Sickies cost Australia $30 billion

Winter is here, and along with it comes the likelihood of Australian workers taking a ‘sickie’ – but it seems we’re not very good at using our sick days effectively.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show the average Australian public sector worker takes about eight to nine days of sick leave annually. It is estimated that workers taking sick days costs the economy $30 billion a year.

Although workers are prone to taking a sickie every now and then, it seems Australians are not so keen to use their accrued annual leave, preferring instead to ‘soldier on’ – even though they are presenting symptoms of sickness.

It is a part of a culture referred to as ‘presenteeism’, which is when people battle through illness and go to work or socialise instead of resting at home. This practice can cost companies as much as sick days, partly because sick workers can spread infection and disease on to their fellow workers, forcing them into taking sick leave.

Dr Brian Morton, chair of the Council of General Practice for the Australian Medical Association, said people are usually contagious a couple of days before they start presenting symptoms, meaning workers in close contact of sick colleagues are at increased risk of catching the cold or flu.

“Most people I think are a little bit stoic and think that it’s just a cold, ‘I can get over it, work’s more important’. But we really need to think about our co-workers and perhaps the people on the bus or the train, so that we’re not spreading it to others.”

To help stop the spread of colds and flu, Mr Morton recommends that people should cough into the crook of their elbow or onto their shoulders in order to stop germs being passed along via hand contact. He also advises that people keep tissues handy, wash their hands often and use antibacterial wipes where possible.


Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.