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Tips for managing a staff member who is routinely absent


Staff absences can have a big impact on the success of a business. Here, we look at two scenarios that often arise and discuss ways to address them.


1. I have an employee who books holidays before applying for annual leave, which leaves me feeling I have no choice but to approve the time off, even if it doesn’t suit the business:

Remind the employee that annual leave is granted at the employer’s discretion, as opposed to being determined at the employee’s election. Whilst annual leave won’t be unreasonably withheld, booking a holiday before applying for leave doesn’t guarantee the employee will be approved for the time off.

Reiterate to the employee how much notice they are required to give when applying for annual leave (direct the employee to your policy, if you have one) and let them know that approval of time off will be determined according to the operational requirements of the business at the time the leave is to be taken.

Finally, advise the employee that, even if their leave applications have always been accommodated in the past, if they continue to book holidays in advance of being approved for annual leave, in future they risk the disappointment of having to cancel the holiday if the leave cannot be approved. If these sorts of discussions have been held with the employee previously but they continue to book holidays before gaining approval for time off, it may be necessary to point out that their leave application will not be approved in this instance and failure to attend work during the period will be treated as an unauthorised absence which may jeopardise their continued employment with your business. It is always wise to have a business reason to support the decision for non-approval of the leave. Severe action such as this would generally be a last resort, but there may be instances where you are left with no other option.


2. I have a staff member who regularly takes days off ‘sick’ but I’m not sure whether the absences are genuine:

No employee can help being genuinely unwell and good employers always understand this, but there are certainly employees in the workforce who seem to push the limits on what is reasonable when it comes to accessing personal/carer’s leave.

Perhaps the first and simplest step in managing absences which may not be genuine is to not display the personal leave accrual balance on an employee’s payslip. This is not a requirement by law (though you do need to be able to produce this information if an employee requests it) so if you get the sense you have an employee who ‘chucks a sickie’ whenever they know they have a day accrued and owing, not identifying this information on their weekly/fortnightly payslip may assist in curtailing this behaviour.

The next step is usually the most useful in managing absences which may not be genuine and that is to start requiring evidence to support the absences. Evidence would include a medical certificate or statutory declaration and, as long as you are not bound by a policy that says otherwise, you can ask for evidence to support even single day absences on personal/carer’s leave. That’s because the National Employment Standards (NES) which provides for the entitlement to personal/carer’s leave, allows for evidence to be required in support of an absence regardless of its duration.

If you have any questions about this information please call the team at Employer Services on 3220 3500.

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