Two-thirds of employees ‘pulled a sickie’ last year – what are the top excuses?

On the flip side, 3 in 4 claim to have worked despite being under the weather

Two-thirds of employees ‘pulled a sickie’ last year – what are the top excuses?

Have you ever been tempted to pull a sickie? A recent report from Resume Now found that more and more employees are feigning illness to get out of work – an issue that’s causing havoc for already stressed-out HR leaders.

The data found that 68% of employees admit to faking being ill to avoid their duties, with 57% of them having done so twice in one year.

Conversely, 76% of employees claim to have worked despite being under the weather.

Top reasons for deception

So why are people pulling a fast one on their managers? Speaking to Agata Szczepanek, career expert at Resume Now, she believes it’s a combination of ennui and burnout – but HR shouldn’t necessarily be guilting their people over it.

“We live in a fast-paced world,” says Szczepanek. “People often feel tired and overwhelmed by work, deadlines, and family duties. Still, unwilling to admit that their greatest dream is to sleep all day or watch their favourite TV series unbothered, they call in sick instead.

“Many employees believe that professional life always requires professional excuses for absence from work. It shouldn't be like that. Mental health is as important as physical health. And there's nothing wrong with taking some time off because you want to 'recharge your batteries’.”

For employers, it’s about walking that fine line between supporting burned out employees and ensuring that productivity is kept up. According to the report, half of the respondents admitted they suffered from work-related stress – with almost as many (46%) claiming to have depression.

Much like “the dog ate my homework”, there’s some classic sickie stalwarts that employers tend to fall back on. Colds, dental issues, and stomach bugs are the most common excuses – however, that’s not to say that all cases are disingenuous.

“They often include conditions employers won't see, hear, or ask about,” says Szczepanek. “Headaches, food poisoning, stomach problems, and dental emergencies are 'fake sickie' evergreens. Some employees also exaggerate their symptoms to make it seem like they are sicker than they actually are. For example, they claim to have a high fever, severe headache, or body ache when in reality, they just have a mild cold.”

Improving benefits to stamp out absenteeism

The report suggests that employers offer more mental health support and tangible benefits to help stressed out and overworked staff. The report found that eight in 10 respondents want their employer to provide them with free access to mental healthcare professionals.

What’s more, giving employee flexibility and autonomy over their own working schedule can help ease the stress – with one in three employees citing flexible work arrangements as the most effective way to support employees' health.

“There's no easy answer, I'm afraid,” adds Szczepanek. “HR leaders can take action only when they have evidence that an employee is lying about being ill. Suspecting that's the case is not enough. Unfair accusations may cause serious harm. That's why 'presumption of innocence' is necessary for such situations.

Promoting a healthy work environment may be the solution. HR leaders should focus on creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust, where employees can feel comfortable taking a day off 'just because' without faking illness or making up other excuses.

“Workers tend to be more honest when employers show that they genuinely care for their employees' overall wellbeing,” says Szczepanek.

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