Hungover Kiwis really can claim sick leave

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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.

“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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  • Rebecca on 7/04/2016 4:33:53 p.m.

    Surely however the employees duties to be present at work and actively getting themselves into an unfit state so they cannot attend work is not in line with that obligation?

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