Essential HR Update

Essential HR Update - Tuesday 25th May 2021

Well, we now have the first law change for the year, so this Update is focused on managing sick leave in the changed environment.  I had hoped to include some useful insights from the budget, but there seems to be nothing of any note for businesses!  Instead, I give you some reflections from a webinar I attended recently.

  1. Sick Leave Changes
  2. Managing excessive absenteeism
  3. Some thoughts on Communication with staff

Increase in Sick Leave

The Sick Leave bill has passed into law and takes effect two months after Royal Assent!  Unfortunately, they chose not to listen to input to the Select Committee, preferring to go for a simple change.  Let’s assume effective date will be around the end of August.  Staff will get an increase to 10 days per annum (but still to a maximum entitlement of 20 days) and this will apply to each employee on their next entitlement date. 
There are some things you should be doing:

1)    As soon as you are told the change is effective make a variation in your payroll system to change the entitlement amount to 10 days.  There is nothing you can do about this.

2)    Because they have stuck to 10 days for all, be aware that part-time staff will get a disproportionate increase in sick leave.  For example, if you employ someone to work just one day per week (e.g. Saturdays) they will now effectively be entitled to 10 weeks’ sick leave per annum.  You should be considering, before you employ anyone in this sort of part-time role, how best to structure such an employment;

3)    What you can do is ensure you have systems to ensure you take prompt action to address apparent abuse or excessive use of sick leave (see next section).

4)    Arrange to amend your employment agreements and policies for the increase in sick leave and associated systems you wish to introduce.

We cannot change the 10-day entitlement, but we can help mitigate its impact.  And we can help you update your agreements.

Acting on Excessive Absenteeism (or use of sick leave)

Don’t wait for your employee to take 10 days sick leave in one year before you do something.  I am not saying that staff will abuse the privilege, but some simply don’t know how to take action to minimise their need for sick leave. As an employer it is important you keep track of sick leave and as soon as someone is taking leave regularly or more often than one day per month, and you are not aware of the reason, it is good management to start to address it:

1)    Keep a regular check on sick leave taken – ideally get your payroll system to report on sick leave by individual over the last 6 months (or so) – ideally listing each day so you can see at a glance if there is a pattern (like regular Mondays)

2)    As soon as someone seems to be taking more sick leave than usual have a quick private chat with the employee and ask if they are OK, and if there is any reason for the higher level of leave.  You can ask if there is any help needed in avoiding this level of downtime?

3)    If the employee continues to take a higher level of sick leave than their entitlement would allow you can then immediately start a formal management of their leave.  This is a process to be followed carefully – the focus is not on them being sick, but on them being absent from work.

I would expect many ‘abuse of sick leave’ situations will stop as soon as they realise they are being watched.  More importantly, staff may be encouraged to make lifestyle changes that improves their health, with just a little encouragement.  Either way early action against absenteeism is critical to managing it.

We can help with any process once you need it!

Thoughts on Communication with Staff

I attended a webinar given by Marcus Buckingham (a prolific author with books such as “Nine lies about work” and “First break all the rules”) – the webinar was focused on The Future of Work, but initially what I took from it had more to do with staff communications.  Some stats indicated an increasing need for trust in the working relationships between an employee and their team, their team leader and their senior leader.  We are in an environment of change and flexibility and have to just accept that, so trust is becoming even more important in keeping staff working well for you.

My learnings for communication – two things:

1)    When talking about you and your company, tell stories vividly – stories are more clearly understood and remembered.  Use a combination of drama, detail and dialogue.  But don’t make things up, don’t be grandiose and don’t sugar-coat things – honesty and humanness build trust.

2)    Communicate with all individually on a regular basis – suggestion is some 5-10 min every week with each person – touching base as people.  Obviously works best where you only have 5-8 people to lead.


Essential HR are here to help.  For ongoing help our landline is now working – 03 3650532, or contact Mike on 027 2808546 or and Beccy on or 027 2909070. 

I’m happy for you to pass this on to others.

And if you need to conference call, we are all set up with Zoom.

Need help managing staff?

Mike has a wealth of experience advising on every aspect of the employer-employee relationship. I can give you per-phone guidance or work along side you to make things happen.

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