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The ethics of transparency

Wednesday 19 January, 2022
by The BFSO

It’s the start of a new year and you’re in a new role as a People & Culture Officer at a retail banking institution. 

A number of employees have been sick over the break with Covid-19, when most of them were on their pre-booked annual leave.

You’re aware that the Fair Work Act 2009 states that if someone is injured or sick (or caring for someone who is sick) when on annual leave, they can request it be changed from annual leave to sick/ carers leave.

You raise this with your Manager Salma who is reluctant to let this be common knowledge. Salma does however acknowledge that if someone raises the issue with HR and requests the change to their type of leave, it will be accepted.

This is not the approach you would take and seems somewhat unfair to those who don’t have this knowledge about the Fair Work Act.

What would you do?

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Photo by Rex Pickar on Unsplash


There are 8 comments for The ethics of transparency.

Re: The ethics of transparency

Thursday 20 January, 2022
by Rustee
I would encourage staff to review the policy (and the Act) as not making staff aware of their options would be a breach of employers responsibilities to their staff.

Re: The ethics of transparency

Thursday 20 January, 2022
by Annette
I realise there is a lot of holiday pay sitting on the balance sheet because of Covid but placing the responsibility on the staff to hear on the grape vine or know they can swap holiday pay for sick or carers pay lacks transparency. I would see that as a breach of trust from my employer.

Re: The ethics of transparency

Thursday 20 January, 2022
by SpeakUp
Should the manager be aware that one of their reports is sick whilst on annual leave and is unable to enjoy their annual leave as intended, the right thing to do is make their team member aware of the Fair Trade Act and retrospectively convert the annual leave back to sick leave.

This does not need to go to HR. Companies should have leave policies in place, which the manager can access. The policy may state that the company requires evidence (doctor's note, etc) if sickness is around time of annual leave, therefore the policy should be followed - however managers should exercise some discretion around requesting evidence related to COVID-19 noting it may not be possible or appropriate for the team member to visit a GP. There may be some exceptions where the manager should seek HR guidance.

Managers should check-in with their people regularly so if the communication is good, a manager would likely become aware of their sickness when they return to work - or if the team member calls them whilst on leave to let them know.

If a manager is aware that genuine sickness occurred whilst on leave, it would be counter-productive for the well-being of the employee and therefore, the organisation, should that individual not be able to replace leave with sick leave.

In this instance, I would tactfully approach the manager in a one-on-one scenario to respectfully disagree, and suggest that it may be prudent for them to speak with each individual one-on-one to understand the degree of their sickness, the impact it had on their annual leave and let them know their rights. It may be a difficult conversation but we have to speak up.

After conversations have been had, the manager should call out in the team meeting that all team members should be aware of their rights under the Fair Trade Act moving forward, in the interests of transparency. You would expect this to align with a modern company culture.

Re: The ethics of transparency

Monday 24 January, 2022
by David
Four actions come to mind:

Review relevant policy(s) to ensure they are correct and consistent, and procedures are in place to support changing the leave type.

Ensure relevant support personnel are informed of the policy and procedure, including HR support personnel who may receive queries regarding this and related topics.

Review and update training material (intranet pages, elearning, etc.) to broaden awareness amongst staff.

Schedule a future review of requests for change of leave type, to identify and implement appropriate revisions to policy, process and information.

Re: The ethics of transparency

Monday 24 January, 2022
by Rhonda
This is a fair work act not a private company decision how can some managers not want it to be out there for everyone. We work in a company that is all about ethics lets all get on the same page i think we should all be treated with the respect we deserve

Re: The ethics of transparency

Monday 24 January, 2022
by Sylvia
I would suggest the employee research the leave policy on OBi, which states, 'If your annual leave is interrupted due to illness or injury that would otherwise have been covered by sick leave, you can ask to deduct those days from your sick leave and reinstate them as accrued annual leave, provided you have sufficient sick leave available and have followed the relevant sick leave notification and evidence requirements.' and then have a discussion with his/her people leader about their situation and that annual leave will be credited and sick leave debited. I would also suggest the employee ask their people leader to add this item to their next team meeting as an agenda item to discuss and update the team on this provision of the leave policy, particularly as COVID has disrupted so many people's leave during the christmas / new year period.

Re: The ethics of transparency

Monday 24 January, 2022
by Aditya
I would remind Salma that it's her duty of care to be transparent on policies to her reportees. If she's still reluctant I would request her manager to drop an email making the staff aware of the policy.

Re: The ethics of transparency

Monday 31 January, 2022
by Anonymous
This shows the difficulty HR practitioners have - is their role to support the organisation or the employees. I know in my organisation this issue has not been talked about openly which I interpret as a "needs to know" policy :(

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