Survey Report: Calling in Sick when Healthy Can Get You Fired


This guest post is contributed by Alvina Lopez.  She welcomes your comments at: alvina.lopez @gmail.com.

Boss, I can’t come into work because a chicken attacked my mom.

It’s not exactly one of the more traditional lines, but it is an excuse one employee used to play hooky from work, according to a recent survey. The survey—which was conducted by online career site CareerBuilder.com and research firm Harris Interactive— discovered that almost three in 10 employees make up reasons to stay home in order to take a mental break from the office.

But taking a personal day off can result in losing your job altogether, the survey suggests. According to researchers, out of the 27 percent of employers who said they rarely believe employees when they call-in sick, 16 percent they’ve fired a worker for missing a day on the job without a valid excuse.

Not only are employers starting to investigate their workers’ crazy stories, but they are also getting more prone to check out even believable excuses. Nearly 70 percent of surveyed employers said they asked for a doctor’s note, about half called the “sick” employee to check-in,  and 18 percent had someone else make the phone call to catch the employee off guard.

And in extreme cases, about 15 percent of suspicious employers said they’ve on occasion driven by the employee’s house or apartment to confirm their whereabouts.

So why pretend to be sick in the first place? According to the survey the number one reason is simply because the majority of polled employees just don’t feel like going to work. Other reasons included needing to catch up on sleep, go to doctor’s appointments, run personal errands, and fulfilling plans with family and friends.

So in short, a few sniffles and a light cough over the phone just might not do the trick anymore. To not risk termination it is highly beneficial to save your sick days for when you are actually feeling under the weather. But what to do if you need to take a personal break which is bound to happen eventually during your career? Be honest.

“Six-in-ten employers we surveyed said they let their team members use sick days for mental health days,” said CareerBuilder spokeswoman Rosemary Haefner in a press-release. “If you need to take some time away from the office, the best way not to cause yourself more stress is to be open and honest with your manager.”

Most creative sick day excuses:

  • Employee had a hair transplant gone bad.
  • Employee fell asleep as his desk while working and hit his head, causing a neck injury.
  • Employee said a cow broke into her house and she had to wait for the insurance man.
  • Employee’s girlfriend threw a Sit n Spin through his living room window.
  • Employee’s foot was caught in the garbage disposal.
  • Employee said he wasn’t feeling too clever that day.
  • Employee said he had to mow the lawn to avoid a lawsuit from the home owner’s association.
  • Employee called in the day after Thanksgiving because she burned her mouth on a pumpkin pie.
  • Employee was in a boat on Lake Erie and ran out of gas and the coast guard towed him to the Canadian side.
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