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National Sickie Day predicted to cost employers £34 million

3.5 per cent of working time lost due to sickness absence – equivalent to 8.1 days per employee

HR expert ELAS first coined the term National Sickie Day five years ago and it has since gathered pace, becoming a UK wide phenomenon that could cost businesses in excess of £34m in wages, lost hours and overtime in 2016.

Over the past decade, ELAS has observed an upsurge in unauthorised staff absences taking place on February 1stELAS began to research why this particular day was causing no end of stress to employers and – after reviewing client feedback – discovered that UK employees are most likely to take an unofficial holiday due to mounting debt caused by an influx of post-Christmas credit card bills, miserable weather, commuting in the dark and the long gap between holidays – with the next Bank Holiday (March 25th) feeling a long way off.

As the trend for high rates of absence on February 1st persisted, ELAS gave a name to National Sickie Day in 2011. Last year, an estimated 350,000 UK workers took the day off and ELAS is warning businesses to expect an influx of excuses, as workers call their bosses to explain their short-term mystery ailments.

To warn employers of the kind of excuses they can expect to hear on National Sickie Day, ELAS has carried out further research, surveying 1,500 UK workers (One Poll survey, commissioned by ELAS).

According to the results, some of the most popular excuses UK workers planning on using are:

  1. Sick or migraine (30%)
  2. ‘Illness’ (12%)
  3. Stomach bug or diarrhoea (6%)
  4. Flu/cold (6%)
  5. Blame relative/children (5%)
  6. Food poisoning (3%)
  7. Death or a funeral (2%)

According to the Department for Work and Pensions, more than 130 million days are lost due to sickness absence every year. ACAS calculates that the total cost of workplace absenteeism to the UK economy each year is £17 billion.

The Office for National Statistics calculates that employees in the public sector are likely to take more sick days than those working in the private sector. Public sector organisations experience a median of 3.5 per cent of working time lost due to sickness absence – equivalent to 8.1 days per employee – while private sector services organisations lost a median of 2.2 per cent of working time, translating as 5.1 days per employee.

Peter Mooney, head of consultancy at ELAS, says: “There’s no doubt that January can be difficult for employees as the Christmas bills roll in, people are arriving to and leaving work in the dark and the next holiday feels a long way off.

“It is therefore vital that employers take steps to properly manage absences in order to mitigate the impact they have on the success of the business.

“Employees need to know that fabricated reasons for missing work will not be tolerated. To minimise the impact false sickies have on businesses, it’s important that employers take the issue seriously, recording all instances of lateness and absence, conducting back-to-work interviews and crucially, having clear policies and procedures in place which are regularly communicated to all staff.”

Other far-fetched excuses on ELAS’ records include:

  • An employee said that the reason why he could not attend work was because his dog had chewed his shoes
  • Another employee said that the reason she could not work that day was because she was trying for a baby
  • One employee said he was still over the limit from the night before
  • One worker said he couldn’t come to work because he’d locked himself in his bathroom
  • Another employee couldn’t make it to work because they had just put a pie in the oven
  • One worker claimed their trousers had split on their way to work.

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