Staff pulling a sickie before Melbourne Cup? Here’s what (or not) to do

The Melbourne Cup has run on the first Tuesday of November for more than a century, and workers have been pulling sickies on Monday for almost as long.

You can hardly blame people, a four-day weekend to kick off November is enticing, especially towards the tail-end of the year.

It all begs the question: why not move the holiday to Monday? Either way though, for employers and the economy the bills add up, especially given Grand Final Day is also a public holiday now.

There are some helpful things to remember for employers, which also serve as a caution to workers trying to get away with faking start-of-summer flu.

McDonald Murholme’s principal lawyer Trent Hancock says it’s unlawful to dismiss someone for pulling a sickie, but unexplained absences can justify disciplinary action.

“An employee needs to give reasonable notice to their employer and must advise of the period or expected period of the leave,” he said.

“They must also, on request from their employer, provide evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person that the leave was taken as per their explanation.”

Evidence includes a medical certificate, or, in some cases, a statutory declaration.

“At the least, the employee may encounter difficulties in accessing paid personal leave entitlements, but it can also lead to disciplinary action,” Hancock said.

“If employees are concerned about their sick leave entitlements, seeking legal advice is recommended.”

There’s another angle to this though — happy employees are good employees, and depending on the business, the Monday before Melbourne Cup Day might not be very productive anyway.

A four-day weekend could be just the mini-break workers need to finish off the year with a strong month-and-a-half.

It’s the race that stops the nation, but employers need to consider whether it should also stop their business.

Reference: ‘Staff pulling a sickie before Melbourne Cup? Here’s what (or not) to do’, Smart Company, Tuesday 6th November 2018.