An employee taking extended periods of personal leave can be difficult to manage. It is important to firstly consider the definition of an ‘extended period’. An extended period of time is any time greater than the 10-day entitlement specified under the National Employment Standards. If you have an employee who is taking an extended period of personal leave, it is important to address the issue in a timely yet sensitive manner. If extended periods of personal leave are not dealt with quickly, it is implied that the absence is acceptable to the business.
To run a business effectively, it is considered reasonable that a business requires an employee to perform the inherent requirements of the role that they were employed to do. Extended absences mean that an employee is not performing the inherent requirements of the role. Therefore, there may be grounds to terminate an employee’s employment if they have had 3 months or more of cumulative unpaid personal leave within a 12-month period.
What do I do if an employee is taking extended periods of personal leave?
If an employee is taking extended periods of personal leave, you may consider sending the employee for an independent medical exam. This medical exam will examine the employee’s fitness for work and can assist the process of getting them to return back to the workplace. It is important to note that an employee returning from extended periods of personal leave be required to provide a fitness for work certificate from a Doctor prior to returning to the workplace.
Can I have a conversation with the employee?
In some instances, having a conversation with an employee regarding their extended personal leave may be appropriate and can also highlight any extra support required in their transition back to the workplace such as an ergonomic chair, sit to stand desk, or other modifications. It is important to document any correspondence including conversations with an employee who is taking extended periods of personal leave for added protection to the business.
Preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of an employee taking extended periods of personal leave
Preventative measures can also be put in place to minimise the risk of an employee taking extended periods of personal leave. These include implementing a Leave Policy, a Fitness for Work and Drug and Alcohol Policy, a Performance Management Policy, and a Code of Conduct. Each of these policies will assist in managing extended periods of leave and add a level of protection to the business. It is important to note that these policies are only effective if all staff are aware of them. Although it is important to have policies such as these in place, the most important thing to consider when managing an employee taking extended periods of personal leave is to action it immediately so that the behaviour does not set a precedence.
Potential risks if not managed appropriately
When managing periods of extended personal leave, it is important to be mindful that employees may have access to make unfair dismissal claims, general protection claims or Workers Compensation claims if the absence is not managed correctly.
If you’re looking for assistance in developing effective leave management policies and processes or need assistance in managing employees on extended periods of personal leave, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team, via the chat box here or calling us on 08 6150 0043.
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