National Sickie Day: Why Are We Lying?

What has commonly been dubbed as “National Sickie Day” returns again this coming Monday 4th February. With more Britons choosing to phone in sick than any other day in the entire year, we’re asking why?

  • Research by Awareness Days, found that last year work absences totalled an estimated 350,000 on the day
  • National Sickie Day will see a knock-on effect of £4.45m loss in wages, lost hours and overtime, according to the Employment Law Advisory Service (ELAS)
  • The most common excuse received by employers was for ‘colds and flu’
  • However, an ITV Survey found that ‘tiredness’ was the most popular reason given, coming in at 46% of the results, with a further 40% admitting that they simply just ‘didn’t feel like it’.

With a whole host of nasty viruses prevalent at this time of year, of course some of us will indeed be genuinely ill on the day. However, there is definitely a sizeable proportion of us that are opting to phone in sick, to avoid admitting what is really going on:

Are You Really Ill, Or At A Job Interview?

With application rates spiking each January, it is perhaps of little surprise that the first week in February sees nearly a fifth more interviews than any other week of the year. So are absentees really sick or just trying to catch a career break without alerting their boss?

Employees are legally entitled take a day off to work to attend an interview, but whether it’s for fear of offending your employer or fear of creating an awkward atmosphere amongst colleagues in the workplace, many of us simply choose not to be upfront about this.

So what do we do? Pull a sickie instead and risk breaching our contract of employment.

“The Winter Blues” and SAD – Are We Hiding Our Mental Health Struggles?

The winter months can be a mentally difficult and challenging time of year for many. January and February in particular are the months in which people are said to struggle most:

  • The buzz and excitement of Christmas is over
  • Our vitamin D levels are running especially low due to a long season of duller, drearier weather.
  • A recent article from the Independent reported that over half (57%) of adults say their overall mood is worse in the winter season compared to the summer season.

All of the above factors reinforce the pervasiveness of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). During the dull winter days, our brains release melatonin as a response to the darkness, leaving us feeling lethargic and drained, and without the sunlight to trigger release of serotonin, we are also left feeling dejected and often depressed.

Symptoms of SAD include; a lack of interest and pleasure in normal everyday activities, sleeping for longer than normal and difficulty getting up in the mornings, irritability and feelings of hopelessness and despair.

When you consider the impact of this, it is of little wonder that 46% of employees confessed their excuse for pulling a sickie was due to tiredness, or that 40% of employers claim they pulled a sickie because “they didn’t feel like it.”

But Why Are Employees Not Being Honest About This?

Many feel that cold and flu and other physical ailments are much more accepted excuses for a day off of work than mental health related issues are. We still live in a society where mental health still remains a fairly taboo topic which employees may not feel comfortable opening up about, especially in a professional environment.

But as a business owner it is in your interest to diffuse this taboo. Research conducted by The Centre For Mental Health found that mental health problems in the UK workforce cost employers almost £35 billion last year.

If left untreated, mental illnesses can spiral out of control and keep people out of work for weeks or even months.

“Employers that ignore the issue, or who undermine the mental health of their staff, risk not only the health of the people who work for them but the wealth of their business and the health of the economy as a whole.”CFMH

Better awareness of mental health within the workplace should improve employers well being and hopefully reduce the number of “sickies” being pulled.


“National Sickie Day” can be infuriating and frustrating for employers, however as discussed it is important to maintain an awareness of the motivations behind people’s potential dishonesty.

People would surely be more honest with employees if there was greater acknowledgement of the importance of mental health both within our society and the workplace. Similarly, more open and honest relationships within the workplace would surely see more people being straight with their current employer when it comes to applying for new jobs and attending interviews. The financial damage which National Sickie Day entails is preventable, and it should not be accepted as inevitable or normal within our society.

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