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What is National Sickie Day and what are the most common reasons for taking time off work?

First Monday of February is supposedly the day on which workers are most likely to call in sick

Sabrina Barr
Monday 03 February 2020 13:35 GMT

Now that the blue month of January has been and gone, one may assume that the arrival of February would bring with it a sea of optimism and vigour.

However, this assumption may not ring true for everybody, especially at the beginning of the month.

National Sickie Day falls on the first Monday of February.

It is widely perceived as the day on which workers are most likely to call in sick for work, those who do so providing a combination of authentic and fabricated excuses.

The term was first coined by law firm ELAS almost a decade ago, after the company’s absence management team noted an increase in absences on the first Monday of February.

In 2015, it was estimated that around 350,000 employees would call in sick on National Sickie Day.

However, as the years have gone by, ELAS stated that there are now other days throughout the year when there are an increased number of work absences.

“According to our research, National Sickie Day lost its title back in 2017 when we uncovered that there were other Mondays throughout the year where absence rates were higher. The same can be said with Blue Monday – it simply doesn’t exist anymore,” the firm outlined.

Nonetheless, National Sickie Day remains a popular talking point on the first Monday of February, with several people admitting they are skiving off work despite being in good health, and others saying that they happen to be unwell on the day.

One Twitter user criticised the use of the word “sickie” in the day’s title, explaining that it “suggests the illness is not genuine”

“20 years or so in HR tells me that the vast majority of sickness absence is,” she wrote.

Meanwhile, the Twitter account for dogs and cats charity Battersea tweeted that National Sickie Day sounded like ”the perfect excuse to skip work and spend the day cuddled up with your four-legged friend”.

In 2018, some of the most common reasons for calling in sick from work included suffering from minor illnesses such as the common cold, experiencing musculoskeletal problems and struggling with mental health issues.

The Office for National Statistics outlined that the average employee takes off around four days a year due to being unwell.

In 2015, a survey conducted by medical insurance provider AXA PPP Healthcare discovered that nearly a quarter of employees fear they will be judged by their boss if they call in sick.

The poll of 1,000 senior business managers, owners, managing directors, CEOs and 1,000 employees found that workers are more likely to lie to their employer about why they are unwell if their real reason is a mental health issue.

Meanwhile, 77 per cent said they would tell their boss the real reason why they are sick if they have a physical issue such as the flu, back pain or an accidental injury.

Only 42 per cent of senior managers said that they viewed the flu as a serious enough reason for a worker to not come in, while 39 per cent said the same about back pain and 22 per cent expressed this view with regards to a migraine.

“With managers showing so little understanding of or support for employees suffering from illness, it’s not difficult to see why employees worry about phoning in sick,” said Glen Parkinson, managing director at AXA PPP healthcare.

“In many cases it is more productive for an employee to take a day off to recover from a spell of illness rather than to come into work, with diminished productivity and, for likes of colds and flu, the potential to spread their illness to workmates.”

In May 2018, it was reported that a huge number of employees still go to work even when they are ill.

Research conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPD) showed 86 per cent of firms had seen a rise in presenteeism in 12 months, up from 72 per cent the previous year.

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