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Home | Got a Minute | Annual leave and holidays | No. 68 – No, your boss shouldn’t be calling while you’re on sick leave

No. 68 – No, your boss shouldn’t be calling while you’re on sick leave

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13 July 2022

Recently I had to call in sick for seven days. I clearly advised my line manager that I would be off work the full week as I awaited medical clearance. During this time, the head of HR contacted me saying they expect me to have my company phone on and answer work calls on my sick days. I am not a perpetual user of sick leave and work in a large blue-chip Australian company in a sales role with plenty of other colleagues to cover my responsibilities. What is reasonable in this situation?

If you are on approved sick leave with a medical certificate, you do not need to answer work calls. Presumably if you were in a fit state to be answering work calls, you would be at work. Your employer cannot expect you to do any work at home while you are on approved sick leave.

Your employer is within their rights to contact you while you are on sick leave, but you are also within your rights not to respond to work-related matters. You have a right to sick leave under the Fair Work Act and you can’t have any adverse action taken against you for being unable to work while on sick leave. If you return to work and there has been any action taken against you, I would speak with a lawyer if you can, or else someone in your union if you happen to belong to one.

I have resigned from my job for a position at a large organisation with a higher salary, better conditions and a role that better aligns with my personal interests. My current boss was my referee so informing her of my resignation did not come as a surprise. In my resignation letter I asked how she wanted to handle notification of my departure and file handovers to ensure client service. She did not respond, and now the day before my final day, still has not responded at all or spoken with me. In the face of what seems like being given the silent treatment by a melodramatic teen, what are your obligations during a notice period?

In my experience, some people are just plain weird when they accept someone is resigning and moving to a new company. Perhaps in their mind they almost immediately decide you have already left and they move on. They forget you are still there and contributing right until the end and that there are practical issues such as handovers they need to work collaboratively with you on. I suspect your boss has simply been focused on who she is going to get to fill your role, when they can start, what your departure may mean for other changes in her team and none of it is actually about you. She wouldn’t have agreed to be a referee unless she wanted to support this change. I would try and put your former role behind you and jump into the new position with gusto!

I work in a male-dominated field and there seems to be a premium being paid for women in my role. Of 20 people in similar roles to mine, only a quarter are women. My first pay review is approaching and the company uses “salary benchmarking” for reviews but I’d be surprised if they incorporate the “female premium” into this benchmarking. If it isn’t mentioned by my team leader, should I bring up the female premium? What would be the best way to do this?

While the idea of a “female premium” sounds fabulous (for women), in reality, I don’t think it exists. Yes, organisations are clamouring – or should be – to appoint talented women into traditionally male-dominated roles. And yes, organisations need to pay women at least as well as men in those same roles. But unfortunately, the gender pay gap suggests that is not happening and its existence continues to paint a bleak picture for Australian women; let alone the payment of a mystical “female premium”.

I am passionate about women being paid fairly, however I think asking for a “female premium” may be the wrong way to approach your pay review. Instead, you should ask for any insights they can share about the gender pay gap for your role and ask to ensure that gap is bridged as a starting point. Then you can talk about your review for this year. Focus on what you bring to the role, the value you add and the skills you have so they know they are paying a talented person to stay.

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