We’re all familiar with the old Australian proverb ‘to chuck a sickie’; but how many of us are falling for the trap that there’s no legitimate reason to call in sick for work? Even with issues like mental health being taken more seriously, we are left wondering when it’s appropriate to call in sick or if it’s better overall to push through the pain. To clear things up, here’s 7 reasons you need to take a sick day.
Understanding your rights
Taking a sick day is not just for physical illnesses like flus and viruses. In the past few years we’ve become more aware that mental health and lowering stress are also important. According to research from finder.com.au, 3.74 million Aussie workers have taken at least one day off for mental health or stress in the past year.
While we’re finally recognising there are many legitimate reasons to use your sick leave, how do you make sure it’s paid? Principle Lawyer for McDonald Murholme, Andrew Jewell, wants all employees to understand that they have the right to take sick leave and how to follow correct procedures:
“The right to be absent during illness should be available to all employees, provided the correct methods are followed. The employer can reasonably request that the individual gives notice of absence prior to the commencement of the working day, and that they provide documentation to justify the absence on medical grounds. Generally, this would take the form of a medical certificate or statutory declaration.
If an employee takes carer’s leave, then they would similarly need to provide proof of their need to care for a family member, usually in the form of a medical certificate.
Employees are protected from discrimination due to taking personal leave by reason of the general protections provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).”
Now that you know how sick days work, what are some reasons to take one?
1. Your illness is contagious
Save the rest of the office (and your fellow commuters) by recognising when you may be contagious. Common illnesses like cold or flu, stomach viruses and even conjunctivitis are the kind we tell ourselves to push through but really shouldn’t. Just because they haven’t got you bed-ridden doesn’t mean you’re healthy enough to leave the house. Take a day to yourself and recuperate
2. You have a fever
Fevers are a sure sign your body is fighting off infection. Even if popping some painkillers will take away the symptoms it doesn’t mean you’re better. Try some natural remedies to clear up your sore head and hide in bed until the fever breaks. Only then is your body signalling you’re on the mend.
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3. You’re on the brink of burnout
This is where a mental health day kicks in. When you’ve been running on stress and adrenaline for too long your immune system takes a major hit. Instead of waiting for the inevitable crash, try to catch burnout before it hits. Typical signs include insomnia, chest pain or heart palpitations and mood swings.
4. You’re waiting for good or bad news
Sometimes you’re not the person who is sick but worrying about someone else’s well-being has you overly distracted. Worrying about a friend or family member or waiting for important test results is enough to keep you distracted from work. The trick with this one is you’re losing productivity so you may as well call it a day. Think of it this way - if you clock in you’re expected to work at your best so when mind is somewhere else should you bother showing up at all?
5. It’s that time of the month
Maybe now that period pain has been compared with a heart attack it will be more acceptable to snuggle into your soft bed rather than face the day. But it’s not just cramps that have you hiding under the covers; bloating, indigestion, muscle aches, fatigue and headaches could all strike at once leaving you a sickly mess. As long as you have the medical certificate for proof we say you give yourself a break; just don’t do it every month.
6. An Aussie ‘snow day’
We don’t have the typical kinds of bad weather down under but we get our fair share of strong winds and heatwaves. There’s a difference between deciding a 30 degree day is perfect for the beach and worrying that 40 degree heatwave is going to
If you have reason to believe that getting to and from work will put you at serious risk then it’s okay to skip it.
7. Household emergencies
Flooding leads to mould which can turn into a host of health problems from headaches to asthma and even depression. While turning a blind eye to faulty wires is a major fire risk. If there’s something not right in your home and it needs urgent attention consider taking a sick day to fix it up. Your better off taking one day now to fix the problem than a week or more when it morphs into a health problem.
Everyone gets sick occasionally and everyone deserves the time off to rest and recuperate. Knowing when to take a sick day from work is about recognising first that it’s your right to take one, and second if you’ll be more use in the office or not.