MIKE O’CONNOR
MIKE O’CONNOR

The great Aussie sickie is unAustralian

I HAVE a very clear memory of the first time I took a sickie.

It was a brilliant, blue-sky day and a mate and I decided to spend it at the beach.

All I had to do was call the office and tell them I was sick so I made the call and when my boss answered the phone, I froze.

Eventually I managed to blurt out: "I'm not coming in today."

"Why not?" he asked? A lengthy silence followed as I tried to remember why I wasn't coming in.

"Because I'm sick!" I said finally. ``Really?" he said and hung up.

I was wracked with guilt and dreaded turning up the next day. Nothing was ever said but I knew my boss knew I'd taken a sickie.

I was 19 at the time and it was the last time I ever did it.

The memory returned a few days ago as I stood in the chemist shop waiting for a prescription and saw a sign offering sick certificates or "absence from work" forms for $20.

A check showed the service is entirely legal under the Fair Work Act of 2009 with no restrictions as to the conditions for which pharmacists can issue them.

Melbourne’s Blow Out Bar no longer accepts texts or emails from staff calling in sick, requiring an old fashioned phone call. (Pic: Nicole Garmston)
Melbourne’s Blow Out Bar no longer accepts texts or emails from staff calling in sick, requiring an old fashioned phone call. (Pic: Nicole Garmston)

Every year, Australian workers take 90 million sick days.

Most workers get 10 days paid sick leave. Guess how many days they take on average?

Amazingly, it's 9.7 indicating we have a use it or lose it mentality. The prevailing attitude is that paid sick days are a right and if you don't take them, even though you enjoy perfect health, you will be doing yourself a disservice.

Didn't take his sickies? What an idiot!

Pointing out that days off sick cost the economy around $34 billion a year is unlikely to cut it with someone with a well developed sense of entitlement.

A survey conducted last year by software company TSheets found 40 per cent of workers who called in sick were faking their illness.

If there's a bad outbreak of flu this winter and you happen to work in the Queensland public service, the news is all good.

Thanks to the big hearted state government and its never ending efforts to keep the unions on side, public servants can take an extra month's sick leave on top of their standard 10 days in the event of a major outbreak of flu.

Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace says this incredible largesse has been on the books since 2009, meaning it was introduced by then Labor premier Anna Bligh.

It hardly matters when it was introduced. It plays to the notion that if you get a sniffle, then you'd have to be a mug not to stay home and put your feet up for a month on full pay.

People complain that there are not enough full time jobs, that wage levels are not increasing and that living costs continue to rise.

If the 40 per cent of workers who bludge off their colleagues by throwing sickies turned up to do the day's work for which they are paid, then maybe we'd all be that much better off.

Mike O'Connor is a Courier-Mail columnist.



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