Money Work Australians love sickies … but beware the dangers
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Australians love sickies … but beware the dangers

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If you like to take a cheeky day of sick leave from time to time, then we have some good news: you are very much in the majority. Australia, it turns out, is a nation of sickie-takers.

According to a survey by Queenstown New Zealand’s tourism body, 81 per cent of Australians have faked a sick day just to get a bit of time off work.

The research is supported by data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which shows public sector workers take between eight and nine sick days a year, for both legitimate and illegitimate reasons.

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The most common excuse for chucking a sickie is “piggybacking on a bug sweeping through the workplace”.

Women are much less likely  to chuck sickies than men.
Women are much less likely to chuck sickies than men.

Younger workers are particularly brazen about their fraudulent days off, chucking an average of five unashamed sickies a year.

Sixty-six per cent said they deserve these days off because it isn’t fair to penalise them for having a strong immune system, while older, feebler colleagues get heaps of time off.

Another 32 per cent said working hard earned them a fraudulent sick day.

As for the 19 per cent minority who have never pulled a sickie, the reasons were overwhelmingly altruistic and self-sacrificing. Thirty-nine per cent said they didn’t want to let their colleagues down, while nine per cent said they didn’t want to miss meetings.

Fifteen per cent were put off because they were afraid of getting caught.

Arrogant men, conscientious women

A recent study showed that men are almost twice as likely as women to get a pay rise by asking for one.

And it turns out that this self-confidence (or arrogance, depending on how you look at it) extends to faking illnesses. Just 11 per cent of men said they wouldn’t take a sickie out of fear of getting caught, compared to 21 per cent of women.

Men also feel more of a sense of entitlement: 41 per cent of men saw their sick leave as an extension of their holiday leave, compared to 26 per cent of women.

The holiday motif continues: 18 per cent of Aussies would pull a sick day so they can add an extra day to their weekend, while 10 per cent of Aussies have called in sick from a holiday destination.

This fact explains why so many workplaces have made it mandatory to provide a doctor’s note when taking a sick day on a Monday or Friday.

In fact, it’s the relationship between sick days and holidays that prompted the research. In a tongue-in-cheek way, Queenstown’s tourism body is using the popularity of the fake sickie to tempt Aussies over the ditch for some spring skiing.

It has recruited Aussie comedian Dan Ilic to its cause. He’s made a film trying to tempt Aussies over to the Land of the Long White Cloud. Yes, it’s a free ad for Queenstown, but hey, it’s funny. And other skiing destinations are available.

But watch out

But before you start practising the fake cough, here’s a word of warning. It turns out that pulling a sickie and getting caught can get you in big trouble.

In 2008 a case came before the Federal Magistrates Court in Melbourne that illustrates the dangers of faking sickness.

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One man’s love of James Hird and Essendon lost him his job.

Nathan Anderson, an employee of Crown Melbourne, was given the sack for using sick leave to go to an AFL match between Essendon and the West Coast Eagles in Perth.

It was a very weird case, because Mr Anderson’s employer knew he was planning to pull a sickie to watch the match, and warned him there would be consequences if he did.

Still, Mr Anderson got a doctor’s note, flew to Perth to watch James Hird’s last ever match, and came back on the red eye flight, whereupon he was sacked.

Mr Anderson’s confidence was based on the fact that he had got himself a doctor’s note. But it turns out that wasn’t enough. The court upheld Crown’s decision to sack him for the simple reason that he obviously wasn’t sick.

However, in another case in 2012, an employee won a claim of wrongful dismissal after he took part in the reality TV show Beauty and the Geek while on sick leave.

The judge concluded that he did not believe “participating in Beauty and the Geek would be likely to trigger” the mental disorder that had got him off work in the first place.

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