Absence among workers rises sharply as virus takes hold

I am on sick leave sign on the workplace.

Employers are finding themselves struggling as more employees are calling in sick in the wake of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

SME advisory service provider Employsure has revealed it saw a 150 per cent spike in absence-related calls over the last week and a doubling of virus-related calls as employers look for help in managing their absent workforce.

“Employers are struggling with staff who are calling in sick, which is understandable given the current circumstances,” Employsure’s Head of Operations, Stephen Roebuck, said. “Additionally there are a myriad of Coronavirus related scenarios, such as the new self-isolation measures, potential forced workplace shutdowns and what entitlements apply to staff in those situations.”

“Basically, if the employee is calling in sick and they have a medical certificate, then usual Personal Leave will ordinarily apply,” Roebuck explained. “Employers don’t need to do anything different in this regard. If the employee’s symptoms are consistent with those of COVID-19 or cold and flu generally, we’re encouraging employers to direct that their staff get a medical clearance before returning to the workplace. Employers are within their rights to request this.”

Roebuck added. “For employees who have to self-isolate after international travel, if they are sick then personal leave applies. If they are not sick, then they may have access to accrued leave such as annual leave or long service leave. If those are not an option, then unpaid leave applies.

“Remote working is also a big issue right now. Not just managing the technology, but also understanding work health and safety obligations and the duty of care to employees who are working remotely,” Roebuck said. “The shift has been so sudden and dramatic, employers are really struggling to understand their obligations to employees. The situation is evolving so rapidly, we’re urging business owners to stay informed and up-to-date.”