Three out of ten workers still go to work sick to keep their sick days for times when they feel well.
A new study released by the website CareerBuilder shows that nearly one in three employees (32%) say they’ve called in sick when they weren’t actually ill, up just slightly from 2012 (30%). On the flip side, 30% of employees report showing up for work even thought they genuinely were sick so they could bank away sick days for later when they’re feeling well.
Most employees do use sick days to recover from an illness, but those stories are not particularly entertaining. CareerBuilder surveyed employers from across the U.S. to document some of the more the imaginative excuses for missing work, including a story of someone losing false teeth out the car window, a worker unable to reach her car because of a swarm of bees, and someone suffering from “severe grumpiness” after he quit smoking.
This nation-wide survey was conducted by Harris Interactive. It included a representative sample of 3584 workers and 2100 human resource managers and hiring professionals across a range of industries and company sizes.
Working While Sick
Because of advances in technological, taking a “sick day” may no longer mean taking a “day off.” According to the study, 20% of workers say that within the past 12 months they had called in sick and yet they still worked remotely from their homes during that day.
Cold weather and the stressful holiday season can also take their toll on work days. Thirty percent of managers and employers report elevated incidents of sick days among workers around the holidays. Nineteen percent of employers identify December as the time of year when employees call in sick the most, followed by January (16%) and February (15%).
Sick Days and Employer Surveillance
One out of three employers say that they’ve monitored or checked in on employees to make sure their illness was legitimate. Of those who tried to substantiate employees’ excuses during this past year, 64% required employees to supply a doctor’s note, 48% called the employee, 19% checked the employee’s social media posts to make sure they weren’t at Disneyland, 17% asked another employee to call the sick worker, and a disturbing 15% actually drove past the employee’s house.
It is true that some managers are more open about how their employees use sick days, but 16% (probably the same obsessives who drive by employees’ houses) state that they’ve fired people who called in sick with an illegitimate excuse.
Most sick days are used because a worker is legitimately ill. And even when someone is not technically sick, they may simply be too run down or overwhelmed to perform well on the job. Beyond actual illness, the most common reason employees use sick days is because they simply don’t feel like going to work (33%), or because they need to rest (28%). One in four spend their sick days seeing a doctor, catching up on sleep (19 percent), or completing personal errands (14%).
What’s Your Excuse?
When surveyed about the most memorable excuses they’ve heard for workplace absences, employers shared these actual examples:
· Employee’s false teeth flew out the window while driving down the highway
· Employee’s favorite football team lost on Sunday so needed Monday to recover
· Employee was quitting smoking and was grouchy
· Employee said that someone glued her doors and windows shut so she couldn’t leave the house to come to work
· Employee bit her tongue and couldn’t talk
· Employee claimed a swarm of bees surrounded his vehicle and he couldn’t make it in
· Employee said the chemical in turkey made him fall asleep and he missed his shift
· Employee felt like he was so angry he was going to hurt someone if he came in
· Employee received a threatening phone call from the electric company and needed to report it to the FBI
· Employee needed to finish Christmas shopping
· Employee got lost and ended up in another state
· Employee couldn’t decide what to wear
While such excuses are certainly entertaining, the matter of sick leave (and paid sick leave) is no laughing matter. Many companies refuse to consider this as a basic worker right, while others engage in retaliatory practices against employees who seek legitimate sick pay, along with work injury benefits, third party injury compensation, or who file a workers’ compensation claim. If you have been the victim of any of these practices, contact an Employment Attorney or Workers’ Compensation Attorney at Emery Reddy today to protect your rights.