Reasons to Call in Sick – National Sickie Day

By Deborah Manktelow
07 Feb 2022

It’s Monday morning. Your team is working on a big project that is entering its final stages. Steve’s chair is empty. Your phone rings. It’s Steve:

“Sorry boss, I can’t come in today, I’m…”

Every employer has faced this situation. Most employers have also had reason to suspect a staff member hasn’t been entirely honest about the reason for their absence. While some employees try to hide their true intentions, others are entirely upfront about it.

At Croner, we receive hundreds of calls a day, and we have heard every excuse in the book. Despite this, we still come across some that surprise us!

Here are a few of the strangest (real) excuses we’ve heard for pulling a sickie:

national sickie day

Managing sickness absence

Supposedly, the first Monday of February is statistically when most people will phone in sick to work in the UK. Our software partner, BrightHR, have put that claim to the test here.

While the excuses above may sound funny, or frustrating, depending on your perspective, they could indicate a wider problem. So, we need to consider the whole range of issues and solutions resulting from it. An employee could be suffering with a long-term health issue, or struggling with their mental health. How can you be sure? Short answer: you can’t. However, you can use absence managing methods to help you sort the false excuses from the genuine.

Genuine vs fake

The last thing you want to do is accuse an employee who is taking a genuine sickness absence of faking their malady. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to prove when an excuse is fake. You could trawl through the employee’s social media for evidence. Still, you could just be wasting your time, and it has the potential to cause further damage. So, what should you do instead?

Use a return to work interview to monitor absences. They are a great deterrent against “sickies”. Firstly, they demonstrate that you monitor absences. This will help you observe trends and pick out when something isn’t right. Your employee will know this and will think twice before considering another fake sickness absence. In cases of genuine absence, the return to work interview helps the employee catch up on what they have missed and address any issues that might occur because of their illness.

Tracking absences

It’s a myth that short-term absences aren’t as damaging to your business as long-term ones. Sure, the odd day off isn’t an issue, but they can quickly stack up and cause a problem. By tracking sickness absences you can determine if there is an underlying issue.

This is where the Bradford Factor comes in. You can use our calculator and find out more about the formula here.

If you don’t have time to read the full explanation, here’s a quick summary:

The Bradford Factor is a formula used in HR to measure and understand patterns in unplanned employee absences. It takes into consideration all absences outside the worker’s annual leave entitlement and gives you a score. This score will determine what course of action you should take. A higher score could mean it’s time to begin a formal disciplinary process.

Supporting your staff

Managing sickness absence isn’t all about tracking and punishment. It also gives you the opportunity to support your staff and ensure they have the adjustments they need to continue working.

If an employee is struggling with long-term absence, or an ongoing issue, ask what you can do to support them. Consider options such as flexible working, remote working, or a reduction in hours. They may not be viable in the end, but you’ve made the effort to explore the options available.

A robust sickness absence policy will also help keep things in order. Staff will feel confident using the system you have in place, and there is less room for confusion.

For absences that aren’t sickness-related, encourage employees to take time off as annual leave instead. This should be the go-to option for when an individual needs a day-off to deal with personal tasks. If you’ve clearly communicated this, and they still pull a sickie, you may pursue disciplinary action.

Consequences for pulling a sickie

From a legal standpoint, faking an illness to take time off work could be gross misconduct, which is potentially grounds for dismissal. That doesn’t mean you should immediately dismiss an employee who you suspect of pulling a sickie. Even if there is overwhelming proof of their lie, you must still conduct a reasonable investigation. This should be a standard part of your disciplinary procedure.

In cases of gross misconduct, it is possible to dismiss someone without notice, but a full procedure is still needed.

If you notice numerous single cases of absence, you should conduct a full disciplinary process, including issuing warnings before pursuing a dismissal. Terminating an employee’s contract immediately will likely result in a claim of unfair dismissal.

Expert support

Sickness absence is an issue every employer faces, but you don’t have to face it alone. If you’re uncertain whether an employee’s absence is genuine or false, give us a call today to discuss your options on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Deborah Manktelow is a CIPD Qualified HR professional with over 7 years’ experience in generalist HR management working within the Construction Industry.

Working for a National provider of Insulation provided Deborah with the opportunity to strategically support Operations across the UK, supporting HR functions and the wider business.

Deborah is Croner’s Advice Manager, taking responsibility for overseeing the provision of advice to all Croner clients, bringing together our Corporate, Simplify and Association service provisions.

Get expert views & insights delivered directly to your inbox