitutes “reasonable evidence” depends on the circumstances; however, a medical certificate or a statutory declaration should be accepted as appropriate evidence.

When faced with absence an employer should:-

  • .Ask questions. Determine the length of absence expected, the type of illness/injury (without crossing privacy lines) and any restrictions upon the employees return to the workplace.
  • Ensure the ill or injured employee is aware of the communication expectations during their absence and if practicable, set up a check in process do you ensure you are not deemed to be harassing them.
  • Discourage someone from coming to work if they have a transmittable virus like colds or flu. 
  • Remember your duty of care. Discuss what they may or may not be able to do safety.  Involve their medical provider if needed.
  • Discuss what you can do to assist their return to the workplace.
  • Ensure that employees know and understand your workplace policy on absence.
  • Consider implementing a wellness program to combat sickness.
  • Identify and monitor unsupported absences, particularly where there is a trend and develop and have procedures in place for unacceptable absences.
  • Equip the workplace with a range of hygiene products that can be used to prevent transmission of cold and flu. These include tissues, soap, paper towels and disinfectant gels and wipes. 

For assistance in dealing with employee absenteeism, contact us at

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