Olympic fever gripped the nation in 2012 and at the time, a 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 personal favourite was when he rang in to 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 Excuse 1: My fingers are stuck in a bowling ball.
Throwing a Sickie Excuse 2: A cow broke into my house and I’m waiting for the insurance man.
Throwing a Sickie Excuse 3: I’m not feeling too clever today.
Throwing a Sickie Excuse 4: My wife got annoyed with me rolling in drunk, so she cut the cord on my alarm and I slept through.
Throwing a Sickie Excuse 5: A fox stole my car keys whilst I was asleep.
Throwing a Sickie Excuse 6: I was locked outside naked till 4am.
Throwing a Sickie Excuse 7: I need a few hours to get the alcohol level in my blood down to a legal level.
Throwing a Sickie Excuse 8: 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 Excuse 9: A chicken attacked my mother.
Throwing a Sickie Excuse 10: 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 Excuse 11: 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 Excuse 12: My dog is really sick, so I need to stay with him.
Throwing a Sickie Excuse 13: My boiler broke just as I was trying to rinse my hair of the shampoo.
Throwing a Sickie Excuse 14: I’ve had a nightmare and I’m in no fit mental state to come in today
Throwing a Sickie Excuse 15: I had a really bad beer on Saturday and my stomach still isn’t right
Throwing a Sickie Excuse 16: My cat has hiccups and I can’t leave her
Throwing a Sickie Excuse 17: My curlers burned my hair, and I had to go to the hairdresser.
Throwing a Sickie Excuse 18: My Monkey died.
Throwing a Sickie Excuse 19: A tree fell on my car.
Throwing a Sickie Excuse 20: 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 Bonus Excuse: Jack Duckworth died in Corrie last night and I’m in no fit state to face coming into work.
- Anthony Hughes
So, is there a way that companies can discourage employees from taking unnecessary sick days? Here are a few tips which may help:
1. Take a review of your sickness absence and disciplinary policies and procedures. Ensure that they are watertight and update them if necessary, ensuring that the management team are kept abreast of any changes.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
Alternatively, try a new incentive program for employees and build an environment where people don’t actually want to be off work.