Are people faking sick days because they cannot speak to their managers?

As two-fifths of workers have admitted to faking a sick day to get time off work, professionals have come forward to state that this is a sign that staff find it hard to talk to their employers regarding personal issues and needing time off work which “highlights the importance of developing healthy working relationships between employees and their managers.”

A survey found 40 per cent of employees, take a phony sick day, which seems to have raised more issues about managers than the lies of the work force.

Chris Kerridge, employee engagement expert at MHR, a payroll and HR provider said:

While most people have pulled a sickie at some point during their careers, the scale of the issue highlights the importance of developing healthy working relationships between employees and their managers.

A YouGov survey commissioned by MHR last year found that 80 per cent of employees have experienced what they consider poor management, or a poor manager, at least once during their career.

Over half (58 per cent) of respondents said managers today weren’t equipped to deal with the emotional or human side of management with many describing managers as unapproachable.

If employees don’t feel confident speaking to their managers then the reality is that they are more likely to be tempted to fake a sick day than be honest and request a break.

To address the issue and build trust between both parties, organisations must train their managers to become better people managers so they have the skills to identify early warning signs of burnout and sickness, while frequent one-to-one meetings will ensure employees feel confident talking to them openly about any concerns they have.

Hayley Lewis, an occupational psychologist, and founder and director of HALO Psychology, a company which helps managers deal with difficult problems in the workplace said:

People don’t leave an organisation – they leave their boss’ goes the saying.

We look to role models. If the boss is dragging themselves in, not taking breaks, eating lunch at their desk, it reinforces the message that it is not okay to take a break.

Julian Cox, head of employment at London legal practice iLaw said:

As the evidence in this survey suggests, there may be a ‘sickie’ culture in many workplaces and that raises questions about why employees feel the need to have unauthorised time off, or feel that it is fair to do so.

In today’s high strung work environment, it is important that employers speak with staff to find out what issues are affecting them, so as to provide solutions that would limit the number of sick days in a year. It is easy to trivialise the word sickie and assume that people are only using them to catch up on their favourite Netflix series or recover from a hangover, but there are many reasons for people pulling a sickie.

For some, it may be that they experiencing a mental health crisis and do not feel they are able to have an open and honest conversation with their employer, while for others it could be related to issues with caring for another, such as a child or elderly relative.

Although there are provisions in the law for these scenarios, sometimes employees are either unaware of these or feel that using them could have a negative impact on their career and employment.

Tackling sickie culture is important due to the cost, disruption and lack of productivity it creates but If a company is experiencing a significant number of sick days then they may need to evaluate the work environment to remove the toxicity that leads to ‘sickies’.

The survey was conducted by Com Res, a market research consultancy who asked 3,655 adults aged over 16.





Darius is the editor of HRreview. He has previously worked as a finance reporter for the Daily Express. He studied his journalism masters at Press Association Training and graduated from the University of York with a degree in History.