• Alex Davies
  • 1 September 2015

The best – and worst – excuses for calling in sick

Following on from the last Bank Holiday of the year, there will be those who will have perhaps decided to extend the weekend by an extra day, using a variety of different excuses to do so. But it appears bosses in the UK are getting wiser to the usual round of supposed illnesses and accidents, with recent research demonstrating that only one in five bosses consider a migraine a good excuse for a day off – with good reason, it appears, as 12% have used this excuse to pull a sickie.

Surveying 1,000 business owners, AXA PPP Healthcare has discovered that back pain, an injury caused by an accident, and even elective surgery such as a cataract operation or hip replacement fail to elicit sympathy out of managers, with just 37% considering these ailments adequate excuses for missing a day of work.

The most acceptable ailment for staff to stay at home is found to be the Flu – although this won sympathy from just 41% of bosses.

Whilst employees might be willing to lie about certain ailments in order to take a day off, the research also found that they are increasingly willing to lie about a genuine illness creating an absence from work. Whilst only 7% would lie if they had to miss work because of an accidental injury, 40% would not tell their boss if they were suffering from stress, anxiety or depression. 12% would make an alternative excuse if they were suffering from a migraine. When asked to explain why, 23% of employees said they preferred to keep their health issues private, and a further 23% feared being judged.

"In many cases it is more productive for an employee to take a day off to recover from a spell of illness rather than to come into work, with diminished productivity and, for likes of colds and flu, the potential to spread their illness to workmates," said Glen Parkinson of AXA PPP Healthcare.

Says Suzanne McMinn of International Workplace:

“Absenteeism is a real issue for employers to deal with, and it needs to be managed properly. Employers should ensure that they a have fair and transparent absence management policy and conduct return to work interviews to deal with those ‘frequent fliers’ using sick days. Balanced with good policies and a fair approach, employers also need to consider whether there are any underlying issues with frequent bouts of sick absence before taking any action.”