Employers Recount Memorable Sick Day Excuses

November 5, 2013 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – Not all employees use sick days to recover from an illness.

An annual survey from CareerBuilder found that during the past year, nearly one-third (32%) of employees called in sick when not actually ill, up slightly from the previous year (30%). However, 30% of employees say they have gone to work sick in order to save their sick days.

Apart from actual illness, the most common reason employees take sick days is they just don’t feel like going to work (33%), or because they need to relax (28%). Others spend their sick days going to the doctor (24%), catching up on sleep (19%) or running personal errands (14%).

The survey asked employers for the most memorable excuses for sick days. These included:

  • 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 someone glued her doors and windows shut so she could not leave the house to come to work;
  • Employee bit her tongue and could not talk;
  • Employee claimed a swarm of bees surrounded his vehicle and he could not make it in;
  • Employee said the chemical in turkey made him fall asleep and he missed his shift;
  • Employee felt 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’s fake eye was falling out of its socket;
  • Employee got lost and ended up in another state; and
  • Employee could not decide what to wear.

Thirty percent of employers say they have checked on employees who called in sick to make sure the excuse was legitimate. Of those who verified employees’ excuses over the past year, 64% required a doctor’s note, 48% called the employee, 19% checked the employee’s social media posts, 17% had another employee call the sick employee, and 15% drove past the employee’s house.

While some employers may be flexible about how employees use their sick days, 16% said they have fired employees for calling in sick with a fake excuse.

The survey also found that, due to technological advances, taking a sick day no longer always means taking a day off. Twenty percent of employees said that, in the past year despite calling in sick, they still ended up doing work from home.

In addition, the survey found cold weather and holiday stress can take a toll on attendance rates. Three in 10 (30%) employers say they notice an increased number of sick days among their employees around the holidays. Nineteen percent of employers say December is the time of year that employees call in sick the most, followed by January (16%) and February (15%).

The survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder. It was conducted within the United States among 2,099 hiring managers and human resource (HR) professionals, and 3,484 U.S. workers (employed full-time, not self-employed, nongovernment) between August 13 and September 6.