Are Your Employees Fudging Their Sick Days?

by Gene Marks

Recently, HR firm CareerBuilder surveyed more than 2,200 human resource professionals and nearly 3,700 employees about their companies’ employment practices. And, if you’re an employer, then brace yourself. Or maybe you already know what I’m going to tell you.

The survey found that 40% of workers have called in sick during the last 12 months even when they weren’t — compared to 35% in 2016. The problem is large enough that 38% of the employers surveyed have actually checked up on a sick worker, and 26% of them have fired workers because of a fake excuse.

The biggest giveaway?

Social media: 43% of the managers surveyed said they caught their employees lying about being sick just by checking out their social media posts. I guess there’s no cure for stupid.

OK, I’ll admit that some of the employees’ excuses were kind of hilarious. For example, one worker blamed her dog for swallowing her car keys, and another said he left his clothes at the laundromat. Fear of the solar eclipse affected one employee’s ability to make it into work and another couldn’t come in because he “broke his arm wrestling a female bodybuilder.”

Yeah, I guess that’ll do it.

All kidding aside, would you fire a valuable employee because he or she gave a fake excuse for missing work?

Of course, you’d need to sit down with that person and understand why he was making up the fake excuse. There could be other factors — personal or family issues, or a problem with a fellow employee or supervisor — that led to this behavior.

But there’s really nothing more important than an employee’s honesty. If that’s called into question, you may have no choice but to let that person go. People can’t work with people that they don’t trust.

The best way to address this issue is to look at your current paid time off policy. “Sick days” are quickly becoming obsolete. Nowadays, many companies are doing away with them in lieu of more flexible arrangements, where both sick and vacation days are combined into one package of say 15 or 20 paid days off a year that can be used at the employee’s discretion.

That way an employee doesn’t have to make excuses for taking the days off — no questions will even be asked.

One thing to keep in mind is an employee’s health. When they’re not well, people should be encouraged to stay home — their illness affects their fellow employees and their productivity.

Unfortunately, the CareerBuilder study found that many employees (37%) are still coming to work when they’re sick, so they can “save” their sick days for when they’re feeling well and need a day off. Of the employees surveyed, 48% come to work when they’re unwell because they need the pay, and 58% do so because otherwise the work won’t get done. That’s not a healthy situation for them … or for your business.

Tell Us; How much time off do you give your employees? Do you use sick time or paid time off?

2 Responses to "Are Your Employees Fudging Their Sick Days?"

    • Bill Laird | May 30, 2018 at 9:43 pm

      We provide both Vac & Sick as PTO

    • Shannon | May 31, 2018 at 1:21 am

      We are a small nonprofit child care center and I’ve been telling our board of directors for years that we need to change to a PTO system. We give 12 sick days per calendar year, 1 per full month worked and employees can carryover up to 6 weeks of sick leave (not paid out if leave employment, only yours to use while employed). Now vacation leave is accrued per pay period and increases with years employed. If work a full calendar year: 0-3 yrs = 12 days, 4-6 yrs = 15 days, 7-9 yrs = 18 days & 10+ yrs = 21 days. Oh and can carryover 2 week.

      Now I always advocate for, sometimes even fight for my staff with the board of directors, making sure they get the best compensation package (pay+benefits) that we can possibly give. It’s not often it is me saying, “this is too much, take some away” but giving that much to a group of 19 staff, majority of whom are in the 10+ years category, makes for some challenging situations during year. I need to meet ratios therefore a certain # of teachers are needed for a certain # of children so that coupled with approximately 10 teachers who have 33 days for calendar year (not including if they carried over) and only so many weeks in a year, not to mention the preferable weeks like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and the whole 12 weeks of summer!! As I said, it’s too much!!!

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