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A fifth of employees admit to calling in sick when they are not ill

1 February 2010

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Roughly one-fifth (20%) of full-time, salaried employees admit to calling in sick to enjoy a day off, according to an absenteeism survey out today (1 February 2010) to coincide with National Sick Day.

The first Monday of February is thought to be the most likely day in the year for employees to call in sick, thanks to Christmas credit card bills, gloomy weather and a long wait to the next Bank Holiday.

More than 70% of respondents said they would take a day off spontaneously rather than planned, with Friday the most likely day to take off.

Sporting events are often blamed for spikes in absence. With the World Cup 2010 approaching, 58% of survey respondents think it would be a good idea for employers to introduce some flexibility to allow staff to watch matches. However, only 3% of respondents said that they would consider taking time off sick to watch games.

Most people who admitted to taking an unofficial sick day spent the day doing nothing more interesting than staying in bed (39%). This was closely followed by meeting friends and relatives (35%) and watching TV (26%). Other responses included shopping, going on holiday and going to sporting events.

Employees gave many reasons for calling in sick to take a day off. Approximately 57% of respondents took time off as a result of feeling stressed and needing time out, 22% of employees called in sick when they had run out of annual leave, and 9% wanted to enjoy a sunny day.

The survey, conducted by Kronos, also suggests that unauthorised sickness absence has a negative impact on employees in the workplace, with 57% of respondents recognising that colleagues who have taken time off ill impact upon productivity, leaving fewer people in the business to get the job done.

More than half (52%) of employees said that unauthorised sickness negatively impacts employee morale, and 49% believe that it sets a precedent that encourages other employees to call in sick when they are not ill.

The survey identified policies that employers can introduce to reduce the likelihood of unauthorised sickness. Employees suggested establishing “Summer Fridays”, with 62% of employees agreeing that they would be less likely to call in sick in the summer if they had the opportunity to work reduced hours on Fridays and make the time up during the week.

More paid leave was suggested by 30% of employees as a deterrent to taking unauthorised sick leave and 26% proposed “Duvet Days”, where a day can be taken off at very short notice. The same proportion would like the opportunity to purchase additional holiday days.

Simon Macpherson, Senior Director Business Development and Operations of Kronos UK, said: “Unauthorised absence is a problem every single day of the year and costs the UK economy billions of pounds.

“None of us can afford to ignore the underlying reasons for employees taking time off and, as the survey highlights, employers ought to be considering the introduction of flexible working policies to help eradicate unauthorised absence in the workplace.”

He concluded: “Modern timekeeping solutions are available to monitor and manage working hours, and to manage more flexible working contracts, so offering greater flexibility is no longer the administrative problem it once was.”


Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

“Yes, more flexibility is needed but this is difficult where receptionists are depended on to work a certain shift and it is difficult to fill at short notice” – Dawn Dodd, London