FIVEaa Radio with Jade Robran

“I’m sure all of your listeners, there’ll be no one listening to you that will be chucking a sickie because they know it really means letting down their colleagues. Sure, if you’re sick, take some sick leave. But there’s this chucking a sickie, it’s just not the thing to do.”

Bill Lang, executive director, Small Business Australia

Radio transcript.

Jade Robran 0:00
As we all know, tomorrow is a public holiday. And the weather is looking mighty fine, 27 degrees tomorrow, but Friday even better, 36 degrees. So those thinking of chucking a sickie to get a four day weekend after the Australia Day public holiday. Be warned. Bill Lang is the Executive Director of Small Business Australia, and he joins us now. Bill. Good afternoon.

Bill Lang 0:23
Yeah. G’day Jade, how are you going?

Jade Robran 0:25
I’m good. Thank you. Are you going to be at work on Friday?

Bill Lang 0:28
Yep. We’ll be working at Small Business Australia on Friday. We’ve got a small team, very high performing. Help everybody and they’re absolutely coming in on Friday.

Jade Robran 0:38
Trustworthy, committed, love their job?

Bill Lang 0:42
Yeah, absolutely. Because we we get to provide services and support to 100,000s of small business families around the country. And as we know, small businesses are not only an important economic part of the country, but they’re the hearts and souls of every local community. So no, we, we love what we do. We love working with each other. We love helping each other out. And I’m sure all of your listeners, there’ll be no one listening to you, that will be chucking a sickie, because they know it really means letting down their colleagues. Sure, if you’re sick, take some sick leave. But there’s this chucking a sickie, it’s just not the thing to do.

Jade Robran 1:16
Well, how many of the employees will be bracing themselves for that Friday morning phone call or text message do you think?

Bill Lang 1:24
It’s, sadly, in some businesses, particularly sort of larger ones, where people feel they can sort of get away with it, or they feel they’ve got some entitlement to it. You know, there could be 10,000s that will receive, and it won’t even be a call necessarily, Jade, it could just be like a text message or something. And there may be a new a new wave of possible COVID, you know, not feeling too well, I’m not too sure. Well, you’ve you’ve been a stay at home. But look, the majority of employees are very trustworthy, great team members, great contributors, and they do the right thing. And it’s, it’s just sad there are some that are prepared to let let down their colleagues. And secondly, if they’re getting paid, and they’re not actually sick, you know, it’s not a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. That’s, that’s stealing from the employer.

Jade Robran 2:13
Would you call it payroll theft?

Bill Lang 2:15
I think it’s exactly what it is, because they’re still getting paid, so the expense for the businesses is still there, but there’s no work being done. There’s no contribution to the team contribution, to the business and the organisation. So absolutely it’s payroll theft.

Jade Robran 2:29
So what rights do businesses have in this situation?

Bill Lang 2:33
Look, it’s very complicated, which, unfortunately, everything to do with industrial relations, and employment law is complicated. But, you know, depending on the awards people are under, if they’re under awards, or their contracts of employment, you know, they are able to have a number of days that can be used for legitimate sick leave. And in some cases, you know, they need to provide a medical certificate to provide evidence that, you know, a doctor has said, yes, they’re, they’re not well, but look, the majority of workplaces, particularly small businesses are run like an extended family. So it’s about trust. And if you’re not feeling well, and it’s legitimate, you know, the owner and your colleagues don’t want you coming to work when you’re sick, whether it’s the common cold or whatever. But, you know, they don’t necessarily automatically get it just because they’re claiming that they’re sick, particularly if there’s a bit of a track record where they just seem to get sick on Fridays and Mondays Jade.

Jade Robran 3:28
What are the risks for the employee, other than that whole trust is gone? What other risks are involved with chucking a sickie, on Friday?

Bill Lang 3:37
I think, I think not only is that sort of a risk in terms of the nature of the relationship, you know, with their colleagues, because, you know, it’s, it’d be like taking a withdrawal out of someone’s emotional bank account in this case, because everyone’s working hard. And we’ve got one in four businesses actually struggling with having enough staff, having enough hours available from staff to be able to operate the business, we still got one in two small businesses around the country, more than 1 million that are not generating the level of revenue they generated before COVID entered our vocab, you know, three years ago. So there’s a number of businesses still struggling. And you know, over and above, you know, the financial cost, there’s that that extra stress that’s put on those that actually are working when you’re one person or two people down.

Jade Robran 4:25
Yeah. It’s also really hard to find staff and keep them at the moment and it’s a tough situation because you don’t want the slackers but you also need staff. Are there any employees out there or many that might be gifting Friday off?

Bill Lang 4:42
Look, I think what you’ll find is the overwhelming majority of small businesses and small business employers have really good relationships and work closely together with their employees to sort of do what’s in the best interest of everyone’s health, financial security and the operation of the business. So I think we are only talking to some yesterday where they’ve you know, they’ve given Friday off with pay to all of the teams so they can have a great Australia Day long weekend, enjoy themselves, have fun with their friends and family come back refreshed on Monday. So there’ll be a lot of that going on Jade.

Jade Robran 5:20
Bill, thank you very much. Enjoy your day off tomorrow.

Bill Lang 5:23
Yeah, thanks very much, Jade. Happy Australia Day and long weekend to you

Jade Robran 5:27
Brilliant. Bill Lang there, director of Small Business Australia.