During bargaining in 2011, the ATO said that they have “a problematic
absenteeism rate” but “did not know or understand the reasons for our (supposed)
As a result the ATO has linked your productivity payments to having an
Attendance Program in the first year of the enterprise agreement (EA) in
Operations and in the second year in all the other sub plans.
The CPSU position
The CPSU holds the view that:
Leave should be taken in accordance with the leave provisions in the EA
Reducing the amount of unplanned leave taken does not indicate a more
productive workplace; in fact the opposite could be true
Members have a right to access their leave entitlements free from
bullying and harassment
Brought to you by the ASU
During bargaining the ASU leadership advised their members to vote for an EA
that contained the clause linking productivity to attendance programs and
facilitated the introduction of Attendance Managers.
Nevertheless this issue affects CPSU members and all ATO staff and CPSU
members are working together to get a fair outcome.
What is happening in ATO Operations?
CPSU met with ATO Operations on 25 October and had reached agreement on
improving the policy particularly around when staff need to notify of absences.
The improvements negotiated by CPSU include:
No more calls at home after you have notified absence
No more being asked if you are going to see a doctor
No more being asked what type of leave you are applying for
No more bring asked/directed to take a different form of leave
No intrusive questions about personal, family or medical issues
No questions about providing medical documents when you notify of your
But there are some unresolved issues and concerns remaining which are:
The instigation of support plans
Return to work discussions
The use of trigger points (now called indicators)
The Ops Attendance Program states the purpose of the Return from Leave
conversations and instigation of support plans is: “to raise concerns about
leave”, and to “assist the employee to achieve acceptable attendance”.
Their use immediately establishes a confrontation and is based on an
assumption that the employee has done something wrong or is accessing leave
fraudulently (use of term “persistent recurring pattern of unplanned leave)
whereas it is simply an employee accessing their legal leave entitlements that
have been approved by management. These are ordinary occurrences and facts of
life and the reason we negotiate leave entitlements for members. They are not a
reason for managers to be instructed to grill their staff and ask intrusive
personal questions and extract agreement from staff not to use their leave.
It is these conversations and support plans that are the most likely to
trigger persecution, bullying and harassment. Their use is fundamentally a
contravention of members’ EA rights. They result in members being asked
intrusive and personal questions about: family and relationship circumstances,
personal and detailed medical issues, lifestyle issues and general well being.
These questions do not form part of an approval or notification of leave process
and are humiliating.
Issues with absenteeism?
The CPSU supports members taking personal leave in accordance with the
leave provisions in your EA.
A Study by the Australasian Faculty of Occupational Medicine, a faculty of
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians, entitled Workplace Attendance
and Absenteeism, December 1999, contains the following observations/findings
relevant to the ATO’s ad hoc approach (to date) on this matter:
“Workplace attendance and its converse, absenteeism, are complex
multidimensional issues involving the interaction and subtle interplay between
worker, employer, workplace, social, societal and economic factors”
“Work attendance and absenteeism are linked to many factors with the major,
though not sole, determinant being disease-related incapacity.”
“Employee attendance should not be viewed in isolation from the workplace or
the work environment”
“There is nothing uniquely Australian about work absence, with rates broadly
comparable to many industrialised countries.”
“Benefits of work absence include:
Maintains productive workforce
Maintains workplace safety”
What do I need to do?
Sign the petition - see your CPSU delegate or organiser for a copy of
Always have a CPSU delegate or representative with you when you are
asked to have a discussion with management about your attendance
Refuse to answer questions of a personal nature
When reporting an absence that is not due to a workplace injury, you have the
right to simply state:
“I am informing you that I will not be at work today as I am unwell (or) not
fit for duty”, or “I am caring for a family or household member”. “I do not wish
to answer any questions regarding the nature of my illness or the illness of the
person I am caring for. I expect to be absent from work until…… I will call you
if this situation changes.”