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Employee burnout on the rise: sick leave increases across 1 in 3 organisations


In May this year, the World Health Organisation officially recognised burnout as a workplace phenomenon, and a result of chronic workplace stress.  Now, an industry association has released new data that has found that employee burnout is likely increasing in Australia’s workforce, due to the growth in sick leave.

A survey of more than 600 payroll managers by the Australian Payroll Association – Australia’s leading network in payroll training, consulting and advisory – found that 35 per cent of the country’s big and small organisations have seen an increase in sick leave across their workforce.

Of concern, 71 per cent of payroll managers reported that there are employees in their organisation who have not taken annual leave for more than 18 months (outside of forced workplace closure periods). One in 4 (23 per cent) of payroll managers reported that this was up to 5 per cent of their organisation’s employees. Further, 72 per cent said their organisation had no system in place to ensure employees take their annual leave every year.

Increase in sick leave occurring mostly in larger organisations 

Larger organisations reported having the highest growth in sick leave. Thirty-six (36) per cent of large organisations (more than 500 employees) saw an increase in sick leave, compared with just 20 per cent of micro-businesses (less than 10 employees). This could be due to the lack of resources in small companies preventing employees from shifting their workload to another employee when they are away.

Large organisations also saw a higher proportion of employees failing to take annual leave. In 32 per cent of medium-sized and large organisations (200-5000 employees), up to 5 per cent of employees had not taken annual leave in the last 18 months (outside of forced closure periods). This compares with just 12 per cent of small businesses (up to 50 employees) who had up to 5 per cent of employees failing to take annual leave.

Employees in retail, IT/telco and education were the most affected

The industries with the largest proportion of organisations reporting sick leave increases are education and training industry (in which 47 per cent of payroll managers reported an increase in sick leave), IT, telecommunications, utilities and energy (44 per cent), and hospital, healthcare and disability services (40 per cent).

Australian Payroll Association CEO Tracy Angwin says: “An increased feeling of workplace burnout could be due to organisations placing higher levels of pressure on employees. Often, employees could also be stressed about personal or financial issues that might have nothing to do with work but can be worsened by rising tensions in their work environment.

“It falls to employers of all organisational sizes to ensure that their employees take their entitlements when needed. Payroll managers can take this a step further by putting systems in place that ensures that employees take a certain amount of annual leave per year. A workplace where employees feel comfortable to use these entitlements is more likely to be a more productive work environment.”

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