“While some may think that an employee who takes sick leave to recover from a bad hangover is committing an act of misconduct, this is not the case,” reveals leading business advisor Mark Robotham.
When the Holidays Act was introduced, legislators declined to include a definition of the term “sick” – so it remains open to interpretation.
According to Robothom, the last time the Court of Appeal was asked to clarify, it responded with the frustratingly vague: “unfitness for health reasons of any nature and however caused.”
“An employee who is hung-over is just as entitled to claim sick leave as an employee with the flu,” he told Stuff. “Your employee may even admit they are hung-over, without comeback.”
In fact, it’s probably better if your employee did tell the truth and stay at home with that stabbing headache – they’d be at less risk of potential misconduct claims which could arise from being dishonest or turning up to work under the influence of alcohol.
Employment lawyer Craig Mundy-Smith told the news outlet that, in reality, employers should give a little slack to employees – as long as it’s not all the time.
“If this is an irregular occurrence, ‘suck it up’ and let it pass,” he said. “You do not want a hung-over person at work and everyone has the right to go celebrate once on a while.”
Mundy-Smith says employers should only start to worry if the issue is happening repeatedly – either with one specific employee or across the workforce in general.
“The bigger issue is if this is a recurring problem, and whether this is an organisational issue or specific to an employee? If it's a specific employee, I would be having stern words with them and noting it on their file,” he said.
“If taking sickies is commonplace in your organisation, this could be a sign of lack of clear leadership and direction on your part,” he warned. “As a leader it's your job to create a motivating and stimulating work environment where people want to come to work.”
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You’re absolutely certain an employee spent the night drinking heavily and now they’re suddenly “too sick” to come into work – so what can you do about it? Well, as it turns out, not a lot.