Outrageous excuses for calling in sick

A Harris Interactive survey reported on some outrageous excuses workers have given when calling in sick, from being attacked by a swarm of bees to losing a fake eye.

The survey was commissioned by CareerBuilder.

Have you every woken up to one of those days when you bite your tongue, your false teeth fall out, or you got lost and ended up in a different state?

According to CareerBuilder, the majority of workers use sick days properly – to recover from illness. However, some employers reported having heard the most bizarre stories.

According to the survey, which was carried out from August 13th to September 6th, 2013, and included 3,484 workers and 2,099 hiring managers and HR professionals across several industries and company sizes:

  • 32% of employees reported calling in sick when they were well, compared to 30% in 2012.
  • 30% reported going to work while ill so that they could use their sick days later on when they were well.

One wonders what the public health implications of coming in while sick might be, to say nothing of the effect on productivity, especially if the worker misses days when he or she is well.

Calling in sick might not mean no work that day

Thanks to modern communication devices and computers, calling in sick does not necessarily mean the person does not do any work.

Twenty percent of employees over the last 12 months who took a day off due to illness reported ending up doing a whole day’s work from home.

Sick days and seasonal trends

Holiday periods as well as cold weather tend to coincide with a higher number of people calling in sick, employers reported.

30% of employers reported a higher number of sick days among their workers during the holiday periods.

19% of employers said December nearly always has more people calling in sick than any other month, followed by January (16%) and February (15%).

How do employers check on sick employees?

Nearly one third of all employers said they have checked on workers who called in sick. The most common means is to ask for a doctor’s certificate (64%).

Nearly half of all employers who checked out whether their workers’ excuse was authentic telephoned them, while 19% checked out their social media pages. Seventeen percent got another worker to call them.

Fifteen percent of employers who wanted to check out their employee drove past their house.

Sixteen percent of employers say they have fired workers whose excuses were found to be fake.

Apart from illness, why do people call in sick?

  • 33% simply did not feel like going to work that day.
  • 28% said they needed to relax.
  • 24% said they needed to see their doctor.
  • 19% needed to catch up on sleep.
  • 14% had to run personal errands.

(The total is more than 100% because some respondents gave more than one reason.)

Most memorable excuses for calling in sick

Below is a list of the most memorable excuses employers said they had received:

  • A swarm of bees surrounded my car.
  • I am reporting a threatening phone call from the electric company to the FBI.
  • I am so angry, I am worried I might hurt somebody if I come in.
  • I cannot decide what clothes to put on.
  • I have bitten my tongue and cannot talk.
  • I have quit smoking and feel cranky.
  • I need to complete my Christmas shopping.
  • My fake eye has fallen out of its socket.
  • My favorite sports team lost yesterday, so I needed today to recover.
  • Some chemical in the turkey sent me to sleep.
  • Somebody has glued the windows and doors of my house shut and I cannot get out.
  • While driving down the highway my false teeth flew out of the window.

On October 12th, 2013, Market Business News reported on how attitudes to absenteeism differ from country-to-country around the world. Researchers from Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business in Montreal, Canada, concluded that multinational companies should take local norms into account when developing policies on attendance.