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It’s good business to care: Sick Leave and the importance of wellbeing

Sickness isn’t the same anymore. Covid-19 has made it all the more important for people to stay home when they’re unwell.

Earlier this year, Parliament passed the Holidays (Increasing Sick Leave) Amendment Bill to increase the minimum employee sick leave entitlement from five days to 10 days per year.

While the minimum amount of paid sick days has doubled, the maximum amount of sick leave that can be taken by an employee remains at 20 days.

It’s important to reframe how we think about employees taking sick leave.

Not only do we need to prioritise keeping germs away from the workforce, but we need to consider how sick leave impacts your employees productivity levels and their overall wellbeing.

In fact, making a concerted effort to empower your employees to look after their health and wellbeing has the potential to increase the overall productivity and profitability of your business.

So, if an employee is starting to feel unwell, in any capacity, it’s better for the employee and your business that they take time to recover instead of coming into work when they’re not feeling 100%.

But sometimes workplace culture can get in the way of these conversations. This is where establishing an environment where it’s okay to ask for help is beneficial.

After all, healthier, happier workers are more productive workers, achieving more with their time and producing work to a higher standard.

According to the NZIER, poor wellbeing affects decision making and productivity for an average of 13 weeks.

Imagine the difference in productivity if workplaces put more emphasis on creating a culture where it’s okay to ask for help.

Creating a work wellbeing culture

All workplaces play a central role in building people’s resilience and positive wellbeing, so they can better cope with setbacks, take advantage of opportunities and be productive, contributing members of families, communities and workplaces.

This starts with communicating with your staff and fostering a supportive culture where employees feel comfortable to take leave when they need to.

For example, take time to get to know your team, what makes them tick, and how they manifest stress.

Fostering these relationships goes a long way to creating an open workplace culture where people feel safe and empowered to have discussions about what they need – from sick days and schedule flexibility, through to taking some proper leave to recharge their batteries.

Recognising the signs of employees dealing with poor health or wellbeing means being able to proactively support them to manage their workload at work or while they take time off.

We spend so much time at work, why not make the most of it and reinforce a healthy culture of camaraderie between your employees? Investing in fostering a good culture doesn’t have to cost a lot of time or money.

One thing to consider is how you and your employees talk about sick leave, and whether there’s a benefit in examining what this entails.

A shift happening in organisations across the world at the moment is reframing this as “wellbeing leave” to encompass everything people might feel compelled to take leave for.

Something as simple as changing how we refer to leave can open up how people use this, allowing them to take leave for things that are important to them – or simply take a break for their own mental wellbeing.

Recognising the signs of employees dealing with poor health or wellbeing means being able to proactively support them to manage their workload at work or while they take time off.

And creating a culture where people are empowered to make the right decisions for their own health is essential, whether that’s taking sick leave or spending time to address other wellbeing issues.

Read: Wellbeing top-of-mind for the agri industry

Craig Hudson
Xero Managing Director for New Zealand and the Pacific Islands

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