Australia Day: The Consequence of the Great Aussie Sickie

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Understanding the $54 million cost to employers, employees and the economy

Sean Leahy, 2005

It’s a good year for Australia Day. Employers rejoice, as the Friday arrival will hopefully reduce the likelihood of employees chucking a sickie the next day, a work-free Saturday for most. Employees, on the other hand, are thankful they won’t have to conjure up symptoms of an illness that’s not too serious yet convincingly possible, and least likely to rouse a curious boss or colleague.

Year after year, reports and surveys compete to spout out impressive figures on how much sickies are costing Aussies and Australia. In 2017, it was between $54 and $62 million. But what do they really mean? TSheets breaks down the cost and consequences of chucking a sickie, and how the effects linger long after the holiday is over.


Where do the numbers come from?

For full-time adults, the average weekly earnings in Australia, as of May 2017, are $1,608.40. This adds up to approximately $83,600 per annum. An employee will work around 230 days each year, averaging to a daily wage of $360. In 2017, an estimated 380,000 workers chucked a post-Australia Day sickie. This is equivalent to 150,000 extra work days, for the grand total of $54 million.


How does chucking a sickie affect employers?

Sure, it’s easy to trivialise a figure associated with one employee’s bogus sickie when you work for a multinational conglomerate. But Australia is ultimately a nation of small businesses, where 88% have less than 20 employees and every cent counts. With the average annual absenteeism per employee at 9.5 days, that’s an extra $3,500 in wages per employee that employers will have to foot.


How does chucking a sickie affect employees?

When employees chuck a sickie, they leave more than just their employer in dire straits. Their colleagues have to pick up the slack while meeting their own deadlines. It’s a lot of lost time, disrupted productivity and suffering all around. The trust in a perk that’s supposed to protect employees from a deteriorating illness has but eroded, not to mention careers and reputations at risk.


How does chucking a sickie affect the economy?

Imagine 380,000 workers not showing up for their jobs on the same day. Imagine all the work that’s left undone. Imagine all the time and money needed to get caught up. The $54 million doesn’t flow into the economy. Instead, it’s taken away to pay for all 380,000 sickies. And the state of the economy decides our quality of life. So ask yourself this: How many more times can the economy spare $54 million?


But there is hope!

Learn more about annual leave in AU.

As an employer, have a clear leave policy in place and make sure your employees know that chucking a sickie is neither a workplace entitlement nor a patriotic duty. If workplace absenteeism is a festering issue, there might be worse problems at hand to address. Setting the right culture and hiring the right people is easier said than done, but they’re absolutely necessary.


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