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Crackdown threatened on malingering pubes

By 30 December 2013 49

The Australian is running with glee on news of a crackdown on sickies in the public service:

Senator Eric Abetz, the Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, said “taxpayers are entitled to expect that their money is spent efficiently and effectively, with minimum waste on excessive sick leave”.

“Managing unscheduled absence is a critical issue for the Australian Public Service and is being addressed at the highest levels of the service,” Senator Abetz told The Australian. “Where agencies or departments have problems in this regard, agency heads should be taking steps to reduce sick rates.”

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49 Responses to Crackdown threatened on malingering pubes
#1
steveu10:11 am, 30 Dec 13

Treat the people like human beings, instead of employing ‘constructive dismissal’ management practices, and expect the number to drop. Simple.

With their renewed zest in a crackdown on ‘unplanned leave’ (I hope that definition is clear across all the public sector and doesnt vary) I think the dumbest thing that could happen is this compells people who are really sick drag themselves to work. Now that would be plain stupid.

#2
johnboy10:19 am, 30 Dec 13

I suspect they’re hoping to up the attrition rate

#3
steveu10:27 am, 30 Dec 13

johnboy said :

I suspect they’re hoping to up the attrition rate

Agreed, both side of politics have been doing this for almost two years now, but I suspect when they have publicly announced they have budgeted for redundancies, alot of people are probably going to sit tight till they get handed the envelope…and use up their sick leave whilst they are waiting.

#4
Roundhead8910:29 am, 30 Dec 13

Sickies? Perish the thought. When I was in Treasury we called them Dodulois – Day Off Due To Lack Of Interest.

#5
HiddenDragon10:43 am, 30 Dec 13

A crackdown on sickies, isn’t that un-Australian?

But seriously, this is just a further sign that all the savings options, including many which would have been looked at repeatedly in the past, are being trawled through.

#6
Mr Evil10:44 am, 30 Dec 13

Good on him; and I look forward to seeing a similar press release from EricA tackling another huge wastage issue:

Senator Eric Abetz, the Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, said “taxpayers are entitled to expect that their money is spent efficiently and effectively, with minimum waste on claims from senators and ministers for travel to private weddings, personal investment property inspections and other non-work related expenses”.

#7
Pollushon11:06 am, 30 Dec 13

The jackasses proposing the crackdown are the exact folk who’s work ethos is to ride the knife’s edge, grab what you can cos you’re entitled……

I had 6 this year, 2 for me and 4 for the kids. I have about 90 accrued after 8 years, I think that’s pretty good considering I’ve have two snot nosed kids since 04. Then again I was born and bred in the private sector.

Nevertheless when I was crook, it fell on a Thursday/Friday. I’ve been sick before, I didn’t go to a quack, I drank fluids and got lots of rest and low and behold by Sunday I was all good. So come Monday, it’s Stat Dec time, to go on my personnel file. Not the end of the world, but after 8 years of loyal and productive service it certainly reminds me that such things are meaningless and the APS is a sterile and cold environment.

I’d say if they looked into root cause they’d find that a lot of sick days would be from folk looking for other work and folk genuinely stressed/depressed. The APS is a very toxic place to be right now, nothing like the uncertainty of your future to bring you down and a bloke with a wingnut head telling you that the lottery is in progress, he’s looking for 12k winners. On top of that, where I am, all the good (intelligent), hardworking resources have left or taken a VR, leaving a smaller number of competent resources, who have way more responsibility than previously with the same amount of deadwood!

#8
IrishPete11:09 am, 30 Dec 13

Now please correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t sick leave require a medical certificate, unless it’s less than a certain number of days (3?), and less than a certain number in a year (7?)? So perhaps the problem is gullible doctors? I look forward to Mr Abetz taking on the Australian Medical Association. The Libs’ Griffith candidate may have something to say about that.

Sick leave is an entitlement – if the government is looking at cutting entitlements, it will probably have a fight on its hands. If it is accusing workers of taking sick days when not sick, then it probably already has mechanisms for investigating.

Personally I think the requirement to get a medical certificate is stupid unless the illness/injury required you to seek medical treatment anyway – there should probably just be a stricter requirement for the employee to disclose the nature of the illness to their HR folks, while being reminded of the potential penalties if they provide incorrect information. Most of my sick days (and they are few) have been taken as a result of poor sleep, which makes the commute, and possibly even being present in the workplace, more risky than I was comfortable with.

IP

#9
Masquara11:48 am, 30 Dec 13

IrishPete said :

Now please correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t sick leave require a medical certificate, unless it’s less than a certain number of days (3?), and less than a certain number in a year (7?)? So perhaps the problem is gullible doctors? I look forward to Mr Abetz taking on the Australian Medical Association. The Libs’ Griffith candidate may have something to say about that.

Sick leave is an entitlement – if the government is looking at cutting entitlements, it will probably have a fight on its hands. If it is accusing workers of taking sick days when not sick, then it probably already has mechanisms for investigating.

Personally I think the requirement to get a medical certificate is stupid unless the illness/injury required you to seek medical treatment anyway – there should probably just be a stricter requirement for the employee to disclose the nature of the illness to their HR folks, while being reminded of the potential penalties if they provide incorrect information. Most of my sick days (and they are few) have been taken as a result of poor sleep, which makes the commute, and possibly even being present in the workplace, more risky than I was comfortable with.

IP

Walk-in clinic statement is accepted in my workplace, as is a stat dec or an “alternative practitioner” (quack) certificate.

#10
JC12:02 pm, 30 Dec 13

IrishPete said :

Now please correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t sick leave require a medical certificate, unless it’s less than a certain number of days (3?), and less than a certain number in a year (7?)? So perhaps the problem is gullible doctors? I look forward to Mr Abetz taking on the Australian Medical Association. The Libs’ Griffith candidate may have something to say about that.

It varies from department to department, but the gist of what you are saying is indeed correct.

#11
milkman12:50 pm, 30 Dec 13

There are two types of people in most offices: those who come in even if they are on death’s door and those who don’t give a s*** and take a sickie for every sniffle. Policy won’t change this.

#12
JC1:44 pm, 30 Dec 13

milkman said :

There are two types of people in most offices: those who come in even if they are on death’s door and those who don’t give a s*** and take a sickie for every sniffle. Policy won’t change this.

If they have a sniffle then they are sick so entitled to take the day off, even if it is for the benefit of those around who also don’t want a sniffle. A sickie is when you take the day off sick when you are NOT sick.

#13
p12:24 pm, 30 Dec 13

Unscheduled absences are not actually synonymous with sick leave. For example, if a schedule surgery in advance…

The only way organisations will reduce the number of sickies is through a culture of people wanting to be at work. Telling people you’ll give them the third degree when they come back in after a couple of days of feeling crap will not have that effect.

#14
banco4:14 pm, 30 Dec 13

p1 said :

Unscheduled absences are not actually synonymous with sick leave. For example, if a schedule surgery in advance…

The only way organisations will reduce the number of sickies is through a culture of people wanting to be at work. Telling people you’ll give them the third degree when they come back in after a couple of days of feeling crap will not have that effect.

Making the sick days non-cumulative would make a big change (ie sick days don’t carry over from year to year).

#15
johnboy4:16 pm, 30 Dec 13

I always thought paying out a portion of the value of unused sick days would have a salutory effect on absenteeism.

#16
caf4:42 pm, 30 Dec 13

banco said :

p1 said :

Unscheduled absences are not actually synonymous with sick leave. For example, if a schedule surgery in advance…

The only way organisations will reduce the number of sickies is through a culture of people wanting to be at work. Telling people you’ll give them the third degree when they come back in after a couple of days of feeling crap will not have that effect.

Making the sick days non-cumulative would make a big change (ie sick days don’t carry over from year to year).

That has the opposite effect, as people feel the pressure to “use ‘em or lose ‘em”.

#17
SpaceCat4:42 pm, 30 Dec 13

milkman said :

There are two types of people in most offices: those who come in even if they are on death’s door and those who don’t give a s*** and take a sickie for every sniffle. Policy won’t change this.

This attitude drives me up the wall. “Presenteeism” is, IMHO, a bigger problem in many workplaces (particularly in the ‘Berra where people seem wedded to their jobs) than absenteeism.

Where I work, people come in sick all the time. They’re always just “too busy” and just have to come in, dripping with mucus and coughing/sneezing up a storm.

The net result is that everyone in the office gets sick. Instead of taking a sickie or two when they are legitimately sick, my colleagues seem to come in to work, do a day’s work really half-assed, spread the lurgie around which forces everyone to either stay home or come in and work really half-assed.

Cracking down on sick days is a pointless exercise in making the appearance of being tough on those bludging public servants and will acomplish three-fifths of nothing in terms of reducing waste and inefficiencies (in fact, if people are scared to take a sick-day when they’re actually sick, it might just reduce productivity in the long term).

#18
How_Canberran4:52 pm, 30 Dec 13

Typical. Cracking down on sick leave…if you have it, you are entitled to it. Just tell ‘em to bring it on, thats what the Unions are for.

To put an opposite spin on it. I gave them back 330 odd days without so much as a ‘thankyou’ when I walked.

How Canberran.

#19
justsomeaussie5:34 pm, 30 Dec 13

I’d much rather see all these types of leave done away with in return for something like 45 days away from work each year. Much fairer for everyone that way, the healthy who don’t take sick leave, the singles who don’t get carers or parental etc. Just one block for everyone.

#20
milkman6:37 pm, 30 Dec 13

johnboy said :

I always thought paying out a portion of the value of unused sick days would have a salutory effect on absenteeism.

Another idea I’ve seen is to give people a fixed amount of leave per year, and not separate sick and recreational leave. Have sickies, lose holidays…

#21
IrishPete7:14 pm, 30 Dec 13

justsomeaussie said :

I’d much rather see all these types of leave done away with in return for something like 45 days away from work each year. Much fairer for everyone that way, the healthy who don’t take sick leave, the singles who don’t get carers or parental etc. Just one block for everyone.

Conversely, you should be required to use your leave (or most of it) each year. Not doing so keeps other people out of the workforce, costs your employer more when you do take it (because your salary is usually higher then), and is also bad for your health. Ditto long service leave – you should use it within a fixed period, or lose it. If you work in the private sector, you may well lose it if the employer goes belly-up.

IP

#22
milkman8:52 pm, 30 Dec 13

IrishPete said :

justsomeaussie said :

I’d much rather see all these types of leave done away with in return for something like 45 days away from work each year. Much fairer for everyone that way, the healthy who don’t take sick leave, the singles who don’t get carers or parental etc. Just one block for everyone.

Conversely, you should be required to use your leave (or most of it) each year. Not doing so keeps other people out of the workforce, costs your employer more when you do take it (because your salary is usually higher then), and is also bad for your health. Ditto long service leave – you should use it within a fixed period, or lose it. If you work in the private sector, you may well lose it if the employer goes belly-up.

IP

Many private sector firms require you to use most or all or your leave each year, or not exceed a defined leave balance without authorisation.

#23
Kayem9:42 pm, 30 Dec 13

caf said :

banco said :

p1 said :

Unscheduled absences are not actually synonymous with sick leave. For example, if a schedule surgery in advance…

The only way organisations will reduce the number of sickies is through a culture of people wanting to be at work. Telling people you’ll give them the third degree when they come back in after a couple of days of feeling crap will not have that effect.

Making the sick days non-cumulative would make a big change (ie sick days don’t carry over from year to year).

That has the opposite effect, as people feel the pressure to “use ‘em or lose ‘em”.

This was my thought too. Also, I thought there was a benefit that as one accrued unused personal leave over one’s career and as one got older, it provided a good insurance if one unfortunately got really sick later in your work life ie needed complex surgery or chemo or something. If you don’t need to use it, good health to you, but if something serious happens you have it there.

The problem with the other suggestion floating about in this thread of a block of undifferentiated leave for everyone, lumping personal, annual, long service etc together, is that actuarially it would require reducing everybody’s overall entitlements. At the moment, personal leave is a liability contingent on people actually using it – as someone said, they walked away from their career with hundreds of days unrealised. Whereas other people, for whatever reason, burn all theirs up. Annual leave and long service leave are liabilities regardless – they need to be paid out at the end of employment.

If we lumped everything together, and necessarily lowered everyone’s overall entitlement, the people who currently don’t get sick or don’t have caring responsibilities would have less to draw on in the event that they did get sick.

#24
scoobydoo_196811:52 pm, 30 Dec 13

the stats are not clear in this data – sickies (personal leave) also includes time off for parents to care for ill children, my experience is other parents don’t keep their kids home when they are sick because their management does not support them to do so, so they send their kids to school sick and hope for the best and than sit by the phone all day at work waiting for the school to call for the child to be collected. Management where I work say we still have a job to do and people with children are becoming less employable because of it

#25
justsomeaussie3:16 am, 31 Dec 13

scoobydoo_1968 said :

As they should be. If you aren’t performing effective work because you have other responsibilities then it’s hard to begrudge your employer for chosing someone who’s more likely to do more work.

#26
caf8:10 am, 31 Dec 13

scoobydoo_1968 said :

the stats are not clear in this data – sickies (personal leave) also includes time off for parents to care for ill children, my experience is other parents don’t keep their kids home when they are sick because their management does not support them to do so, so they send their kids to school sick and hope for the best and than sit by the phone all day at work waiting for the school to call for the child to be collected. Management where I work say we still have a job to do and people with children are becoming less employable because of it

Maybe they should bring the sick kids into the office then!

#27
EvanJames9:22 am, 31 Dec 13

caf said :

Maybe they should bring the sick kids into the office then!

Be careful what you wish for. I worked for a parent-centric private firm who had a “carer’s room” for parents with sick kids. The idea was they brought the sick kid in, and did their work from inside it. LIke hell they did. So we had “sick” kids being noisy through the office, and their parent focussing on them and doing stuff-all work.

Some parents would rort it during school holidays too, one brought in their three kids for several days running, and it enabled them to work away from scrutiny. Many shoes were bought during that time, we suspected.

#28
thatsnotme9:32 am, 31 Dec 13

banco said :

p1 said :

Unscheduled absences are not actually synonymous with sick leave. For example, if a schedule surgery in advance…

The only way organisations will reduce the number of sickies is through a culture of people wanting to be at work. Telling people you’ll give them the third degree when they come back in after a couple of days of feeling crap will not have that effect.

Making the sick days non-cumulative would make a big change (ie sick days don’t carry over from year to year).

It’d also seriously punish people who fall seriously ill / have serious accidents – like I did a couple of months ago (bad biking fall, smashed arm / shoulder, two lots of surgery, and an arm I’ve still got nowhere near half use of). Because I’ve been a generally fit and healthy person, and don’t take sick leave for no good reason, I’ve accrued enough leave to be off work for about 6 months if needed. As it turned out, I was off for 9 weeks.

Without that leave saved away, I’d have been screwed.

#29
troll-sniffer11:57 am, 31 Dec 13

One thing about the rate of unscheduled absences in the APS: it can be a very good indicator of morale. In my stints in various departments and directorates etc, it was crystal clear that the mood within a branch or team was a barometer of sick and personal leave stats. Some teams, well managed by competent people (yes, oh doubtful ones, such people can be found within, rare though they may be) had very little absenteeism and one felt that to not turn up was not only wrong, but unfair on the others. In other teams, there was little incentive to not ring in and claim whatever malady could be concocted, partly because it was just getting even with those around who you knew were doing the same thing, and partly because it was one way to pay back incompetence in the management.

A truly dynamic pro-active (yay, managed to get THAT word in!) APS model would be looking long and hard at managers for whom unscheduled absence rates were high, and finding ways to deal with them, even if it meant incompetence in management had to be recognised. (CASA might then need a Porcine directorate to manage though).

#30
DrKoresh12:45 pm, 31 Dec 13

I sincerely hope they do their due diligence in identifying actual malingerers and don’t paint people with chronic illness or similar with the same brush.

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