AUSTRALIAN employees are expected to take more than one million "sickies" this festive season, costing their bosses $350 million.
Absenteeism will be particularly high this year - the data suggests 1,069,889 working days will be lost - mainly because Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve both fall on Mondays.
That means anyone who fakes illness on December 24 will enjoy a five-day break. Those who fail to turn up on December 31 will get four days out of the office. About 570,000 sickies are expected on these two days alone.
According to surveys by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Morgan and Banks and Direct Health Solutions on workplace absenteeism, 67 per cent of workers admit to taking a sickie on a Monday. However, employers have wised up. They are now 50 per cent more likely to ask for a certificate for leave taken either side of a public holiday.
Many workplaces that remain open for business during the Christmas-New Year period struggle to cope with higher absenteeism. According to Paul Dunden, chief executive of Direct Health Solutions, service and production roles are at full capacity during the Christmas period.
"As a result these industries are at risk of high levels of absenteeism either side of public holidays over the festive season," he said.
Retailers are particularly susceptible to absenteeism.
"Retail tends to increase shifts during the Christmas and Boxing Day sales period because it is the busiest shopping period in the year," said Margy Osmond chief executive of the Australian National Retailers Association.
The health sector is also vulnerable. Australian Medical Association vice president Professor Geoffrey Dobb said: "Intensive and coronary care and the emergency department are just as busy as any other time of the year, if not busier."
How to reduce absenteeism rates
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