News Article

latest news in employment law

Absenteeism & What To Do About It

Published 03 Sep 2011

Employers may be concerned that the Rugby World Cup being held in New Zealand will affect the productivity of employees and consequently, their business.


Rugby fans who may normally be excellent employees could take the odd 'sickie' to watch or go to some of the games. The recent amendments to the Holidays Act 2003 allow an employer to now require proof of sickness (a medical certificate) from an employee for any period of sick leave, even for one day's absence. Employers must inform the employee as early as possible that proof is required and agree to meet the employee's reasonable expenses in obtaining the proof.

Of course, the Doctor has to make an assessment based on what the employee tells him/her, so a medical certificate may well be produced. But letting the staff know that a medical certificate may be required, may deter some from taking a 'sickie.'

There may be instances where employees travel to attend away games without approval for the leave and without contacting the employer. Many employment agreements provide for "abandonment of employment" if the employee disappears with no explanation. Where this extends for a continuous period of three working days (or more if the agreement states more) with no contact, or good cause, the employee may be deemed to have abandoned his or her employment. The employer has to make reasonable efforts to contact the employee and indicate that the employer will rely on the abandonment provision before invoking this clause.
If the employee/employer makes contact and provides a reason for absence, (even if you do not think the reason is sufficient) this is not abandonment. The Employer would need to arrange a formal investigation process to hear and consider the reason for failing to make contact and being 'absent without permission' before deciding whether it is appropriate to impose a disciplinary sanction (or even dismissal in some cases). It may be that employee has a genuine, good reason why contact was not possible, and the absence was unavoidable.

Fortunately there is only 1 game (Samoa v Namibia on Wednesday September 14th at 2:30 pm in Rotorua) being played during the traditional "working week", but there are of course many employers and employees who work weekends and evenings - and who may be expected to work longer hours, because of the event.


However it is inevitable that employees may be tempted to spend more time checking the current scores than actually working. The level to which an employee is able to use work computers and internet services (if any) is generally a matter of policy. Where employees have largely unlimited access to the internet at work, we recommend employers point out or confirm the policies regarding what is and what is not acceptable personal use. Most policies covering this would include the ability for the employer to monitor internet use and employees should be reminded that any inappropriate misuse or abuse of personal access to the internet may result in disciplinary action.

After Effects Of Celebrations - "Drunk in charge of a Job."

Inevitably there will be more socialising during the Rugby World Cup and consequently employees could arrive at work feeling off colour or drunk. Either way, this could affect productivity and safety in the work place.

Where employers employ staff to perform 'safety sensitive' tasks and do not have a system to manage drug and alcohol use in their place of work they are at risk ofbeing in breach of OSH law obligations.


Some employers may decide to take a more flexible approach and adjust normal working hours to accommodate some matches/'after-match effects' (with employees' agreement). Alternatively, employers may allow employees to watch some games at work. This could also discourage employees from taking that occasional 'sickie'. Certainly if the employer does try to accommodate their staff in such a high profile and rare event for New Zealand, the resultant goodwill generated could make it well worthwhile. However it does depend on the industry, the specific circumstances of the business and the nature of the work being undertaken by the employee.

In preparation for 9 September 2011, we recommend you review your current policies, (absence and reporting in, sickness, drug and alcohol testing and IT) and procedures to see if they cover the issues raised above in your workplace. We would be happy to assist in any such review.

Learn what your rights are and how to protect your business. See our Drug & Alcohol Testing System, (Free to Employers Support Package members - see the library section of the Employers Toolbox).

Click here for the Rugby World Cup match schedulePDF document