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The Brain Bath?! Takes a Sickie


The Brain Bath?! team wants to know why employees take sickies. According to a recent BUPA survey, one in five workers has made up an excuse to take a day off work and only 29% of managers always believe that staff who call in sick are genuinely ill. Why would they be so suspicious?

The research into employees' and employers' views on absence showed that over a third of managers think bosses are unwilling to question staff too closely about what is wrong with them and over half think it is difficult to distinguish between what is a genuine illness and what is not.

So you guessed it - this week we want to hear about your sickie experiences. We have collated a top 10 list of sickie excuses which are all derived from real experiences. If you’re someone who has taken a sickie, or taken the phone call from an employee claiming to have fallen victim to a dramatic illness or crisis, tell us of your experiences at the bottom of this article. If you need to post under an anonymous name please do so. We won't tell anyone.

Top ten sickie excuses
1. I'm recovering from food poisoning.
2. I have got the flu - embellished with a forced cough loud enough to deafen the person at the other end of the phone.
3. The notorious dispeptic streptococci virus - the one that gives the victim a croaky voice when they ring in to say they've got a nasty stomach bug.
4. I slept funny last night and well my back hurts (best to avoid being spotted that evening performing limbo dances at the local disco).
5. Locational disorientation. The employee cannot disguise the sounds of planes taking off as they stand at Amsterdam airport. It must have been a crazy night out!
6. I’ve been told by a fortune teller not to leave the house today as I may encounter danger.
7. I have lost my colleague behind the sofa.
8. My pet fish is looking a bit off colour so I need to stay home.
9. I have women's problems. (Always a good one to stave off further questioning and one which exasperates male colleagues. Why can't they have men's problems too?)
10. I'm snowed in. (Not a good one to use if the manager lives in the same area and remarked on the clear sunny skies as they commuted in that morning).

Organisational hypochondria
Employees: You know when you are taking too many sickies when:

  • When you go back to the office, you discover a temp working at your desk.
  • Your department has moved to another floor.
  • You are no longer trusted with important tasks because they worry you'll disappear half way through
  • You can't remember the names of any of your co-workers
  • The HR manager asks if you have ever considered counselling for the stress-related conditions that affect you.

    Managers: Your organisation might be prone to excess absenteeism if:

  • You think the European Working Time directive is for namby pambies and expect employees to put in a 60 hour week.
  • You are a complete b*st*rd and don't care how your staff feel as long as they hit their targets.
  • You don’t know the names of your staff, let alone what they do.
  • You manage a call centre.
  • You work for a public sector organisation.

    Sickie resources
    In no way is this short study intended to condone absenteeism or denigrate the strange occurrences and unfortunate health conditions that can affect workers in the modern workplace. As an aid both to managers, who might need training on how to spot questionable reasons for absence, and as an alert to employees who may want to reconsider their actions, we can recommend some of the following websites:

  • What's the Answer? Quashing sickies - HR Zone report.
  • 2002 employee illness whitepaper from Irish time & attendance software developer Softworks concluded: "Slackers tend to be uninspired. Back pain, sore throat, colds, flu, toothache and migraine, are the standard fare." In which case, it may be worth consulting:
  • Sickday excuse generator - selection includes: "I lost my contact lenses and cannot see"; "I fell out of bed and broke something" and "My allergies are severe today."

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