Olympic fever has gripped the nation over the last fortnight and in a recent YouGov poll of 2,000 employees, a staggering 1 in 5 of those asked said that they planned to throw a sickie to watch the games.
Sickies are the scourge of businesses, especially SMEs. In 2008, the average absence cost businesses an average of £692 per employee, with the average time lost to sickness absence at 7.4 days per employee. It is estimated that sickness costs the UK economy over £13 billion per year (Absence Management, CIPD 2009).
We’ve all worked with people who play the game of pull-a-sickie roulette. I worked with a chap, let’s call him Nigel, and he was particularly fond of spending the weekend with a pint glass glued to his hand.
Come Monday morning, at least once a month, Nigel would ring his boss with an inventive excuse for not being able to come in to work that morning. My favourite was when he rang into say he had burnt the roof of his mouth the night before on a McDonalds apple pie and was in agony and on strong pain killers. Amazingly, Nigel, who I’m confident doesn’t suffer from Munchausen syndrome, is still at the same firm after nearly 8 years of erroneous illnesses.
So, apart from Nigel’s fabricated apple pie incident, what other gold medal excuses have people used to avoid the bothersome annoyance of work?
I’ve listed below the top 20 excuses that people have dreamt up when they want to throw a duvet day or simply because they fancy a lie in:
Throwing a Sickie – 1. My fingers are stuck in a bowling ball.
Throwing a Sickie – 2. A cow broke into my house and I’m waiting for the insurance man.
Throwing a Sickie – 3. I’m not feeling too clever today.
Throwing a Sickie – 3. My wife got annoyed with me rolling in drunk, so she cut the cord on my alarm and I slept through.
Throwing a Sickie – 4. A fox stole my car keys whilst I was asleep.
Throwing a Sickie – 5. I was locked outside naked till 4am.
Throwing a Sickie – 6. I need a few hours to get the alcohol level in my blood down to a legal level.
Throwing a Sickie – 7. I pulled into get petrol, but I couldn’t get the cap off because my hands were too moisturised, so I had to call my boyfriend to come and do it for me.
Throwing a Sickie – 8. A chicken attacked my mother.
Throwing a Sickie – 9. We were playing tennis on the Wii when my girlfriend went for a back hand and the Wii controller flew out of her hand and knocked my tooth out.
Throwing a Sickie – 10. Employee rang in at 5pm the night before from a bar to say they wouldn’t be in the next day because of sickness and diarrhoea.
Throwing a Sickie – 11. My dog is really sick, so I need to stay with him.
Throwing a Sickie – 12. My boiler broke just as I was trying to rinse my hair of the shampoo.
Throwing a Sickie – 13. I’ve had a nightmare and I’m in no fit mental state to come in today
Throwing a Sickie – 14. I had a really bad beer on Saturday and my stomach still isn’t right
Throwing a Sickie – 15. My cat has hiccups and I can’t leave her
Throwing a Sickie – 16. My curlers burned my hair, and I had to go to the hairdresser.
Throwing a Sickie – 17. My Monkey died.
Throwing a Sickie – 18. A tree fell on my car.
Throwing a Sickie – 19. My child has got a mint stuck up his nose and we’ve got to go to the hospital to get it out.
Throwing a Sickie - 20. Jack Duckworth died in Corrie last night and I’m in no fit state to face coming into work.
So, is there a way that you can discourage employees from taking unnecessary sick days? Here are a few tips which may help:
- Take a review of your sickness absence and disciplinary policies and procedures. Ensure that are watertight and update them if necessary, ensuring that the management team are kept abreast of any changes.
- Stipulate that employees must telephone their line manager to report their sickness, rather than email of text a colleague. This may deter some employees from lying.
- Some businesses hold back to work meetings as a further deterrent and have disciplinary sanctions in place if the employee is found to be lying.
- Reward a cash bonus to any member of staff who manages to go the whole year without a day of sick.
Of course some of us will be genuinely unwell and have a valid reason for not coming to work and inflicting our misery onto other people. For those dishonest folk who constantly get away with feigning illness and having sporadic days off, companies really need to start clamping down and getting tough.