Why waste sick days actually being sick?

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A new study from the USA showing many people go to work sick so they can "save" their sick days is throwing fuel on the fire of employer medical note requirements.

According to the survey from CareerBuilder, in the past year, nearly one-third (32%) of workers have called in sick when not actually ill, up slightly from last year (30%). On the flip side, 30% of employees say they’ve gone to work despite actually being sick in order to save their sick days for when they’re feeling well.

Cold weather and holiday stress can take a toll on absentee rates. Three in 10 say they notice an increased number of sick days among their employees around the holidays. Nineteen per cent of employers say that December is the time of year that employees call in sick the most, followed by January (16%) and February (15%).

Apart from actual illness, the most common reason employees take sick days is because they just don’t feel like going to work (33%), or because they needed to relax (28%). Others spend their sick days going to the doctor (24%), catching up on sleep (19%), or running personal errands (14%).

When asked to share the most memorable excuses for workplace absences that they’ve heard, employers reported the following real-life examples:
  • Employee’s false teeth flew out the window while driving down the highway
  • Employee’s favourite football team lost on Sunday so needed Monday to recover
  • Employee was quitting smoking and was grouchy
  • Employee bit her tongue and couldn’t talk
  • Employee claimed a swarm of bees surrounded his vehicle and he couldn’t make it in
  • Employee said the chemical in turkey made him fall asleep and he missed his shift
  • Employee felt like he was so angry he was going to hurt someone if he came in
  • Employee needed to finish Christmas shopping
  • Employee’s fake eye was falling out of its socket
  • Employee couldn’t decide what to wear
Still, not everyone gets away with fake illness or excuses. The survey found that 30% of employers say that they have checked in on employees who have called in sick to make sure the excuse was legitimate.

Of those who verified employees’ excuses over the past year, 64% required a doctor’s note, 48% called the employee, 19% checked the employee’s social media posts, 17% had another employee call the sick employee, and 15% drove past the employee’s house.

Read more:
Beware the pre-printed doctor’s note?
Sick note debate: Does a one-day policy cut absenteeism?
“Employers, stop asking for medical notes”: ON top doctor

 
  • Andrew on 2014-01-17 9:00:12 AM

    I think people do save their sick days sometimes for days when they can maximize time away from work. It's a bit deceiving, however, I think a big factor is that a lot of Canadian's only get 2 or 3 weeks vacation time per year and simply want a day sometimes to regroup and relax. You don't really feel like you've had a 'break' from work when you're home fighting illness...

  • Ron on 2014-01-17 9:44:40 AM

    I agree ... this speaks to the need for periodic breaks, either for personal health (work stress), or to care for family (including elders). Perhaps HR policy could allow for such "flex days" to track what is really going on and to encourage the ill to recover at home (or at least work from home where possible) to contain illness.

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