The worst excuses for not turning up to work

Business Insights

Over half of UK employees feel guilty about taking sick days, with the majority stating that this is because they are leaving their team in the lurch, according to a survey carried out for CV-Library, which found that women feel most guilty about sick leave (60.5%). The survey found that over three quarters of workers have ‘pulled a sickie’ in the last year, with 17.5% of them making up an excuse for not going in to work, and over two thirds have heard a colleague giving a false excuse for not going in to work.

In today’s working world it’s clear that professionals are still taking unnecessary sick days, and giving a whole host of excuses for not turning up to work.

The CCH Unscheduled Absence Survey, conducted for CCH by Harris Interactive confirmed this trend. CCH found most employees who fail to show up for work aren't physically ill. In fact, only 38% of unscheduled absences are due to Personal Illness, while 62% are for other reasons, including Family Issues, Personal Needs, Stress and an entitlement mentality.

But while it might seem like a good idea at the time, many workers then feel guilty recognising that their decisions have a wider effect on their team and workload, and that high levels of sickness absence can have a hugely negative impact on businesses - both from a financial perspective and on staff who bear the extra workload.

While it’s all too easy to come up with an excuse for not turning up to work, most employees understand the excuse must be a reasonable one. Could you get away with saying you had to go to your mother's dog's funeral or that you had brain cancer? Would you believe an employee who had the swine flu, forgot the way to work or was arrested because of mistaken identity?

Think carefully, if you're debating pulling a “duvet day” and calling in sick, here are some of the more unusual/outrageous excuses employees have given for missing work.

  • I tripped over my dog and was knocked unconscious
  • My bus broke down and was held up by robbers
  • I was arrested as a result of mistaken identity
  • I forgot to come back to work after lunch
  • I couldn't find my shoes.
  • I have blisters from wearing new shoes on Saturday night
  • I've got a terrible migraine (also known as a hideous hangover)
  • My hamster is sick and needs to go to the vet
  • I left my work uniform on the bus
  • I lost a darts tournament last night and I am too traumatised to come in
  • A tree has fallen down onto my property and it needs to be cleared/made safe
  • My boyfriend changed his relationship status on Facebook to single
  • There are cows in my garden so I can't get to work
  • I didn't get to bed until late so I’m too tired to come in
  • I’m having a BBQ at the weekend and need time to prepare
  • My curlers burned my hair, and I had to go to the hairdresser.
  • My cat unplugged my alarm clock.
  • I had to ship my grandmother's bones to India(Note: she passed away 20 years ago)
  • I forgot what day of the week it was
  • A tree fell on my car
  • My monkey died

While we cannot help but admire the creativity inherent in some of these excuses, it’s important for employees to think about the bigger picture and wider implications of their absence, especially when it’s not 100% necessary!

It has emerged that one in three managers scour social media after receiving a call-in, to see whether the staff member is well enough to post updates. One in four rigorously question those who do not sound ill enough or who give weak excuses, while factors like the weather being nice or the person seeming fine the day before also arouse suspicion.

Managers should also question what is really going on here, is just the odd duvet day or is there a culture of casual absence in the company? If so employers need to play their part by ensuring that the wellbeing of staff is dealt with through an effective health and wellbeing policy in the workplace, and recognise that being stressed or overworked can result in increased numbers of sick days being taken.

Whether you’re in part-time work, or are well into your career, you’re going to be more trusted by your employer if you’re honest and open with them – you never know, they may grant you a bit of time out if you really do need it.

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