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Sickies often mental health days in disguise: -

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Sickies often mental health days in disguise: poll

Adam Harvey reported this story on Friday, November 11, 2011 08:22:00

TONY EASTLEY: Australian workers have been known to take a sickie or two during their years on the

A new poll says that stress and family commitments are the main reasons - workers also blame bad
bosses and then there is a seaside link.

Adam Harvey filed this report.

ADAM HARVEY: More than 60 per cent of workers have taken a sickie at some point but staff say their
bosses should shoulder some of the blame.

A new galaxy poll of 1300 staff says that of the workers who say they have a bad boss, one in four
admit to taking days off when they aren't sick.

John Buchanan is the director of the Workplace Research Centre at the University of Sydney.

JOHN BUCHANAN: It is well known that productivity is a direct function of employee engagement and
loyalty. If you hate your boss there is obviously a serious problem with engagement and that will
manifest itself in behaviours like taking a sickie.

ADAM HARVEY: But the biggest reason for illicit days of work is anxiety.

JOHN BUCHANAN: The management philosophy that was dubbed management by stress has had a huge impact
on what we call work intensification.

Now management by stress is basically a management philosophy which says cut staffing levels
basically until the workforce cracks and then top them up a little bit. So the fact that there are
problems with sickies and people feeling anxious and burnt out is a function of new management
philosophies and new funding arrangements.

ADAM HARVEY: Gary Brack is the chief executive of the Australian Federation of Employers and

GARY BRACK: There is a bit of reputation in Australia about using a sickie simply as another avenue
for having a good time or taking a day off or going to the beach.

Obviously there are a lot of genuine people who take, who take sick leave as opposed to an illicit
sickie to the extent that people take it off illicitly, obviously that reduces efficiency and
raises the cost of running a business.

ADAM HARVEY: Is there the potential that a person who has taken a so-called mental health day is a
more effective worker when they do come back to work?

GARY BRACK: Well I think the term quote 'mental health day' unquote is really one of those things
that is described elsewhere as a sickie, their 'mental health day' is spent at the beach.

ADAM HARVEY: And that's exactly where a lot of workers who aren't really sick end up going. An
auditor-general's report has found that the closer you live to the beach, the more likely you are
to take a 'sickie'

But wherever you go, Gary Brack says hating the boss isn't a valid reason for not turning up.

GARY BRACK: The fact is that the world is never going to be perfect and even though employers may
have imperfect workplaces, they still have a right to expect that people will turn up. If the only
basis on which people turn up is that the workplace is healthy and perfect, then the fact is we'll
have virtually nobody at work because very few workplaces are actually like that.

So I think the excuse that, oh yes, it wasn't a perfect workplace or I didn't like the boss or yeah
I just felt a bit burnt out on that day, that suggests that we can take any reason we like in order
to have the day off.

ADAM HARVEY: But for those of us who aren't at the beach today, there's always the consolation that
at least it's a Friday.

TONY EASTLEY: Adam Harvey.