LEAVE ENTITLEMENTS SHOULD BE RECOGNISED – AND HONOURED

This piece was published in the NT Sun on June 5 2018.

While written in relation to the NT, I am sure it has relevance to needs in other Australian jurisdictions.

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LEAVE ENTITLEMENTS NEED RECOGNITION

An article in the NT News in late 2017, pointed out that many public servants take leave which may be questionable. This issue is quite frequently raised in the media. Those taking leave are at times held to be irresponsible for taking time off.

This perception is not helped by the fact that a certain number of days each year can be used without a medical certificate being required. Medical certificates are easier to obtain than was once the case. Pharmacists as well as medical practitioners are able to issue these documents, so a trip to the doctor’s surgery and an expensive consultation fee are no longer required.

One area of leave called upon by teachers may be that of time away to look after their own unwell children. Family should come first for everyone and genuine leave for family purposes should never be questioned.

Public servants are often portrayed as lazy, disenchanted with their work, selfish and interested only in themselves. This may be the case for a minority, but to apply this stereotype to the hard-working and committed majority is grossly unfair.

Permanent public servants are entitled to three weeks of sick leave each year. This entitlement is pro-rated for temporary employees and those on end-dated contracts. Sick leave is accumulative and weeks not used build up year-on-year.

Many public servants approaching retirement, use large portions of accumulated leave for medically confirmed reasons. This happens in part because unused leave is not paid out as a benefit to retirees. In some cases, this amounts to the forfeiture of many weeks of accumulated entitlement.

My suggestion (which to date has fallen on non-responsive ears) is that the NT Government and its Departments consider paying out this unused leave at a 20% rate. Retiring or resigning employees would receive a day’s salary for each week of accumulated leave. Someone with a balance of 20 weeks sick leave would receive the equivalent of 20 days pay on retirement. The greater the balance, the higher the payment.

Because this entitlement is not recognised on employment cessation, to the trend of employees exhausting their benefit prior to retirement may continue. Workplace and system headaches occasioned by employee absence in these circumstances remain an issue.

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