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The true cost of pulling a 'sickie'

Around 16% of Britons admit to pulling a ‘sickie’ at some point during the year. To put this figure into perspective, it costs the UK economy an average of £100 billion a year for sick leave in total. This means of this £100 billion approximately £16 billion can be contributed by ‘sickies’.

It is difficult for employers to know when employees are trying to pull the wool over their eyes, but sometimes the need to be creative is outweighed by sheer stupidity. We’ve compiled a short list of the best worst excuses used by employees:

  • I’ve got morning sickness (from a male employee).
  • A fox stole my car keys whilst I was asleep.
  • Someone glued my doors and windows shut so I couldn’t leave the house.
  • I couldn’t decide what to wear.
  • I’ve accidently given my uniform to the charity shop and I need to go and buy it back.
  • I thought it was a bank holiday.
  • My 12 year old stole my car.
  • I need a few hours to get the alcohol level in my blood down to a legal level.

How to deal with sickness

There are steps that can be taken to help discourage employees trying to pull a sickie. Most ‘sickies’ are opportunistic and can be discouraged. Here are a few useful tips to help reduce the chance of your employees taking unnecessary sick leave:

  • Review your sickness and disciplinary procedures and policies. Ensure that they are interlinked to make them watertight whilst informing the management team are kept up-to-date about any changes.
  • In the sickness absence procedure, stipulate that absence must be reported by a phone call rather than a text or email. This will deter some employees from lying about sickness.
  • Give an incentive to members of staff you make a whole year without any absence.
  • Hold back to work meetings as part of the absence procedure. This can act as a deterrent to fake sickness and also help employers highlight any areas where they can help the employee back to work if they are genuinely ill.

Be mindful that not all sickness is fake. In many cases, the sickness will be genuine. The role of the employer can be an important factor in helping the employee back to work or even easing the burden.

  • Be sympathetic and do not presume they are ‘pulling a sickie’
  • Delve deeper into the issue, there may be underlying causes which you can help with i.e. family issues that may be helped by a shift change.
  • Ask if there is anything the business can do for them to help them back to work, possibly phased into a working pattern or moved to a less stressful position.

For more advice on managing sickness absence and conducting return to work, please visit HSE.gov.uk.


Ensure that your liability to your employees doesn’t put the business at risk. Call Be Wiser Business Insurance on 0800 042 0401 for a employers’ liability quotation.

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