How to manage sick leave use

Published 18 January 2024

Are your employees taking advantage of sick leave? 

Glasses of Berocca and power naps sum up the Kiwi sick leave return to work strategy - but what if there is misuse occurring?

Concerns about sick leave misuse have become a pressing issue for many Kiwi employers.

Although the minimum entitlement for an employee for sick leave is 10 days per year -- this entitlement accrues so that an employee at any one time may have 20 sick days available to them.

Navigating this delicate matter requires a careful approach to maintaining a fair and productive work environment.

So, let's delve into how you can effectively manage sick leave use without taking a nosedive into unnecessary complications.

What are the first steps to managing sick leave use?

Initially, it's important to have a sick leave policy in place and certain expectations around providing medical certificates.

It is also important to have some documentation that backs up any concerns, so it's not often as straightforward as an employee calling in sick and then attending a festival and posting this online where it's quite obvious. You can see you need to review the employee's sick leave history and determine whether there's a pattern emerging. And if there is, then you might have a better foundation for having this initial conversation with them.

How to implement a fair process

1. Informal conversation

Approach the employee with an informal chat. Present your concerns openly, allowing them to share their perspective. This conversation should be an opportunity for the employee to explain any underlying personal issues contributing to their sick leave history. Remember! Keep an open mind and resist predetermining outcomes.

2. Justify a disciplinary process

If after the informal chat, your concerns persist and you have a valid reason to believe in genuine misuse, the next step is to justify a disciplinary process.

This justification may stem from:

  • their inability to perform the duties that are outlined in their employment agreement
  • the productivity impact on the business
  • or concerns about trust and confidence in the employment relationship

 This step is crucial in ensuring that your actions are not arbitrary but rooted in valid concerns.

3. Invitation to a formal meeting

Following the justification, the fair process involves inviting the employee to a formal meeting. This meeting should be conducted with professionalism and empathy. Communicate your concerns about their sick leave use and reference the relevant policies or clauses in the employment agreement that are not being followed. This is a pivotal moment for transparency and clarity.

4. Consider a warning and setting clear expectations

Based on the outcome of the formal meeting, if you deem it appropriate, consider issuing a warning. This step is not punitive but rather an opportunity for improvement. Set expectations for future behaviour, specifically addressing the concerns raised during the process. This proactive approach can contribute to a positive change in the employee's attendance patterns.

A formal disciplinary process is very dependent on the facts and each situation can change from one another.

So if you do find yourself in this situation, we recommend contacting an HR today consultant before you proceed down the path any further.

Our friendly HR and employment experts are just an email or a phone call away.

Email us at help@hrtoday, or call us on 03 366 4034 for professional, one-on-one guidance.

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