Outrageous excuses for calling in sick

by Tammy Buckley08 Nov 2013

While many employees use sick days for legitimate reasons, there are always those who will push the boundaries. Have you heard about the one who lost their teeth on the motorway or the worker who had all their doors and windows glued shut so they had no way of getting out to make it to work? No? Well some unfortunate employers have.

As part of online career website Careerbuilder’s annual survey employers were asked to share the most memorable excuses they’ve heard from employee’s calling in sick and there are definitely some creative thinkers out there.

Memorable excuses employers have heard include:

  • 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
  • The worker was quitting smoking and was grouchy
  • Someone glued a female worker’s doors and windows shut so she couldn’t leave the house to come to work
  • One staff member bit her tongue and therefore couldn’t talk, stopping her from coming to work
  • An employee claimed a swarm of bees had surrounded his vehicle and he couldn’t make it in
  • Another staffer 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 received a threatening phone call from the electric company and needed to report it to the FBI
  • The staffer’s fake eye was falling out of its socket

The survey of over 3,000 workers and 2,000 hiring managers and HR professionals also gave some insights into all things sick days.  Of those surveyed it found nearly a third of workers have called in sick when they were not actually ill, while 30% of employees said they’ve gone to work despite actually being sick so they can save their sick days for when they’re well.

As for the most popular time of year for increase in sick days, three in 10 employers identified the holiday seasons as a harbinger of illness. Christmas experiences the biggest hike in number of employees calling in sick with 19% of employers saying it is the time of year staff call in sick the most.

But employers admit to checking in on suspected offenders (30%) and they aren’t above using devious tactics to find out the truth. While 64% required a doctor’s note and 48% called the employee, 19% resorted to checking out the worker’s social media posts, 17% had another employee call the unwell staff member and 15% took matters into their own hands by driving past the employee’s house. Upon finding an employee had used a fake excuse 16% of employers admitting to firing the offender.

The survey also found that apart from actual illness the most common reasons for taking a sick day were:

  • They didn’t feel like going to work (33%)
  • They needed to relax (28%)
  • Going to the doctor (24%)
  • Catching up on sleep (19%)
  • Running personal errands (14%)

What are some the more memorable excuses you have heard. Tell us in the comments below.


  • by Deb 8/11/2013 1:31:07 PM

    My best was a staff member who made a series of increasingly bizarre excuses, including she had been kidnapped and there were no planes back until the next day; she had run out of clean clothes; and the best one was that her best friend had died and she had to stay with her mother as she was out of her mind with grief - two days later her mother called asking if we had seen her as they hadn't spoken in months. On a serious note she was counselled between episodes, and ultimately terminated after the last one.