sick day excuses

As the winter season descends, more people start calling in sick. And you won’t believe some of the excuses people have offered as reasons for taking the day off.  

A new CareerBuilder survey looks at how many workers have faked being sick this year, as well as some of the strangest excuses they’ve used while doing so.

Over the past year, 28% of employees have called in to work sick when they were feeling well, down from 32% last year. When asked for a reason, 30% said they just didn’t feel like going in to work and 29% said they wanted the day to relax.

Another 21% took the day off to attend a doctor’s appointment and 19% wanted to catch up on sleep. Meanwhile, bad weather was enough for 11% of employees to take the day off.

The national survey was commissioned by CareerBuilder and conducted online by Harris Poll. It included a representative sample of 3,103 workers and 2,203 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes.

While half (49%) of employees say they have a paid time off program that allows them to use their time off however they choose, 23% of those workers say they still feel obligated to make up an excuse for taking a day off.

‘I didn’t mean to get on that plane, honest’

When asked to share the most dubious excuses employees have given for calling in sick, employers reported hearing the following real-life examples:

  • Employee just put a casserole in the oven.
  • Employee’s plastic surgery for enhancement purposes needed some “tweaking” to get it just right.
  • Employee was sitting in the bathroom and her feet and legs fell asleep. When she stood up, she fell and broke her ankle.
  • Employee had been at the casino all weekend and still had money left to play with on Monday morning.
  • Employee woke up in a good mood and didn’t want to ruin it.
  • Employee had a “lucky night” and didn’t know where he was.
  • Employee got stuck in the blood pressure machine at the grocery store and couldn’t get out.
  • Employee had a gall stone they wanted to heal holistically.
  • Employee caught their uniform on fire by putting it in the microwave to dry.
  • Employee accidentally got on a plane.

Employers strike back

Though the majority of employers give their employees the benefit of the doubt, 31% say they have checked to see if an employee was telling the truth in one way or another. Among employers who have checked up on an employee who called in sick, asking to see a doctor’s note was the most popular way to find out if the absence was legit (66%), followed by calling the employee (49%). As many as 15%t of employers went the extra mile (quite literally) and drove past the employee’s house.

Nearly 1 in 5 employers (18%) say they have fired an employee for calling in sick with a fake excuse.

Shooting themselves in the (digital) foot

Some workers have inadvertently busted themselves online. One in four employers (24%) have caught an employee lying about being sick by checking social media. Of those, 22% have actually fired the employee, but 54% were more forgiving, only reprimanding the employee for the lie.

Flip side: People afraid to take sick days

Turns out there are more employees who refuse to take sick days than those who make up fake excuses to get the time off — a majority of workers said they feel they don’t have the luxury to take a sick day.

More than half of employees (53%) say they have gone into when work sick because they felt the work won’t get done otherwise, and 2 in 5 workers (38%) did the same because they can’t afford to miss a day of pay.

‘Tis the season

Employee absentee rates seem to peak with flu season. December is the most popular time of year for employees to call in sick, according to 21% of employers, followed by January (17%) and February (14%).

Despite higher absentee rates during the holiday season, only 8% of employees say they have ever faked being sick during this time. Of those who have, most did it to spend time with family and friends (69%), while others wanted to holiday shop or decorate for the season.

Who takes the most sick time?

Employees in professional and business services called in sick most often (35%) in the past year, followed by closely by sales employees (34%). On the other end of the spectrum, employees in the IT, retail and leisure and hospitality industries were least likely to call in sick this past year (22%, 21% and 20%, respectively).



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