Do your staff take sick leave when they're genuinely unwell, or just when they're sick of turning up to work?

If absenteeism and non-genuine sick leave was an issue this year, it's time to review your workplace culture around sick leave.

Studies have found that absenteeism costs New Zealand workplaces around $1.5 billion per year.


How do employers reduce the cost of sick leave and curb unwarranted absenteeism?

Changing your workplace culture is the best way to reduce the toll of absenteeism. Providing more generous sick leave entitlements can create a culture of trust and generosity, which staff are less likely to abuse.

Employers should monitor and manage staff absenteeism to see if a pattern of sick leave is emerging.

Unlimited sick leave

Are you sick of staff throwing sickies?

It may sound counter-intuitive, but unlimited sick leave can lower the cost of absenteeism.

Many New Zealand employers have found that unlimited sick leave changes the way employees use sick days. Rather than aiming to use every day of their sick leave entitlement, staff take sick leave only when it is required.

The ANZ has implemented a managed sick leave policy that has an uncapped sick leave entitlement.

While the bank reserves the right to limit its sick leave, it has given staff paid time off for serious medical conditions. This creates a culture of generosity and trust, which staff are less likely to abuse.


"In our experience, if you give people an annual allowance of five or 10 days' sick leave, they tend to see it as an entitlement. Because we offer flexibility we find that when our people are well, they're at work," ANZ General Manager Talent and Culture Michelle Russell says.

Duvet days

Want to hit the ski-slopes, the surf, or spend the day in bed?

An additional day's paid leave known as a 'duvet day' or 'fun day' allows staff to do whatever they want, without needing to make any excuses.

Duvet days can improve the culture of a workplace, allow staff to catch up on personal appointments, and take time out when they're tired or stress.

However, employers should have rules around the use of duvet days to ensure productivity.

Ask staff to schedule their duvet day at least a week in advance, so you can keep track of their absence. Otherwise, you may risk several staff members being absent on the same day.


Ask for a medical certificate

Have you ever suspected that a staff member's sick leave might be a bad case of Mondayitis?

Medical certificates are still proving useful to curb non-genuine sick leave.

Perhaps the fear of being asked for a medical certificate deters some staff from mooching around home on a Monday morning.

If the sickness is genuine, both the employee and the employer will benefit from the employee receiving medical attention for an ongoing health issue.

However, expect to be disappointed if you think that an employee's medical certificate will disclose any detail around the diagnosis. Patient privacy prevents doctors from disclosing the nature of the medical condition.


Do you want to curb sickies while assisting staff with their recovery?


Consider a "carefrontation" upon their return to work. Known as a "confrontation in a caring manner", a carefrontation with staff reduces absenteeism by addressing health and safety concerns.

When an employee returns to work, you can check whether they are fit and able to carry out all tasks required of their position.

Staff can discuss potential health and safety risks, such as workload and other workplace stressors that may be contributing to their sickness or injury.

Managers can raise concerns over an employee's sick leave records, including any patterns of sick leave.

Speaking with staff is likely to discourage them from taking non-genuine sick leave. Employees may think twice about taking a "sickie" if they know you are aware of a pattern of sick leave.

For more information, see the KiwiBoss Managing Sick Leave webinar series: