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Lead Your Team Managing

Faking It: Why Employees Call in "Sick"

Faking It: Why Employees Call in
Credit: cunaplus/Shutterstock

With flu season around the corner, employers are gearing up for an increase in sick calls from employees — but some of those calls might not be truthful.

A CareerBuilder study found that 35 percent of employees called in to work sick this year when they were actually feeling just fine. December is the most popular month for employee sick days, followed by July and January. Not surprisingly, Mondays and Fridays are when workers most frequently take sick time.

Even though many workers have paid-time-off plans that lump vacation and sick time together, nearly 30 percent still feel the need to make up an excuse to take the day off. Employees pretend to be ill for a variety of reasons, and the research revealed the two most popular: because workers just don't feel like being at work that day or because they need time off to attend a doctor's appointment.

Other common motives are that employees just want some time relax, need to catch up on their sleep or need time to run personal errands.

While most employers give the benefit of the doubt when employees take sick days, some bosses are a little more skeptical. One-third of the employers surveyed said they have checked in one way or another to see if an employee was telling the truth. [See Related Story: Workers Reveal Why They Go to Work Sick

When investigating whether an employee really was ill, the majority of employers either ask for a doctor's note or call the employee at home to make sure the individual is there and resting. Some, however, take things a bit further. Nearly 20 percent of employers who have checked up on an employee have driven past the worker's house to make sure the person is there.

Employees should beware that getting caught for calling in sick when they feel fine can have grave consequences. The study found that 22 percent of employers have fired someone for lying about being ill, up from 18 percent in 2014.

Many workers have only themselves to blame for getting caught in such a lie. More than one-third of employees have been busted because they posted something on social media that gave away that they weren't ill, the study found. Of employers who have used social media to catch someone faking an illness, 27 percent of the bosses have fired those employees. Many employers, however were a little more forgiving, with 55 percent simply reprimanding the employee for the lie.

Although many workers take time off when they aren't sick, a large chunk still come to work when they really are under the weather. Nearly half of the employees surveyed said they come into work when they're sick because they can’t afford to miss a day of pay; 60 percent come in because they're worried the work won't get done otherwise.

The study was based on surveys of 3,100 full-time workers and more than 2,500 full-time hiring and human resource managers

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.