It’s National Sickie Day – but what are your employees really up to? » SMEInsider

It’s National Sickie Day – but what are your employees really up to?

Statistics show that the first Monday in February is the day that employees are most likely to call in sick, costing the UK economy around £34m in salaries, lost opportunities and diminished productivity. But what’s actually wrong with everyone?

Here are three of the top reason why “sick” employees will be taking today off.

1. They’re tired and stressed

The Christmas euphoria has long since passed and many people are now dealing with debts they racked up over the festive period. Plus, with many companies paying out salaries earlier than usual in December, this often means that workers go longer than usual until the January payday. The stress of coping on a stretched budget may have been building up all month, and now the exhaustion is kicking in – especially when combined with a backlog of work that may have been neglected at the end of last year. Your off-sick employee may have soldiered on all January, but today they just couldn’t face the office.

National Sickie Day shows the effect external pressures can have on working life, not least due to Christmas debt taking its toll, and attention needs to be given to the cost that unforeseen long-term absence has,” says Katharine Moxham of Group Risk Development.

Our research has found that only 10% of employers have line managers trained to spot signs of stress and mental health conditions, an early intervention strategy which can help support staff internally. Spotting the signs early on and acting quickly will make a huge difference further down the line.”

2. They’re looking for another job

Dissatisfied employees often take advantage of the Christmas break to reassess their priorities and start scouting around for a new job or even career. With many companies advertising early in the New Year, hopefuls often apply during January, ready for interviews in early February. In fact, according to HR consultant and ex-Apprentice winner Ricky Martin, a quarter of February interviews will take place today.

Although employees are typically entitled to ask for a few hours off for an interview, they generally don’t – for obvious reasons. If you suspect that your off-sick employee falls into this category, this might be a good time to schedule a chat about their future at the company (if you want to keep them) or to start thinking about the next recruitment drive (if you don’t).

Even if they’re not at an interview, Martin claims that they may be spending the day job-searching anyway. “The data does seem to suggest that a lot of people use the day to look for their next job – it’s a trend that’s developed over the past few years and we don’t see any sign of it abating,” he told the Telegraph.

3. They’re genuinely ill

Just because someone happens to be away on National Sickie Day, it doesn’t automatically mean that they are pulling a fast one. It’s winter, after all, and nasty bugs are still doing the rounds. A weekend of snow and rain, combined with tube conditions that turn commuters into human petri dishes for germs, means that catching a sniffle is hardly a remote possibility! Unless you’re dealing with a prolific sick-leave taker, or you have strong reasons to believe you’re being taken for a fool, it’s probably best to give staff the benefit of the doubt.