It costs companies billions every year and one in four of us will do it. Yes, the age-old tradition of ‘pulling a sickie’ continues to test the judgement of bosses and the telephone acting of employees nationwide every day.Everyone knows the classic excuses: the headache, cold or dodgy seafood dinner the night before — but what are the more ambitious excuses thought up by employees? And what happens when you’re actually telling the truth — but the reason still sounds too ridiculous to be true?
Research by More Than shows that 400,000 British workers suffer from Slocombe Syndrome — named after Mrs Slocombe from the 1970s comedy ‘Are You Being Served?’ who repeatedly used her sick pussycat as an excuse to get out of work. The main symptom of this fictional syndrome is a tendency to invent ill or dying animals in order to take a day off work! But the stats also reveal that two thirds of bosses are extremely suspicious of pet-related excuses — and it’s hard to blame them when stories like these are being used…
“I can’t come into work today because I’m taking my tropical fish to an animal psychologist — I think he’s depressed.”
“I can’t come into work today because a chicken has attacked my mum.”
Waiting For The Gas Man
If you’re thinking of pulling a sickie by claiming you have to stay at home to wait for a gas reading or other utility service, it’s probably best not to use this excuse…
“I can’t come into work today because a cow’s broken into my house and I have to wait for the insurance man.”
In fact, research by Churchill shows that £1.1 billion worth of annual leave is spent waiting at home for deliveries and tradespeople every year. The stats estimate that 35% of employees will book paid time off for this reason whilst 3% will use it as an excuse to pull a sickie.
The Office Christmas Party
It’s that time of the year again when you’re finally allowed to have a boogie with the IT staff, flirt with the girl from accounts who’s always giving you the eye at work and maybe even tell your boss what you actually think of him or her! Yes, it’s the office Christmas party!
Research by Legal and General has found that British workers use the office Christmas party to chat up colleagues (43%), tell co-workers a few home truths (10%) and get sloshed in the free bar — so much so that one in eight (13%) will pull a sickie the next day.
But if you are planning on spending a day under the duvets with a hangover this Christmas, it’s a good idea to research your excuse, as one careless hung-over employee failed to do back in the 90s when the mad-cow disease scare was at its height…
“I can’t come into work today because I think I’ve caught that cow thing.”
Now you wouldn’t have thought ‘too much nicotine’ would have stood up as an excuse for taking a sick day, but here’s a reason given by an employee here at lovemoney.com for being unable to work…
“My wife’s nicotine patch came off her arm during the night and got stuck onto my body. I woke up this morning vomiting and am unable to come into work due to nicotine poisoning.”
The strangest thing is that it’s 100% true!
But many people will claim that they smoke to deal with employment related stress — and stress is another big reason for many workers taking the day off. Research by the mental health charity Mind shows that one in five workers (19%) have called in sick because of stress, yet 93% of these say they have lied about the real reason for not turning up. The charity says that many workers view stress as a huge workplace taboo and hence feel forced to lie about it.
One reason British workers may feel that they’re owed a few unauthorised days off is that they have some of the shortest holidays in Europe. Research by Direct Line found that the average Brit worker receives 25 days’ paid holiday every year; that’s five days more than the legal UK minimum but five less than the average EU minimum — and 11 fewer than the amount of holiday the French enjoy!
Perhaps it’s this lack of paid time off that forced this worker to phone in sick after rushing his spring cleaning…
“I can’t come into work today because I sneezed really hard whilst spring cleaning and put my back out.”
The End Of The Sickie
Serial sickie pullers beware, the end of unauthorised duvet days may be in sight — especially if you use email or text to inform the boss of your ‘illness’.
Absence Management provider FirstCare use a team of nurses and telephone operators to assess the symptoms of any workers phoning in sick. They claim to reduce employee absence by 20 — 40% and are already used by the NHS, British Gas and Coca-Cola.
The financial downturn and squeeze on jobs could also see bosses take a sterner attitude towards suspected sickie pullers — currently only 16% say they would sack a worker for faking an illness. It’s also worth remembering that many employers will look at absenteeism rates when making redundancies.
But the job cuts and increase in graduate unemployment could also bring about a ‘reverse sickie effect’, whereby employees are so worried about keeping their job they come to work despite being seriously ill. This can often lead to a knock-on effect whereby the employee has to take time out later to fully recover or other colleagues get ill as a result of their presence.