Brits have been labelled as the most work-shy workers in Europe, with one in five Brits feigning illness at least once each year for time off work, according to a recent survey by AON consulting.
Last year, there were over 35 million sick days taken by workers in the UK, an average of 6.4 days per worker every year – the highest rate of any country in Europe. In contrast, the Danes are the most honest workers (or best liars, maybe) in Europe, with just 4% of the Danish workforce admitting to “pulling a sickie”.
But what makes us Brits such a, let’s face it, lazy (and honest) bunch?
Admittedly, not everyone will subscribe to the attitude that sick leave is merely an extension to annual leave, which is maybe my chance to say, smugly of course, that I haven’t had a “sickie” in over five years, but if you’ve ever worked in the UK you’ll probably have known of someone with a suspiciously low immune system.
However, companies can do certain things that, in a way, precondition their workers’ collective mindset on sickies – through a mixture of company policy, working arrangements and employee benefits.
Primarily, we don’t pay sick leave beyond the statutory UK requirements. A tough approach, you might say, but when coupled with a culture based around flexible working, we feel that our environment fosters a more open and honest approach to work – which keeps sick leave (and absences of the spurious kind) to a bare minimum.
Also, ALS employees have one “duvet day” per year, which is there to use on the day when you just don’t want to show up for work (not a regular occurrence here, I promise you). Some might view that having a duvet day is a bit of a cop out, and fair point, but when coupled with my next point, the benefits become clearer.
Our employees are also issued with a laptop, which they take home with them every night. This means, of course, that if you are too ill to come into work, there’s a chance you could still work from home – so why take sick leave when you can still work, right? Right.
It must be pointed out that this option is scarcely used at ALS and, when combined everything else, it contributes to our sick record being just under one sick day per UK employee, per year.
When put in contrast to the national average, or even the best performing British Council’s average of 6.25 days per employee per year (the worst performing council recorded an eye-watering 12.61 days), it can put HR management policies in perspective. Hence why we don’t mind publishing our “sickie” figures, or our approach to sick leave, for that matter.
ALS Head of Operations, Sarah Wilson (and the keeper of all our sickie records), had this to say: “Having a low “sickie” rate is something a company can of course be proud of. However, when people do ‘soldier on’ admirably and come in to work despite being clearly ill, that can have an adverse affect on everyone else, so a sensible approach is needed. You have to send people home if they’re ill, which also means, rightly, giving people the benefit of the doubt when they do call in sick.”
Among the best, and worst, excuses we have found on the web that workers give for taking time off through “illness” are:
“My Grandmother (relative) died.” Ironically, nothing to do with illness, but this remains one of the most popular (false) excuses, shockingly – and one that Manchester City’s Stephen Ireland (who ironically isn’t ‘British’) gave when he didn’t show up for National duty for Ireland in 2007.
After he was (very easily) caught out, from being in the public eye, a club statement later read “Stephen has also apologised. To both his Grandmothers.”
“Migraine” If you want to be believed, it is advised (not by us), that you don’t use this excuse. It’s unimaginative and you could be seen to be able to work through it.
“Suddenly ill (the day after a World Cup game)” Not advised. UK employers were warned, briefly, during England’s (briefer) tenure in this year’s World Cup, to expect a flurry of employees suddenly catching a hangov… sorry, the dreaded lurgy after England games. ALS allowed employees to watch the match of their country and make up the time later – with zero absences through illness reported afterwards. Many staff members in our UK office were of course sick, to our stomachs, after England’s glorious exit from the competition, but not through genuine illness.
“I forgot to come back to work after lunch” This one was, allegedly, actually given. Yes, in real life.
“I’m having a vision problem” Vague. But probably a brazen excuse given by someone who literally can’t see themselves coming into work today.
“I’m feeling a bit …euuurrrgh” Said in a very pathetic, wishy-washy way.
“The road outside my house is too busy to cross” All day, apparently.
“I’m hungover/still too drunk to work” Honest, if anything. “I’m not coming in. It’s 8am and I only stopped drinking 20 minutes ago, shorry” is one I’ve heard a few times from old University friends. Use this one at your own risk.
What are the most imaginative “sickie” excuses you’ve heard?
Leave a comment and let us know.