Absenteeism caused by employees taking a ‘sickie’ is an increasingly problematic issue at Australian workplaces, visibly impacting the productivity and profitability of companies.

That the issue is not taken seriously is illustrated by this example: Following the landmark victory of Australia II in the 1983 America’s Cup yacht race, then Prime Minister Bob Hawke famously joked that the boss who sacked anyone for not turning up at work the following day would be a ‘bum’.

It’s quite telling that the Australian culture of absenteeism/sickies is so deeply ingrained that a Prime Minister encourages people to stay at home nursing their celebratory hangovers, much to the dismay of employers.

Along with winter, the flu season has also set in across Australia. Australian workplaces are preparing to work around absent employees who will be calling in sick. In fact, some experts describe Australia as among the worst in the world for taking sickies.

The Australian Industry Group recently published an absenteeism survey that estimates about 20 per cent of ‘sick’ workers are actually totally fine. Cold, flu, headache, migraine and stomach issues are among the most common excuses to stay home. ABS data puts the number of sickies taken by an average public sector worker at 8-9 days per year.

It’s worth noting that absenteeism costs the economy AUD 30 billion each year, at an estimated AUD 4.6 billion cost in lost productivity.

Mitrefinch Australia had recently covered the issue of presenteeism in a blog post titled, ‘What is ‘presenteeism’ and what do Australian managers need to know about it?’ Running parallel to absenteeism, presenteeism is the phenomenon of sick office workers coming in to work while being generally underproductive, and potentially spreading illness to other employees. Both absenteeism and presenteeism present their own unique sets of challenges for employers.

Employers can implement the Mitrefinch employee time and attendance system at the workplace to enable employees to record when they started or finished work, what jobs they have worked on, and the duration of work. All this data feeds into a manager’s dashboard of information and provides insights on production.