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I'd rather have the spoonful of sugar thanks!

I’d rather have the spoonful of sugar thanks!

I need to elicit some sympathy from you all here. I have recently been sick; in fact I am still sick. I’m not usually the type that gets poorly very easily and only suffer occasional colds and sore throats. But this time I have what is apparently generically known as ‘A Virus’. I don’t believe I have had a virus before. I won’t bore you with the symptoms but safe to say that I have felt ill enough for a few days to watch Little House on the Prairie, CSI and ER re-runs on my TV while reclining on the sofa under my duvet, with just a pot of tea and the dog for company.

Tall tales of being sick!

Tall tales of being sick!

The problem is that when you’re self-employed, lying under a duvet watching TV from the 70s just doesn’t cut the mustard does it? Who’s paying me while I lie here feeling like poop? No-one that’s who. I had to pick myself up and drag myself back to work in spite of barely being able to raise a smile or sit up straight. And oh! That light from the lap top. I’ve turned into a Gremlin, “Bright light! Bright light!”

Now I’ve never, EVER regretted becoming self-employed, but my thoughts turned back to the days of yon when I was ‘gainfully’ employed for a large company and would get paid for being off sick – sometimes for as long as a week in one memorable case. The trick was, of course, all about having the most feasible excuse. I’ve also heard many anecdotes from colleagues and friends about phoning in sick, so I was wondering what the best excuses for phoning in sick actually are. Well, you know me; I’ve been doing some research…

The least believable excuses for taking a sick day include

1. My hamster died
2. My grandmother died (particularly after you’ve used it more than once)
3. I dropped a can of Branston beans on my big toe. I think it’s broken.
4. My girlfriend/wife/boyfriend/husband bit me in a rather delicate place
5. I have had a hair dye disaster
6. The dog ate my shoes
7. I’ve forgotten where I parked my car
8. I’m stuck in the house because the door is broken
9. My toe is trapped in the bath tap
10. My goldfish has had babies and I need to baby sit.

You – the boss

If you’re running your own company you’ll be very aware that any employees that call in sick are going to cost your company money. In a large company, a day or two here or there doesn’t make much difference as you’ll have the staff to cover the slack (whether they want to or not). Sometimes that’s true in small companies too but it can be more exploitative. I have a friend who worked as an elf in a Christmas grotto last year. The grotto needed a Santa and then in order to cover the various roles within the grotto and queue management and get everyone a lunch break the grotto needed five elves. Frequently the grotto only had 3 elves and those elves worked 10 hour days without breaks. The grotto couldn’t close, the company wouldn’t allow it, and the elves were not recompensed for covering others’ work, but that’s the reality of people taking sick days.

Nonetheless, absenteeism costs the UK approximately £6 billion per year, and the average adult claims to have pulled a sickie around 4 times in their career. In the US ‘mental health days’ are quite popular but in the UK it’s been suggested that we are much less likely to admit when we’re feeling stressed and out of control. Plus British bosses and HR companies do seem to have less sympathy for stress related illnesses.

Most believable excuses for pulling a sickie

1. Vomiting bug
2. Virus
3. Abdominal pain/period cramps
4. Diarrhoea/ food poisoning
5. Migraine
6. Burst water pipe
7. Lice
8. Urinary Tract Infection

Yeah right ....

Yeah right ….

According to recent research bosses think that 50% of employees’ illness excuses are lies. This figure increases in good weather. Some bosses and HR companies have been known to check social media profiles to see what their ‘sick’ employees are up to. A real giveaway that an employee is trying to pull a fast one is when someone else (a relative or friend) phones up on their behalf to report that they are taking a day off sick. That will always set alarm bells ringing. Or there are cases where people breezily phone up claiming to have flu and yet people with genuine flu will always sound at death’s door and phoning in will be an absolute trial.

The thing to bear in mind if you are thinking of pulling a sickie is that lying about illness in order to take a paid day off amounts to fraud. You are fraudulently coercing sick pay from your employer and many employees will leave colleagues in the lurch. If you are taking more than one sick day a month you may need to look at changing jobs as you are obviously not happy at work. Of course, if you are genuinely sick, then you are sick and there is no reason at all to feel guilty. Sick pay is a benefit that you are entitled to.

No... I seriously passed away in the early hours of this morning ...

No… I seriously passed away in the early hours of this morning …

Final advice to employees

If you absolutely have to throw a sickie, the advice is as follows

• Keep it simple.
• Embellishment suggests you are lying because liars tell the best stories
• Nothing dramatic. Anything that can be remembered will be a black mark against you especially when you phone in sick the next time
• When you speak to your manager commit to coming back as quickly as possible

Final advice to employers

Ask for a phone call – don’t settle for a text or email.
If you have high rates of sickness consider what else is going on in the company. Is morale low for some reason?

And here’s the funniest sickie excuse I found while I was looking for examples on the internet.

Your lies make me sick.

Your lies make me sick.

A girl at work used to call in (frequently) saying, “My cat has hairballs and I need to stay home and console it.” We used to openly mock her about it. Proof of a strong Union in our office? My manager got sick of it and called HR to complain about the employee. HR’s response? “No, no, it’s okay. We’re animal-friendly here.”
One day, I had just had enough of her. I stood up, turned to my boss, and said, “I’m coughing up hairballs. I’m taking a sick day.” Without missing a beat, my boss looks up from her desk and goes, “Oh really? And what have you been licking recently…. Nope, never mind, don’t answer that.” For the next 10 minutes or so, we were both laughing so hard we were crying. Those 10 minutes were better than 8 hours off ever would have been.

What excuses have you used to take a sick day? Were they genuine or fabricated? Let me know below :-)

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