Winter bugs can hammer a small business’s productivity, so it pays to help your people stay healthy — and to understand sick leave rules.
Sick leave absences cost the country more than six million work days throughout 2014 — an average 4.7 days for each employee — at a cost of $1.4 billion, according to the annual Wellness in the Workplace survey. (external link)
The most effective way to protect your business against winter absence costs is to encourage sick staff to take time off. This may seem contrary, but bugs can be highly contagious — one person taking a day or two of sick leave will help prevent passing it on to other employees, who then need time off to recover.
Despite knowing that coughs and sneezes spread diseases, more than a third of New Zealanders go to work when under the weather, according to the Wellness in the Workplace survey.
You might be guilty of coming to work while ill, fearing everything will grind to halt if you’re not on deck. It’s time for a rethink — if you don’t feel you can take time off, can you work from home while contagious?
Flu jabs are another way to reduce working time lost to winter ills. Consider paying for your staff to be vaccinated, either through their medical centre or organise a group vaccination session at your workplace.
Some of your people may be eligible for free flu jabs, eg pregnant women and those with diabetes or chronic asthma.
They account for 45% of illness days for unvaccinated people each winter, Fightflu figures show.
It may seem like you have no choice about catching bugs, but the healthier people are, the less likely they are to get sick. Things you can do include:
Winter is the peak time for being off sick from work, so it’s important you know the rules. Sick leave relies on a good faith relationship — an employer must be confident an employee is sick, while employees need to know they’ll be supported to get well.
The first step is to have a leave policy. The Sick leave clause (external link) in our Employment Agreement Builder sets out what your employees are entitled to, and also includes tips on creating a leave policy.
Once employees have worked for you for six months, they’re entitled to at least five days paid sick leave a year — or more if you want. You must also:
If an employee isn’t yet eligible for sick leave, or doesn’t have enough left to cover their illness, discuss the alternatives such as taking:
Sick leave — Business.govt.nz
If you need proof an employee is ill or injured, you can require them to get a doctor’s certificate. They choose which doctor, but who pays depends on how long they’ve been off sick:
Think carefully before you ask for proof. It’s better for staff relations if you only do this with reasonable grounds to suspect an employee’s illness isn’t genuine.
See the Medical certificate clause (external link) in our Employment Agreement Builder. While you don’t need this clause in your contracts to ask for proof of illness of injury, it has useful tips and common mistakes.