PricewaterhouseCoopers research: Employees admit to pulling sickies

Some 83% of UK employees admit to lying about illness in order to take time off work, according to research by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC).

Its poll of 1,190 people found that four in ten fake symptoms in the office in preparation for a day off, while 61% skive off because they are bored or depressed with work.

Other reasons for taking time off included good weather (11%), hangovers (18%) and romance (5%).

For 21% of workers, family responsibilities are the real reason behind bogus sick days, perhaps highlighting the difficulties people face achieving a work-life balance.

A third of workers think they would be more likely to take unwarranted leave if they see their colleagues getting away with it.

The symptoms can also be long lasting, with two thirds of skivers saying their days off are more credible if they pretend to be ill for more than one day.

Some 15% of those people ‘pulling sickies’ said they had been working hard and deserved the time.

While most (79%) workers phone in sick themselves, 9% get someone else to do so; 5% text; 3% email and 3% leave a message before anyone is in the office

Neil Roden, HR consulting partner at PWC, said: “If people are bored and depressed with their jobs, employers need to think creatively how they can get people back in gear. Rather than a sign of laziness, unwarranted absence can mean people are under-used.

“Introducing or enhancing flexible working arrangements can make a difference. Ensuring people feel they are not taken for granted is also important.

“Employers need to use both carrot and stick. If it is very easy to call in sick, or you do not even need to call at all, then people are more likely to abuse the system. But if there is more of a process to follow, people are more likely to think twice about taking time out.

“Of course if someone’s prepared to don crutches or bandages, there’s less you can do, but clearly there’s a shelf life to such tactics.

“With UK absenteeism levels double those recorded in the US, it is vital British employers get to grips with the problem to ensure the UK remains competitive.”

Read more articles on sickness absence strategies