'National sickie day' could see 350,000 workers call in sick

Today is the most likely day for UK workers to pull a ‘sickie’ – with last year’s day costing the UK economy an estimated £45m in wages.

Up to 350,000 workers in the UK are expected to call in sick today, as the first Monday of February traditionally sees the highest number of absences in the entire year.

Employment law firm ELAS suggests that a combination of miserable weather, commuting in the dark, post-Christmas credit card bills and long gap between holidays contribute to the absence problem.

Chris Noon, Teams and Data Scientist at Dropbox, suggested better clarity around job roles might help reduce the amount of down time taken by employees. “We recently surveyed 2,000 UK workers, and nearly three quarters admitted they don’t work to the best of their ability even once a week,” he said. “But often it's not a lack of motivation causing this: it’s a lack of clarity. This tells us that with clear roles and responsibilities, leaders can expect productivity and happiness to rise.”

Dean Forbes, CEO, CoreHR, said that HR has a role to play in preventing unnecessary absences. “The bottom line is that happy and engaged employees don’t feign sickness,” he said.

“Businesses who spend [today] fielding calls from sick workers must weigh-up whether they have the right tools in place, or if they’re managing staff in the right way.”

However, Dr Mark Winwood, Director of psychological services for AXA PPP healthcare, warns that employers should not assume everyone who is off sick today is actually well enough to work. “Our research of non-exec employees that 40% would not tell their boss the truth why they were calling in sick if they were ill with stress, anxiety or depression,” he said.

“One of the difficulties with mental ill health is that it can be very easy to overlook. Signs and symptoms can vary from person to person, so it can be hard to identify someone who is having difficulty coping.”


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