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Sickie culture on the rise

Jenny Ware
sick days

Thirty-nine million working days lost due to sickies; two in five employees have pulled a sickie in the last year; half a million have pulled more than eight; stress, couldn’t be bothered working and hangovers the top reasons. Eighty-six percent have never been caught out pulling a sickie. Contributor, Jenny Ware, HR Business Partner – Citation’s.

With an estimated 39 million working days lost due to sickies every year, many UK businesses are throwing time and money down the drain, according to research conducted by Citation*. Two in five (41 percent) employees confessed to pulling at least one sickie in the last year, and more than half a million have pushed their luck by pulling more than eight.

Number of days

Number of employees

1 day

3.7 million

2 – 3 days

5.3 million

4 – 5 days

2.4 million

6 – 7 days


7 – 8 days


More than 8 days


18 to 24-year-olds were markedly more likely to pull a sickie than any other age group, with just under two thirds (62 percent) admitting to doing so. Just 12 percent of employees aged 65+ said they had lied about an illness in the last year.

The most common reasons for pulling a sickie were:



Feeling stressed

41 percent

Couldn’t be bothered working

25 percent

Being hungover

18 percent

Not enough annual leave left

18 percent

Couldn’t face my manager

11 percent

Being bullied

5 percent

Men are twice as likely as women to pull a sickie because they are hungover, and women are almost 10 percent more likely pull a sickie because they are feeling stressed. Interestingly, employees aged over 65 were six times more likely than the average to pull a sickie because they were being bullied, with 33 percent saying they had done so. Furthermore, those aged 25 to 44-years-old were the main culprits for calling in sick to cover a hangover.

Concerningly, of the two in five employees who have pulled a sickie, the vast majority (86 percent) said they had never been caught out. With a seven percent lower conviction rate, it would appear females are slightly more adept when it comes to fibbing their boss.

Citation’s HR Business Partner, Jenny Ware, commented: “Employees pulling sickies can be detrimental to businesses of any size. They’re costly, impede productivity and can have a negative impact on culture and morale. Perhaps more worrying are the reasons behind why employees feel they need to pull sickies. Management, bullying, stress and negative attitudes are damaging signs, and are critical areas all businesses need to address.”

*3gem questioned a nationally representative sample of 2,000 working adults aged 18 and over between 11th and 14th July 2017.

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