Calling in Sick? Don’t Use These Excuses

A new survey from CareerBuilder found that employees very commonly take sick days when they aren't actually sick. The study suggests that employer flexibility could help the situation.

A new survey from CareerBuilder found that employees often take sick days when they aren’t actually sick. The study suggests that employer flexibility could help curb that tendency.

As excuses go, “I accidentally got on a plane” certainly makes “the dog ate my homework” sound almost reasonable.

And the plane excuse is just one of many unlikely reasons that employees took a day off, according to a new study by CareerBuilder released Thursday. The research highlights the issues that employers struggle with when a worker decides to skip the office and hit the links instead.

The Harris Poll of 3,103 employees and 2,203 managers notes that employees in professional and business services jobs were most likely to call in sick, followed by sales employees. Other highlights from the study:

Checking in: Twenty-eight percent of employees said they’ve called in sick when they weren’t, and 30 percent of those said they did so because they didn’t feel like going into the office. But they abuse the system at their own risk: According to the study, 31 percent of employers have checked in on an employee to see if he or she was actually sick, with two-thirds of those asking for a doctor’s note and nearly half calling the employee.

Social disclosure: If you’re playing hooky from the job, do yourself a favor and don’t post about it on social media. The study noted that 24 percent of employers have discovered an employee was lying about being sick by checking social media. More than half of employers in such situations reprimanded the employee, while another 22 percent fired the person.

Pressure on PTO? Nearly half of employees have paid time off, yet 1 in 4 of those still feels pressure to make an excuse to miss work. Another recent study shows that employees are using less PTO than ever. CareerBuilder’s study supports that conclusion, finding that 53 percent of employees went to work when sick because they thought the work wouldn’t get done otherwise.

The way employers can encourage honesty, says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, is to allow for more flexibility.

“In some companies, people don’t feel comfortable telling their managers they need personal time off, so they will think of an elaborate excuse to get out of work,” Haefner told Business Insider. “The more flexible the work environment, and the more open and honest the communication is across the company, and the less likely it is employees will feel the need to lie.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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