The upcoming Easter long weekend presents an opportunity for employees to extend their long weekend to an extra-long one without having to dip into their annual leave balances. Although personal leave entitlements are available to support employees when they are unwell, it is difficult to ascertain whether a personal leave day adjacent to a public holiday is for genuine purposes. The challenge for employers is to determine whether the reasons for an employee accessing their personal leave entitlements is in fact, for genuine purposes.

What can employers do if employees access their personal leave entitlements on a day that is adjacent to a public holiday?

What does the law state?

Under the Fair Work Act and the National Employment Standards, employers are permitted to request notification and evidence to support any personal leave taken. There is also no provision under the Fair Work Act that states that employers can deduct payment for a public holiday to deter an employee taking a personal leave day on a day that is adjacent to a public holiday.

What kind of notification and evidence can be requested from an employee?

Under the Fair Work Act, an employee is not entitled to personal leave entitlements unless they:

  • Notify their employer as soon as practicable that they will not be at work and the expected period of the absence; and
  • Give the employer evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person.

Unless it is impossible to do so, employees should notify their direct line manager or supervisor of their absence prior to the commencement of their work day. Depending on the businesses policies and procedures, the employee may notify their employer of their non-attendance via telephone, text message, email, or voicemail. We recommend employees notify their employer via telephone as this gives the employer the opportunity to see if the employee is ok, if there are any urgent tasks that need attention, and also gauge how genuine the employee is.

It is always a good idea for an employer to follow-up with their employee following any absence and wherever possible, request evidence to support their absence. This may be a doctor’s certificate or another certificate from a medical practitioner. Depending on the businesses policies and procedures, a statutory declaration or other evidentiary support may suffice.

This evidence will determine whether the employee’s absence was for genuine purposes or not.

Are there extra protections that can be put in place?

Implementing policies and procedures are a great way to deter employees from taking absences on days that are adjacent to public holidays. A Leave Policy, Employee Handbook, Employment Contract, or another document that outlines the expectations of employees when they take personal leave is a great way to formalise a business’s leave processes.

These documents will outline what supporting evidence may be required from the employee, and the process for notifying the employer of any absences. It will also outline the consequences for breaching the terms and conditions of the documents.

What to do when the employee returns to work?

When an employee returns to work after taking a personal leave day that was adjacent to a public holiday, it may be appropriate to sit down and have a chat with them. Check in and see if they are feeling any better. This conversation will serve 2 purposes, to firstly show compassion and empathy towards the employee and secondly, highlight that their absence was noticed.

What if there are doubts about the genuine nature of the absence?

Unfortunately, if an employer doubts that an absence was for genuine purposes, even if they have provided a medical certificate, there are few options available. Additionally, if an employee senses that the genuine nature of their absence is being questioned, the workplace relationship may be at risk of being damaged and cultural issues may ensue.

Check out our previous blogs, How to Deal with an Employee Who Is Always Calling in Sick, Documenting Performance Discussions, Understanding Myths Around Sick Leave, and The long weekend is looming –” How to tackle sickies” for some more information about managing employee absences.

If you’re looking for assistance in managing personal leave issues, 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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