ABC Radio with Charlie Pickering

“It’s about looking after your mates if you are sick, don’t come to work, of course, but don’t, don’t fake it. Just do the right thing.”

Bill Lang, executive director, Small Business Australia

Radio transcript.

Charlie Pickering 0:00
Someone with perhaps with a slightly less lighthearted view of sickies is the Executive Director of Small Business Australia, Bill Lang, who joins me on the phone right now. Good morning, Bill.

Bill Lang 0:11
Yeah. Good morning Charlie.

Charlie Pickering 0:12
Now, I presume you’re not taking a sickie today.

Bill Lang 0:15
Now that’s correct, Charlie. And I think just listening to Gareth’s SMS there, it is disappointing that he had everything sort of lined up and in a very honest and legal way, but just imagine if down the track, he got COVID or something else. And he needed four or five days in isolation, and he’d been chucking sickies and effectively using up his sick leave, you know, he’d be facing four or five days of, you know, having to be at home, not working, not getting paid. So, look, I know you’ve been sort of joking about it this morning. It was a bit of fun and you think about the language right, we talked about chucking a sickie or pulling a sickie, having a fake sickie. But you know, sick leave is, you know, properly designed to let people have a rest, to get better when they’re legitimately sick. And it’s just, it’s a bit unfair, particularly on small business employers and on work colleagues, if you’re basically faking it, to make yourself to have an extra long weekend.

Charlie Pickering 1:08
So just how big is the impact on small business in Australia from people taking sickies every year?

Bill Lang 1:15
Well, I can’t give you a specific sort of quantified number. But one of the things that’s quite interesting is the majority of sick days, appear to happen on Fridays, and appear to happen on Mondays. Now, I remember back in my younger days, a big Thursday night, you know, in the CBD of Melbourne, or up in Carlton at a pub. And you could be actually very legitimately sick on the Friday morning. But a big, a big Sunday, a big Sunday night, Charlie, like you got to go to work on Monday. But look what you think about just when you’re working in a team in particular, and we’ve got small businesses now 25% are struggling to have enough staff available in terms of enough hours to keep these businesses operating. So you’re letting down the Small Business family, the employer and your work colleague, so just do the right thing. And, you know, we’ve got a great system in terms of looking after people when they are sick and being able to take some leave and getting paid, but don’t fake it mate.

Charlie Pickering 2:09
Yeah, it’s interesting I’ve got a lot of friends who who live and work in the United States, and they, most people there, a lot of them don’t get sick leave at all. There’s no legislated sick leave that they have, but they definitely have less flexible working situations when it comes to leave, and sick leave. It’s worth reminding ourselves that we actually have it pretty good in Australia with the support we have for workers.

Bill Lang 2:38
Absolutely, Charlie, we’ve got a long history of a you know, a system has been developed over more than 100 years to get the balance, ah pretty right between sort of employers and employees. But let’s let’s remember that more than a million employers are small business families, their small businesses are not the big fat cats. So it’s not like if you’re working maybe for a big corporation, it’s making plenty of profit and you really won’t be missed if you don’t turn up. But, you know, for the heart and soul of local communities, the places where we got our work experience as teenagers, you know, the small businesses, and the majority of people do the right thing and we encourage everybody to do the right thing. It’s about teamwork. It’s about the looking after your mates if you are sick, don’t come to work, of course, but don’t, don’t fake it. Just do the right thing.