Australian Newsagency Blog

A blog on issues affecting Australia's newsagents, media and small business generally.

The other type of wage theft that hurts small business owners and work colleagues

Mark Fletcher
September 6th, 2018 · 3 Comments

While there are plenty of reports at the moment about wage theft by businesses, there is rarely reporting about the other wage theft, the theft of paid hours from a business by employees.

The stories or wage theft and related matters about 7-Eleven, high-profile restaurant corporations, Lush and other businesses are awful. Any business engaged in such activity ought be prosecuted.

However, when it comes to the other wage theft, the theft of paid hours from a business by employees, there is not much employers can do. The sickie is a national tradition, something that is joked about alone some employees.

In full time work, it is common to have ten personal days a year. These used to be called sick leave. Now, they are personal days and the opportunity for regulation by businesses is limited. While we employers can have some rules around medical certificates, the opportunities are limited.

There are some employees who take their full allotment every year, some with extraordinary regularity. If they are doing this without being ill or having a genuine reason for use of the personal day, it is wage theft from the business.

While this type of wage theft from a business by employees is rare, in small businesses especially it is noticed and has a high cost. It is noticed by colleagues and by the business owners. Indeed, it can be a reason a workplace adjusts its employee model from full-time to more casual employment.

Personal leave is there for legitimate reasons. Taking it for an extra day off uses a day that may be needed down the track for a genuine reason.

As an employer, I think the best hope for resolving paid hours theft from a business by a full time employee ┬áis peer pressure … pressure from colleagues on those who are abusing personal leave, pressure on them to use personal leave legitimately, to stop stealing paid hours from the business. I say this because work colleagues are usually the ones who have to cover workload, they are also bearing a cost from an employee taking a day off because they are hung over, want to stand in line to buy something or are too lazy to work that day.

In my years owning a business, the percentage of employees stealing paid hours is very small. However, in small business it is noticed. A $250.00 for a day off can cost $500.00 and more in sales to make up. Thinking about that and thinking about how we would handle a customer stealing $500.00 worth of items in a day can bring the issue into focus.

In reality, employers may complain about it but, usually, they (we) sit and watch it happen, because there really is little we can do and because the vast majority of the team do not abuse personal leave, for which we are grateful.

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Category: Ethics · Newsagency management · Social responsibility

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