National Sickie Day falls on the first Monday of February and marks the day where, statistically, the highest number of employees call in sick to work. 

HRreview investigates how employers can focus on creating an efficient and healthy company culture, solving the problem of absenteeism at its root. 

National Sickie Day is an annual day falling at the start of February and has been coined as the day in the calendar year where employees are most likely to call in sick to the workplace.

However, it is more essential now than ever for HR teams to take this day seriously.

According to research conducted by O.C Tanner, an employee recognition company, during the first lockdown, UK workers took 68 per cent more days off than normal in order to avoid work.  Over half (53 per cent) of UK workers dreaded going to work. In addition, almost half (48 per cent) stated that they had nothing else to give to their job*.

Robert Ordever, Managing Director of O.C Tanner Europe, states that these are key signs of burnout, saying:

The signs of burnout include dreading work and trying to avoid it, as well as exhaustion and feelings of futility. More than ever, workers need support and understanding from their organisations, and this includes forgetting days such as ‘National Sickie Day’ which whitewashes the seriousness and complexities of the current situation.

Not only does absenteeism mean that employees and their health are negatively being impacted, this also has serious repercussions for businesses. Data collected by Deloitte found that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion a year**.

Therefore, Rowlinson Knitwear, a schoolwear supplier that is a B Corporation and a Living Wage employer, has offered various tips that can help HR to cultivate a healthy work culture, alleviating the need for employees to “pull a sickie” in the first instance.

Put people first

Putting people before profit gets the best out of your people and the organisation. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the importance of genuine care in the workplace, with those that have fallen short suffering reputational damage. Employee-owned businesses invoke greater engagement and productivity, improved employee retention and greater customer satisfaction. And happier people means fewer absences. Putting people first is no longer a “nice to have”, but a commercial imperative.

Adopt clear values and a strong purpose

A clear and relatable purpose provides a common goal that everyone can work towards, uniting colleagues and creating a greater sense of responsibility to each other. A values-led business ensures that all decisions are aligned with a central moral compass. Matched by recruiting people who exhibit these values, everyone cares about the business doing well and are less likely to take unnecessary time off.

Show kindness

Businesses needs to value compassion and caring for others, reinforced in everything it does, from how people are treated during the recruitment process through to how they’re managed on a daily basis.

Exhibit fairness

Favouritism reaps disillusionment and resentment so be fair in everything, from pay and rewards through to development opportunities. And if you’re not a real Living Wage employer, what message is this sending to your people?

Be flexible and understanding

This is crucial at all times, especially during a crisis. Businesses must allow their people the flexibility to work around other commitments, while being understanding and accommodating about their availability for meetings and ability to meet deadlines.

 Show gratitude

If your people don’t think you appreciate them, they’ll feel more willing to fake illness for some time off. Staff recognition must become part and parcel of daily working life, with managers showing appreciation of their teams, and peer-to-peer recognition encouraged.

Nicola Ryan, Colleague Support Director at Rowlinson Knitwear, says:

Organisations with consistently high rates of absenteeism must take a long, hard look at their business model, culture and leadership style. Even just a few improvements to workplace culture, so that people feel more motivated and engaged to do their best, could make the world of difference!

* This research was taken from O.C Tanner’s 2021 Global Culture Report which surveyed 40,000 employees and leaders across the world including over 1,600 from the UK. **Deloitte conducted this research as part of their report ‘Mental Health and Wellbeing in the UK Labour Market’ published in January 2020.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.