Calling Shenanigans on Calling in Sick

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By Matt Tarpey, CareerBuilder writer

Quiet, quiet. Just listen for a moment. Do you hear that? That sniffling, coughing, throat clearing, sneezing – the unmistakable sounds of a cold and flu season on fast approach.

Yes, we're coming up on the time of year when the temperature drops, the sounds of nasal congestion fill the air, and we hold our loved ones close – but not too close, because they said they might not be feeling well and we don't want to also get sick. Still, 21 percent of employers say they see the most employee absences due to illness during December, followed by January (17 percent) and February (14 percent), according to CareerBuilder's annual survey.

Playing hooky
Of course not all employees wait until flu season to use their sick days. In fact, some don't even wait until they're actually sick. The survey found that 28 percent of workers admit that they've called in sick despite feeling well this year, 30 percent of whom stayed home simply because they just didn't feel like going in to work. Twenty-nine percent of these truants say they needed a day to relax and 11 percent stayed home due to bad weather.

A likely story
While half of employees say they have a PTO program that allows them to use their days off however they choose, nearly a quarter (23 percent) still feel the need to make up an excuse to take the day off.

And make up excuses they did. Some of the more memorable excuses employers received this year include:
  • Employee just put a casserole in the oven.
  • Employee's plastic surgery for enhancement purposes needed some "tweaking" to get it just right.
  • Employee was sitting in the bathroom and her feet and legs fell asleep. When she stood, up she fell and broke her ankle.
  • Employee had been at the casino all weekend and still had money left to play with on Monday morning.
  • Employee woke up in a good mood and didn't want to ruin it.
  • Employee had a "lucky night" and didn't know where he was.
  • Employee got stuck in the blood pressure machine at the grocery store and couldn't get out.
  • Employee had a gall stone they wanted to heal holistically.
  • Employee caught their uniform on fire by putting it in the microwave to dry.
  • Employee accidentally got on a plane.

Caught in the act
With excuses like that, it's not surprising that nearly a third (31 percent) of employers have followed up to see if an employee was faking – usually by asking for a doctor's note (66 percent), or by calling the potential faker during the day (49 percent). Still, 15 percent of suspicious employers went the literal extra mile and drove past the employee's house.

Sometimes catching a faker doesn't require any detective work by the boss. A quarter of employers say they've caught someone lying about being sick simply by checking the employee's social media pages.

And if that's not enough to deter you from posting while you're supposed to be out sick, consider this – 18 percent of employers say they've fired someone for calling in sick with a fake excuse, while 24 percent of employers who caught a faker on social media gave that employee the axe.

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