New Excuses for Calling Out of Work

Many workers aren’t above taking a sick day despite having a clean bill of health, according to a CareerBuilder’s annual survey.

Thirty-eight percent of employees have called in to work sick when they’re feeling well in the past year, up from 28% last year. Of the employees who have called in sick when feeling well, 27% said they had a doctor’s appointment, the same proportion said they just didn’t feel like going, 26% said they needed to relax, 21% said they needed to catch up on sleep and 12% blamed bad weather.

Of the 52% of employees who have a Paid Time Off (PTO) program that allows them to use their time off however they choose, 27% say they still feel obligated to make up an excuse for taking a day off (compared to 23% last year). Of these employees who have a PTO program, 32% of those ages 18 to 34 say they still feel obligated to make up an excuse, compared to 20% of those 55 and older.

On the other hand, some feel they can’t afford to use a sick day, even when they’re ill. More than half of employees (54%) say they have gone into work when sick because they felt the work wouldn’t get done otherwise. Further, nearly half (48%) say they can’t afford to miss a day of pay, up from 38% last year.

NEXT: Busted for faking sick

The most popular months for employees to call in sick continue to be December (20%), January (15%) and February (14%), on par with last year’s survey results. And while less than one in 10 employees (9%) say they have ever faked being sick during the holidays, those that do most often say it’s to spend time with family and friends (68%), while others wanted to holiday shop (21%) or decorate for the season (9%).

While most employers claim to trust their employees, one in three (33%) have checked to see if an employee was telling the truth after calling in sick this year, compared to 31% last year. Of these employers, asking to see a doctor’s note was the most popular way to find out of the absence was based in truth (67%), followed by calling the employee (49%) and checking the employee’s social media posts (32%).

More than one in five employers (22%) have fired an employee for calling in sick with a fake excuse, an increase from last year (18%). Thirty-three percent of all employers have caught an employee lying about being sick by checking the employee’s social media accounts, and of those, 26% have fired the employee.

NEXT: Most memorable excuses

When asked to share the most memorable excuses for workplace absences they’ve heard, employers reported the following:

  • Employee claimed his grandmother poisoned him with ham;
  • Employee was stuck under the bed;
  • Employee broke his arm reaching to grab a falling sandwich;
  • Employee said the universe was telling him to take a day off;
  • Employee’s wife found out he was cheating. He had to spend the day retrieving his belongings from the dumpster;
  • Employee poked herself in the eye while combing her hair;
  • Employee said his wife put all his underwear in the washer;
  • Employee said the meal he cooked for a department potluck didn’t turn out well;
  • Employee was going to the beach because the doctor said she needed more vitamin D; and
  • Employee said her cat was stuck inside the dashboard of her car.
The national survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from August 12 to September 2, 2015, and included a representative sample of 3,321 full-time workers and 2,326 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes.