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Nearly half of Ireland’s workers ‘pull a sickie’ – Hangover’s a significant factor

Joanne Foley
sick days

More than 49 percent of people in Ireland take at least one bogus sick day from work each year, and more than one third (35 percent) allow themselves three days leave for non-existent illnesses. Contributor Joanne Foley – Matrix Recruitment. 

The Matrix Recruitment Sick Day survey of 400+ respondents found that hangovers were a significant factor in 24 percent of cases, but that more men than women (37 percent v 18 percent) allowed themselves an unofficial sick day as a result of alcohol-induced illness. More women than men (57 percent versus 37 percent) called in sick when they felt that they were having a bad week and Joanne Foley of Matrix Recruitment contends that the pressures of work may be a cause for people calling in sick.  

“Having a bad week means different things to different people but it is generally accepted that we are working longer hours and that the pressures of work are greater now than ever before.  This impacts people in different ways, but it’s not unusual to have a bad week because of work pressure and if that’s leading to more sick days, genuine or otherwise, that is not a good sign.”

36 percent of respondents claimed that tiredness or a late night caused their unofficial absence from work, while almost one in four (24 percent), simply felt they deserved to take a day off. 

Men take more bogus sick days than women, with 31 percent of men clocking up four ‘sickies’ during the year compared to 13 percent of women. 

Although more than two thirds of respondents felt it was perfectly acceptable to ‘pull a sickie’, 69 percent of women and 53 percent of men felt guilty for doing so.   

Most people surveyed (94 percent) contend that the majority of people take a bogus sick day at some stage in their working life.

“Whilst many people feel guilty for taking a sick day when not sick at all, there’s a sense that it’s an acceptable thing to do, because everyone else is doing it,” said Joanne Foley. “But, with an estimated 11 million days lost through absenteeism every year at a cost of €1.5bn to the Irish economy, it would be interesting to know how many of these days were lost to phantom illnesses.” 

85 percent of survey respondents in full-time employment receive at least 20 days holidays, each year. However, 58 percent of Ireland’s workers say that they do not get sufficient time off from work and would like a significant number of additional days.  

45 percent of those surveyed stated that they should receive an extra five days; 20 percent would be content  with four more and 21 percent would like three more days of holiday leave, according to the Matrix Recruitment Sick Day survey. 

The survey also found that when it comes to either leaving or taking a job, the amount of holiday leave on offer is a factor for 67 percent of respondents.  Almost one in five (19 percent) would take a salary cut in exchange for more holidays and 35 percent said they would consider it. 

Many employers have introduced the concept of the ‘Duvet Day’; an unscheduled but approved day off that an employee can take without notice.  

Unsurprisingly, the majority of Ireland’s workers felt that this concept should be introduced more widely across workforces, with more women than men (88 percent versus 78 percent) supporting the idea. 

If you are genuinely ill, stay at home and keep your germs to yourself say 62 percent of women and 47 percent of men who resent a co-worker attending work when sick. “If you are not well, attending work can slow down your recovery and there is every chance that you will spread a communicable disease if you have a cold or flu virus.  No one will thank you for that and it’s in everyone’s interest that you stay at home; although men seem less worried than women about this issue,” said Joanne Foley.  

“What we found interesting, but not surprising, is that there is resentment towards colleagues who take a lot of sick days,” said Joanne.  60 percent of people resent a colleague who takes multiple sick days.

89 percent of people in Ireland have gone to work when they knew they should have called in sick. “When you look at the reasons why people go to work when poorly, this becomes a significant finding,” according to Joanne Foley. 

52 percent of women and 60 percent of men reported feeling pressure from work and worried about work piling up, so attended despite an illness, according to the Matrix Recruitment findings. 50 percent of people say that they feel guilty phoning in sick, even when they are genuinely ill and 44 percent of workers say that they are afraid to phone in sick.

“It’s quite alarming when you hear that people are afraid to phone in sick or that they feel guilty for doing so.  The world of work has evolved considerably and we are living and working in an era where we are ‘always on’.  However, no one should feel afraid or guilty and if they do, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate their working life,” said Joanne. 

The Matrix Recruitment Sick Day survey found that on average, 65 percent of people in Ireland take between one and three official sick days a year.  19 percent of workers never call in sick. The Matrix Recruitment survey was conducted online in January 2019 among 403 workers.


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