National sickie day – the excuses and consequences

  4th February 2019       Suzanne Sherriff MIRP
 Office & Commercial, Accounting & Finance, Engineering, Science & Space, Employment, Human Resources, IT & Software Solutions, Temps

Finally, what seems like the longest month of the year is over, but traditionally, it’s today – the first Monday in February – when most UK employees take a day off sick.

The combination of a heavy weekend following the first pay day since Christmas and the end of ‘Dryanuary’ is thought to be the main reason for calling in sick. However, another theory is that many employees are attending interviews after spending January applying for a new job.

In a 2018 survey by People Unboxed, 27% of UK workers said they thought it was OK to call in sick when they weren’t really ill, making the UK the ‘sickie capital’ of Europe. But what’s your excuse, and will there be consequences from your boss?

What’s your excuse?

The worst excuses for calling in sick in 2018 have not yet been revealed, but according to the Employment Law Advisory Services, the top 10 worst excuses in 2017 were:

  1. I have to move house today and only found out last night
  2. I’ve broken my fingernail and my finger is sore
  3. My daughter has booked for me to go to the Emmerdale set today as a Christmas gift
  4. There’s a mouse in my kitchen, I’m terrified of it and have to find a way to get out
  5. I fell off a stepladder while getting boxes out of the loft and injured my arm. I could have broken the fall but didn’t want to damage the Christmas decorations
  6. I’m unable to come to work today as the sun is making me feel sick
  7. My dog has heatstroke
  8. I’ve got indigestion
  9. I’m too sunburnt
  10. I went to a wedding over the weekend and am still too hungover

Obviously any of the above would warrant raised eyebrows from your line manager, but certainly the sun-related at this time of year!

Research from AXA PPP Healthcare has found that the most acceptable reason not to go to work is flu, with four in 10 bosses believing that excuse; while just one in five bosses consider a headache or migraine to be serious enough to take a day off work.

This doesn’t bode well for 23% of people in the UK who suffer from migraines. The National Migraine Centre found that 50% of sufferers fear losing their job because employers are not supportive of their condition, yet stress, computer screens and long working hours are said to be the main causes.

Other non-physical ailments are often lied about when people pull a sickie too. Employees are almost six times more likely to give another reason if they are suffering from stress, anxiety or depression.

So while National Sickie day makes light of sneaking in the odd duvet day, it does highlight the need for employers to firstly trust their team and take their sickness seriously.

The consequences

Proving that you’re telling lies about being ill is not an easy task, so if you don’t make a habit of it, and are truly not well, then you probably have nothing to worry about. Even if your boss has their doubts deep down, there is not much they can technically or legally do about it.

That being said, if you’re a ‘serial sickie’, then you could be putting your job on the line. When employers suspect staff of lying about why they have taken a sick day, they will usually turn to social media and other means to obtain evidence that you’re not being truthful. If they can prove you have lied, this could amount of gross misconduct and instant dismissal!

Maybe think twice about making that call today unless your reasons are genuine. Remember to check your contract too, because you might have wages deducted.


Suzanne Sherriff MIRP

Associate Director

Suzanne leads a team dealing with temporary jobs. Having started her recruitment career in 2005, she has over a decade of recruitment experience. Suzanne works across all of the agency’s core industries on temporary, contract and interim roles. She places a big emphasis on delivery and accountability and never gives …

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