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Editorial Team
22 Nov 2018



Sick Leaves Are Making Employers Sick. Unraveling The Perfect Pill

Absence Management

Being too nosey- irk the employee. Being too approving- sabotage company’s profits. Read the big fix for Catch-22 

Think of every time you had to make excuses for being under the weather. Think again, if, by any hand of luck, you were Pinocchio- then, your nose would know no boundaries in elongating itself.  

The irony of being sick is when we are sick we come to the office to attend to our workload and when we are right as rain, we fake it. Dear employees, it is not us who are saying this. Blame the data. National Science Foundation conducted a survey and concluded that 26% of employees attend to the work while they are sick. CareerBuilder too joined the bandwagon and conceded almost half of the workers fake being sick. 40% of employees agreed they call in sick when being in pink of health. Guess what? Employers know it too. Astonishingly, 38% of employers are prying on supposedly/really ailing employees to check if reality finds its soul mate in fiction. Sounds like Scopaesthesia? (Check out: that’s the term for the feeling of being watched. Oh yes! Now you know where that feeling is coming from). Not to mention, 26% of employers have fired people for being phony.        

How employees fake it? 

Interestingly, there’s a Wikihow page on how to fake it without leaving any loopholes. Agreeably, some tips are just drool-worthy. They fabricate the exact plot, eliminate the possibilities of being caught red-handed and teach how to get into the skin of the character. (Method acting? Yep! That’s another hidden skill of employees).  How else could you probably explain using salt and toothpaste to make eyes red, sniffing pepper to sneeze, having a hot drink just before checking the temperature on the thermometer, and using oatmeal as vomit props- reading all these actually make some knots in the pit of your stomach? (Feeling sick already?) 

Excuses VS Reasons: 


  • Not well 
  • Stomach bug 
  • A headache
  • A sore throat  
  • Issues at home 

Actual Reasons: 

  • Actual mental/physical illness 
  • Unhealthy lifestyle 
  • Care- time for family members   

How employers catch it? 

43% of employers find employee’s fib through social media. People share social media posts of themselves enjoying with the very same people they say they are tending to.  It’s a laugh riot on account of the stupidity people display to prove they are sick. While one employee, to prove he was in the hospital, picked and sent images from Google to the manager, another chose an image with a swollen foot. Alas! Employers are smarter and employees forget that the Google giant is friendly to everyone. Employers use those very photos in image search of Google to breathe down the necks of employees. 

It’s not just employers. Even co-workers are on the watch. 80% of people surveyed by said they don’t trust their co-employee to be saying the truth about being sick. Some would go to extremes to prove this. 18% would devour/sleuth social media posts to find something suspicious and even check on the absent employee’s home to sniff a lie about sickness.  

Laws catch up with employees if they fake being sick. Cases of being fired and incarcerated for five years pour in abundance.  Some employers maintain an excel sheet to write the reasons employees have put for being late to the office on different occasions. Does it seem like micromanaging? Yes.

Sickness is expensive.

Sickness derails the progress of work. It pushes more burden on other colleague’s shoulders who has to make up for the lost work-hours of a co-worker. For companies, overtime means extra bills to be paid.  Other employees lose out on their sick-leaves because when they are getting paid for extra work, they work more which, in proportion, causes more reasons for sickness to come calling.  

On the other side, being too adamant or nosey about sick-leaves can make your actual sick employees come to the office while they are sick and spread a contagious disease. It can result in increased medical care costs and more workers might go on sick leaves. 

Now, that brings us to an important question, matter-of-factly.    

Why do people fake being sick? 

Red flags: The underlying reason for excuses 

Easy paid-time-off policies would stop early morning calls on wheezing and sneezing. When there are not enough days to complete their personal work, people will pretend to be sick.  

Putting an end to the game

The good news is: there are easy ways to tow the employees in line without being too nosey.  Asking for a medical certificate is too outdated to rely on. You better implement these measures to check on them:   

Reduce stress: 60% of workers feel burnt out. Check coping mechanism of employees and if the case calls for it, re-assign tasks. Talk with employees about the possible reasons for absence. Mutual-trust is indispensable while communicating.   

Conversations for health: Corporate is sedentary. What do we do about it? Send mailers to employees on ways to avoid falling into the patterns. Sessions on health, the presence of gym and biophilic design inside the premises, and counseling will go a long way in keeping the excuses at bay.  

Incentives for ‘presenteeism’: Well, zero absenteeism = presenteeism. Have rewards for it.   

More annual leaves than sick leaves: As sick leaves are being feigned for personal work, more annual leaves and fewer sick leaves will ease out pressure for both companies and employees.   

Job satisfaction: Flexible working hours, telecommuting, and work from home can be helpful in avoiding the loss of effective work-hours. Engage employees with amazing learning opportunities and a purpose for working: rewards, justified performance appraisal, and a great work-life balance. Are we missing something here? Please do add that too.    

Time-keeping records: Have software and apps for keeping track of leaves people take and mark patterns if any. Fridays and Mondays are the most preferred days for leave. Talk with employees who form a habit of taking leaves on these days.   

Absenteeism policy: A strict and well-detailed out policy is mandatory. It comes to rescue in case things get out of hands and into the courtroom. 

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