How to discourage your employees from ‘pulling a sickie’

How to discourage your employees from ‘pulling a sickie’

Today, the BBC has revealed that two in five adults would fake a sick day if they needed a day off.

The survey, commissioned by the BBC and conducted by ComRes, canvassed 3,655 UK adults earlier this year to get a snapshot of morality and understand where our values come from.

One of the areas they explored was work, and in doing so they uncovered some interesting statistics that have raised some important questions about employees’ behaviour when it comes to work attendance.

Most prominent was the discovery that 40% of people surveyed would take a sick day because they felt they needed a break from work, even if they weren’t actually ill.

Commonly known as ‘pulling a sickie’, the notion of people falsely claiming to be unwell in order to take time off work seems to be a fairly normal practice among UK employees.

In fact, it’s more prevalent among those aged 16-34 who are, according to the survey, twice as likely to take a sickie than those over the age of 55.

The dishonesty doesn’t stop there either. The survey also uncovered that 30% of people would pretend to have a doctor’s appointment when they’re actually doing something else.

So, what does all of this tell us?

For employees to feel that it’s necessary to lie in order to take time off work, there needs to be some kind of issue going on in the workplace. Maybe employees don’t feel comfortable being open with their manager, or perhaps they feel judged for taking time off for any other reason than being ill. Whatever the specific reason, a level of disconnect clearly exists that needs to be addressed.

How do you take action?

The rationale behind this dishonest behaviour is the real problem, which is why it’s important for you to create an environment where your employees don’t need to lie.

Remove the judgement

Employees shouldn’t be vilified for being absent from work. Time off is allowed and often needed so that employees can be the most happy, productive and engaged they can be.

As mentioned in our blog about presenteeism, absence from work is often considered a sign of weakness or lack of commitment. 79% of employees are reportedly too afraid to call in sick, which leads to many soldiering on when actually they’re not in a fit state to work.

We have two sides of the coin here, which shows that attitudes towards time off work need to change. If you remove the judgement, you’ll likely find that employees take time off when they need it and are honest about why.

Create a trusted environment

For employees to feel comfortable being open and honest in the first place, they need to be in a trusted environment. This means that if they need to take time off, whatever the reason, they should be able to talk to a manger in confidence. At the same time, when an employee is away from work, colleagues and managers shouldn’t start an interrogation and raise suspicions about the legitimacy of their absence.

It all comes down to the wellbeing of your employees at the end of the day. Of course, employees should have a reason for being off work and there are regulations in place for certain types of leave, but the way the situation is handled makes all the difference. By placing trust in your employees, you’ll earn their trust back and hopefully eradicate the need for any employees to ‘pull a sickie.’

Practice what you preach

The way your managers and senior employees behave when it comes to their own absences from work will pave the way for the rest of your employees.

For example, if managers are dragging themselves into work when they’re clearly unwell, it sends the message that it’s not okay to take time off work. At the same time, if managers take time off and openly tell their team that they’ve pulled a sickie, employees are going to think it’s acceptable for them to do the same. It’s therefore important to make sure that you treat employees the same across the board.

Your business’ culture will absolutely influence how your employees behave towards taking time off. An environment of trust where employees aren’t vilified for being absent is of course crucial, but you also need to get to the bottom of why some of your employees might be taking time off sick when perhaps they don’t actually need to. Why don’t they want to be at work? Employees that are pretending to be ill so they can have time off work might actually be unhappy and disengaged. This means you’ll need to go down a different route to solve the problem.

If you’d like to drive employee engagement across your business, find out about our range of solutions.

Read the BBC News story about this topic

Find out more about the BBC Beliefs Survey

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