HR · 3 February 2017

National Sickie Day: Why your employees are calling in sick

National Sickie Day
An estimated 349,000 UK workers are expected to take the day off on National Sickie Day

Monday 6 February is the day when your employees are most likely to call in sick this year – but why are staff tempted to phone in and fake illness on the UK’s National Sickie Day?

According to people management company LHH Penna, it could be down to personal and financial recognition. Research undertaken by the consultants showed that a third of British employees felt undervalued and underpaid at work.

After asking workers to describe their job in one word, less than one in ten opted for “excellent”, while just two of five considered their job “rewarding”.

Insecurity could also be playing a major factor in poor motivation. Three out of every five employees reported that they frequently worried about losing their job.

Business advisory firm Employment Law Experts (ELAS) claimed that absences on National Sickie Day cost the British economy £45m, as an estimated 349,000 workers struggle to motivate themselves at the end of a long January.

Advising employers ahead of National Sickie Day, LHH Penna CEO Nick Goldberg highlighted several ways in which business owners can help employees feel more fulfilled at work and avoid hurting profits.

Recognise your employees as individuals

Making your employees feel they’re being seen is a much simpler task than it might seem. Check in when someone has been feeling poorly, greet those on your team at the beginning and end of each day, thank your colleagues for delivering tasks, and always make a point of voicing appreciation for a job well done.

Admonish privately

Always be cautious of publically scolding even those whose performance is unsatisfying. Calling people out in front of your colleagues will never reflect well on you, and always lead to an atmosphere of fear thus punishing even your strongest performers.

Brave “money talk”

Do not shy away from discussing financial compensation – salaries are quantifiable reflections of an employee’s value. If a pay-rise isn’t in the books for some, be upfront about it, explain why and schedule a time to discuss it further at a later date.

For Ann Francke, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, National Sickie Day “should serve as a reminder to employers of the importance of tackling stress and unhappiness in the workplace”.

“Having good quality leadership and management is the biggest factor in determining productivity. Good, skilled managers know that they need to switch off and empower their employees to do the same,” she said in a statement.

However, regular absences shouldn’t be tolerated by business owners, and Emma O’Leary, ELAS employment law consultant, suggested that National Sickie Day was not an excuse to take the day off.

“As an employer you are perfectly entitled to challenge the authenticity of an absence – if an excuse seems too far-fetched then ask for evidence if appropriate. If you notice a pattern emerging then you should speak to the employee about their poor attendance and take proactive steps to action it,” she said.

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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