17 bosses explain how they'll deal with employees who plan on 'chucking a sickie' the day after Australia Day

Plan on chucking a sickie on Friday, after Australia Day? Here’s what Australian bosses think about it. Photo: iStock.

This year, Australia Day falls on a Thursday, which means Friday is business as usual. Yuck.

Because of this, an estimated 380,000 Australian workers will be “chucking a sickie” the day after the national public holiday.

While some argue it should be a long weekend anyway to celebrate the event, the unexplained absences are expected to but a strain on businesses — more than $50 million to be exact, according to News.com.au.

With this in mind Business Insider asked bosses what they thought of it, and how they planned to manage the situation. Here’s what they had to say.

Andre Eikmeier, co-founder and joint CEO of Vinomofo

Well, we have a rule here at Vinomofo – if you play up, you show up. Being a wine company, it’s a fairly important productivity rule. Having said that, we’re pretty flexible with our work environment. No problem if someone wants to work from home, for whatever reason. Plus, balancing personal and family time is important – it’s a good chance to get away for a long weekend with the family, and we wouldn’t begrudge anyone that. Everyone here knows what they have to get done. That’s what counts.

Dean Jones, co-founder and CEO of GlamCorner

I think the root of this concern is grounded in the type of people an organisation is built to recruit in the first place. At GlamCorner we always aim to recruit bright, kind and dedicated people who share the same dream as us to change the way women in Australia consume designer fashion. So our team is pretty comfortable about requesting a real day of leave at times like this as opposed to “chucking a sickie”. Being transparent about this allows our company to plan around it in terms of team resourcing. In fact, we regularly see long weekends and public holidays as a great opportunity to encourage our team to have some well-deserved downtime anyway, including ourselves!

Graham Jackson, CEO of Fluent Retail

Yes, this Friday will be a company holiday. With Australia Day on Thursday and the Chinese New Year on Saturday, which many of our Australian employees observe, we have called Friday an additional free holiday to provide our team a four-day weekend to spend with friends and family while it is still school holidays.

Nick Bell, founder and MD of WME Group

Nick Bell. Photo: Supplied.

A few years ago, we decided to make it company policy that team members are required to provide a medical certificate if they take a sick day. It’s definitely had tangible results.

Our team is generally pretty good with taking annual leave, which is an option if they decide they want to take this Friday off. We’ll approve it – it just means it bites into their overall hours of leave accrued (and they’ll likely cop a bit of light-hearted riffing the following Monday if they happen to pull a Friday sickie!).

Taryn Williams, founder and CEO of TheRight.Fit

We’re a start up, so quite a few of our team members will be working Australia Day. Our team get a lot of autonomy to set their schedules – we’re all in this together, so some of the team elected to use this day for strategy and planning sessions.

The reward is that we have some of our interstate team in town at the same time so we will throw a big dinner on Friday 27th which is a great way to end the week.

Daniel Littlepage, managing director, Australia and NZ at 90 Seconds

A public holiday on a Thursday is every employee’s favourite day. It’s practically an extra-long weekend. For many that attend work on the Friday, productivity usually takes a dramatic plunge.

We understand that employees are human and some want to gain the benefit of having an extra day off work. We run a very transparent business and encourage our team to simply make up the hours across the following week or work “pool-side” if needed. That’s the beauty of being able to use technology to continually operate in the most productive way. We are also fortunate that we are a global organisation, operating a cloud based video production platform, so we can pull resource from other regions if all else fails.

Greg Bader, CEO of Rent.com.au

To be honest I’m not too fussed about people taking the day off on Friday.

There’s plenty happening at the moment at Rent.com.au and many of our people have been working late and on the weekends.

Being an online startup business we tend not to be too formal with forms – we actually hate paperwork to be honest – and we’re pretty flexible on working hours and location.

I fully expect many of our staff to take advantage of this later in the week and have a four-day weekend for Australia Day.

John Winning, CEO of Appliances Online

John Winning. Photo: Supplied.

I believe if you have the right culture your people will feel comfortable asking for the time off and will have faith that, if they plan ahead, you will work with them to make sure they get it. If people are willing to let your business down because they are hungover, or worse because they were too afraid to ask for time off, it is a reflection of the company culture. At the Winning Group we trust our people to have planned ahead and make the right decisions.

Michael Jankie, CEO of PoweredLocal

At PoweredLocal we don’t care too much about what day of the week employees are at work. We’re a company that operates to meet the best outcomes, not the most uniform days and hours of the week. While some core activity is time and day sensitive, we cover most of that with a 24/hour web-chat team.

For our core team, we’re happy for them to work hours and days that suit them. Importantly, we are open about this. It’s not unusual for someone to take a long weekend off without having to hide it, just as much as it’s not unusual to have people in our office on a public holiday, because they love the occasional silence and ability to focus.

For us, it’s an understanding that you will never really get a full day of productivity from someone, so if you’re flexible and work with your employees, the entire company’s productivity increases.

Adam Laurie, co-founder and MD of Digital360

We’re not expecting Friday to be different to any other day. We have a smaller team, so a simple reminder to put in annual leave a few weeks in advance is usually enough to prepare for these events. Though I might get some more Berocca for the office, just in case!

Adam Stone, founder and CEO of Speedlancer

Sick days aren’t something I worry about as an employer. I’ve always run a global team working on different time zones – if I was rigid about hours I wouldn’t be able to run an international company so smoothly.

I’m focussed on outcomes, not hours. I hold my staff accountable to the goals and tasks I assign to them. If they finish all they need to do early, it doesn’t bother me if they take time off. This arrangement has significantly helped with employee retention, which is essential when running a business of any size. That flexible approach to work is the backbone of the platform we’ve developed with Speedlancer. Businesses can even scale their workforce up on any given day by assigning tasks to freelancers on platforms like ours when staff are home sick.

Luke Anear, founder and CEO of SafetyCulture

Luke Anear, founder and CEO of Safety Culture. Photo: Belinda Pratten/ Supplied.

I encouraged the team to take a day of leave and have a four-day weekend. Australia Day on a Thursday is a great opportunity to take a small break, which we encourage everyone to do each quarter.

Adam Brimo, founder and CEO of OpenLearning

At OpenLearning we worked together to make our office a space that we all want to work in. Community and inclusivity are important to us, and trusting the people we work with underpins that. That’s why if people are sick then they take a sick day, if they want a day off or a holiday then they use their holiday leave.

I think it’s unfortunate that there is a culture of lying about whether or not you are sick just so you can take a day off. I trust everyone on our team to manage their time appropriately and decide when they want to take a holiday so I’ve never rejected a leave request. Some of our team have decided to take a holiday on Friday, others may work from home and if someone says they are sick, I trust that they are sick.

Michael Rosenbaum, co-founder and CEO of Spacer

At Spacer we encourage our team to take advantage of the extended long weekend by taking an annual leave day on Friday. The beauty of working in a startup in an exciting emerging sector like the sharing economy with an extremely passionate team is that we all feel like we are creating something special. We get a real buzz out of what we are creating together, with people we enjoy working alongside.

Grant Thomson, managing director of Versent

If you create a culture of trust, honest feedback and a working environment where people are working on their passion every day. do you get this issue? Versent is a fast-growing tech startup and we work on some of the coolest, most innovative cloud transformation projects in Australia. We have a very flat structure where everyone helps each other. We don’t want to let each other down and we all want the business and our clients to succeed. We usually have the opposite problem and have to remind people to take their leave allocation during the year.

Alexis Soulopoulos, co-founder and CEO of Madpaws

Alexis Soulopoulos. Photo: Supplied.

While this may be a problem in large corporations, being a young startup with honesty and transparency as some of our core values, so far we haven’t had any issues and I don’t think we will. If someone needs a day off, they would just follow the process to request a paid leave day. I think a strong and transparent company culture with clear expectations around results is the best way to prevent this. It also helps that a group of us are celebrating Australia day together.

Matthew Kates, country manager ANZ at Zerto

With the Australia Day public holiday falling on a Thursday this year, we’re expecting a few four-day long weekends to be taken across the country. What I’m saying to my team at Zerto is that Friday is likely to be quiet and it’s a great time of year to spend with family and friends, so if you’re planning to take the day off, please go and enjoy the nice weather. What we will ask is that they take the whole day off rather than attempting to work remotely while they’re distracted by holiday activity; I’d much prefer they get a chance to relax and switch off. Officially taking the day off also makes it easier for the remaining team who plan to work on Friday; they know which of their colleagues will be on board to attend meetings and respond to enquiries.

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