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Small business sick leave soars through winter of COVID, finds MYOB data

The anonymised data, representing more than a million Australian small business employees, captures information up to 1 August 2022. The impact on the country’s SMEs is palpable, with COVID-19 nearing its predicted peak, as well as other colds and flu circulating throughout the community.

“It has been a difficult winter for many small businesses, and we continue to see them dealing with leave requirements brought on by COVID and other illnesses,” said Helen Lea, chief employee experience officer at MYOB.

“After a brief drop in the amount of sick, carers and personal leave taken by small business employees in June, MYOB data shows the July peak reached 44% above the long-term average. This is a similar level to what we saw in April and May, although thankfully not as high as January where SMEs were grappling with more than 100% increase in employees taking this leave.”

In July, Victoria had the highest rates of personal leave usage at 47% above baseline, followed by Tasmania at 46% and South Australia at 43%.

The industries hit hardest last month were arts and recreation services (up 74%), and transport, postal and warehousing (65%).

While winter officially ends this month, small businesses may not see a decline in leave just yet.

“With some experts predicting the COVID peak will hit in mid-August, it may be another month until COVID cases subside and warmer weather provides some relief from the uptake of sick, carers and personal leave on small businesses,” Ms Lea said.


Media contact:

Selina Ife

Media Manager


About MYOB

MYOB is a leading business platform with a core purpose of helping more businesses in Australia and New Zealand start, survive and succeed. MYOB delivers end-to-end business, financial and accounting solutions direct to businesses employing between 0 and 1000 employees, alongside a network of accountants, bookkeepers and consultants. For more information visit or follow MYOB on LinkedIn.

About the data

Data sourced from a subset of MYOB SME customers, subscribed to payroll-enabled tiers of the platform and performing payroll runs at least monthly. The data represents more than a million Australian small business employees.

Personal Leave Index is computed as a number of employees that received “Personal Leave”, “Sick Leave” or “Carer’s Leave” for a payrun, divided by the total number of employees paid during payruns per period. 

Monthly values represent the maximum weekly rate of personal leave usage observed during the month.

Weekly seasonal adjustment applied based on 2019-2020 data. 

Payroll categories can be user-defined, thus the keyword searches used to identify personal leave usage may not include all recorded usage of leave. This may cause an underestimation in the absolute value of the index, but would have less impact on the trends over time.