Official: the best sick day excuses, revealed
Next time you call in sick to work, here are some excuses your boss probably won’t be impressed by: “A can of baked beans landed on my big toe”, “My new girlfriend bit me in a delicate place”, “I’m hallucinating”.
These hard-to-swallow excuses were unearthed by a recent study - commissioned by the mutual healthcare provider Benenden Health - of 1,000 workers and 1,000 bosses, and are among a list of the least believable reasons workers have given for taking a day off.
Genuine sickness – especially if it’s contagious – is always a reason to take a day off. You won’t be productive and your co-workers have no wish to inhale your germs. However, anyone who has genuinely injured their foot with a can of beans should be worried as the survey revealed that bosses think their employees are lying to them about more than 50% of sick days and those with outlandish excuses are first to arouse suspicion.
In fairness to bosses, absenteeism costs the UK £6.5 billion a year (£3.1 billion in the private sector and £3.4 billion in the public sector) and, when questioned, workers admitted they could have made it into work and done their job on over a fifth of the days they called in sick.
With the average adult claiming to have skived off at least four times in their life, it seems that at some point, most of us will reach for the phone without technically being ill. So when is it OK to do this and what are the excuses most likely to be believed by your boss?
The rise of 'mental health days'
Inevitably, work sometimes gets in the way of the rest of your life. However, in general it’s not OK to leave your colleagues picking up the pieces because you’ve had a big night out or because you feel a burning need to sit in your PJs watching TV.
In the US, ‘mental health days’ have become an acceptable category of time off work. Here though, people are less keen to admit they are feeling overwhelmed and are more likely to pretend to be physically sick. Three in 10 workers say they have taken a day off sick because they were suffering from stress while a quarter have stayed home as a result of fatigue from being overworked. If you’re feeling frazzled, book a day off rather than calling in sick.
Despite the best intentions, however, the day may come when you make that phone call. So what should you say?
Keep your excuse nice and simple
According to the psychologist Paul Morgan, the trick is to avoid creating a complicated saga to back up your claim.
“Keep it simple and avoid drama,” says Morgan. “A swift, ‘I am sick’ is enough. Elaborate stories scream drama and people will remember this in future incidents.”
Morgan suggests avoiding excuses that make you look weird (“My car handbrake broke and it rolled down the hill into a lamppost”), pathetic (“My dog has had a big fright and I don't want to leave him”) or downright inappropriate (“I've injured myself during sex”).
Bear in mind that you’re not the first person to take a day off to sit in the park. The survey revealed that bosses become more suspicious when the weather is good and 50% will ask questions if it’s sunny and the absentee seemed fine the day before. A third of bosses admit to checking the social media profiles of those they suspect, so no updates from the beach.
If you're ill, you're ill
Some excuses stand up better than others. Vomiting bugs, viruses and abdominal pains were found to be more readily believed while neck or back pain is looked on less favourably.
Quick but violent illnesses are harder to argue with as they clearly render you unable to work and don’t have lingering after-effects, meaning no one will ask questions when you appear back at work looking the picture of health. Explosive diarrhoea, food poisoning and migraines are all pretty failsafe excuses.
Your boss will be understandably concerned to know when you’ll be back at work so make this the focus of your call.
“Make a commitment to when you will be back at work as that is all your boss really wants to hear,” says Morgan. “Then stick to it, so you gain their trust.”
When you're back
Once you’re back at work, avoid overplaying the incident by talking too much about how sick you were. “Keep calm and carry on working hard as usual,” says Morgan. “People don't want to work with someone who harps on about the negative.”
Finding yourself pulling endless sickies may be an indication that you need to change your job. While everyone has off days, feeling dread every time you set off in the morning is unhealthy.
“If you are frequently faking sickness to get off work, there is usually a deeper rooted reason,” says Morgan. “You need to ask yourself the reason you are doing this. What is it about your work that is making you not want to be there? There is probably some way in which you are not aligned with your work.”
In the meantime, here are the 25 most bizarre excuses given to bosses for a day off work. Use them at your peril.
1. A can of baked beans landed on my big toe
2. I was swimming too fast and smacked my head on the poolside
3. I’ve been bitten by an insect
4. My car handbrake broke and it rolled down the hill into a lamppost
5. My dog has had a big fright and I don’t want to leave him
6. My hamster has died
7. I’ve injured myself during sex
8. I slipped on a coin
9. I’ve had a sleepless night
10. My mum has died (this was the second time the person used this excuse)
11. I am hallucinating
12. I am stuck in my house because the door’s broken
13. My new girlfriend bit me in a delicate place
14. I burned my hand on the toaster
15. The dog ate my shoes
16. My fish is sick
17. I swallowed white spirit
18. My toe is trapped in the bath tap
19. I’m in A&E as I got a clothes peg stuck on my tongue
20. I drank too much and fell asleep on someone’s floor – I don’t know where I am
21. My trousers split on the way to work
22. I’m using a new contact lens solution and my eyes are watering
23. I have a blocked nose
24. I’ve had a hair dye disaster
25. I’ve got a sore finger
What's the most outlandish excuse you've ever tried, or heard? Let us know in the comments below
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