As Australia Day comes around again this weekend, so will that other well respected Australian tradition, the sickie.
Hand in hand with the meat packs and sunburnt street cricketers, managers inboxes everywhere will overflow with sick leave forms like the grease traps of barbeques at the beach.
The NSW Business Chamber alone is expecting an extra 173,000 sick days leading into this long weekend, at a cost to employers of over $36 million. And that doesn’t even include replacement costs and reduced productivity.
While this might sound like a bit of a laugh and even a right of passage for some, it’s a serious problem for employers all over, especially at the small end of town.
Small business owner and founder of Evergreen Advertising, Gill Walker, knows the cost of the sickie better than most.
“It does hurt, and the smaller the business, the more impact the fake sickie has.”
Walker says she is constantly curious about absenteeism around public holidays, especially in light of the substantial cost it imposes on business.
“Consider the implications of an employee on $40,000 per annum, taking one day of sick leave. If the amounts of lost revenue and the cost of others doing their job are taken into account, that leaves my business nearly $2,000 per day worse off, rising to almost $9,000 for a full week off work.”
“This is a considerable amount of money but I am happy to underwrite that cost if the case is genuine. However, I admit to feeling suspicious if the sickie falls just before or after a public holiday.”
Of course there are times when employees fall sick at an inopportune time, and employment agreements cater for these legitimate, if eyebrow raising, instances.
The trouble is for small business owners the luxury to take a day off in these circumstances isn’t usually available, especially when others working in the business are coughing and spluttering over a barbeque somewhere.
“If I don’t work, I don’t get paid, but as this is my business the buck stops with me, so I wear the cost of my own health. I wonder the sick leave rates for small business owners!” Walker exclaims.
“Here’s a view from the top of the small business mountain: It’s tough out there. Margins are tight. Some are keeping their heads above water. Others are not waving but drowning. Anyone who runs a small business in Australia deserves a medal for perseverance or just plain foolhardy optimism.”
So if you’re thinking about chucking a sneaky sickie this weekend, spare a thought for the battling small businesses around the country, because they’re the ones paying for it.