A new survey finds that two-thirds of U.S. workers who call in sick aren’t actually ill, but we know what you’re thinking: Also, the sky is blue, right?
That workers use their sick time for more than being sick isn’t exactly news but the reasons that people are using their time sick time for other purposes is the salient point: most work schedules aren’t nearly as flexible as employees need them to be.
While 34 percent of people who call in sick at the last minute actually are, the vast majority (66 percent) are taking this time for other reasons. 22 percent were dealing with family issues, 18 percent had personal needs that had to be addressed, 13 percent felt they were entitled to these “mental health days” but another 13 percent said they were stressed and felt calling out was their only option, according to the 2007 CCH Unscheduled Absence Survey.
“Traditional sick leave and inflexible time-off policies may put an employee in the position of having to conjure up a cold and take off an entire day when they really just needed two hours to take a parent to a pre-arranged medical appointment,” said Pamela Wolf, an employment law analyst with Riverwoods, Ill.-based CCH, which provides businesses with human resources and employment law information.
According to the CCH, U.S. absenteeism costs some of the largest U.S. business more than $760,000 per year in direct payroll costs, and even more in lowered productivity, lost revenue and the effects of poor morale.
The smartest employers seem to be tackling high absenteeism and its associated costs with what they call prevention programs. Organizations considered alternative work arrangements the most effective of these, followed by the ability to bank all paid leave time—and use it how and when they wish, the ability to telecommute and compressed work weeks.
The “entitled” excuse employee aside, the survey showed most employees wanted to be at work but stress or personal life responsibilities got in the way. Employers may not be able motivate unmotivated workers, but it seems little reason to punish the 87 percent who felt they had no other alternative.