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Staff Sick Days Advice for SME Owners

Any small business owner who employs staff will be aware that this is one of the worst times of the year when it comes to employees phoning in sick.  Last year Daniel Kidd carried out a survey on behalf of Free Office Finder of 10,000 employees across the UK to find out about their sicknesses and a massive one third disclosed that they had taken a fake sick day (known as a “sickie”) in the past year.  When asked about the reasons for taking a sickie, the most common was that they were suffering from a hangover!  While there’s nothing that can be done to avoid employees taking time off to recover from the carousing of the night before, there are things that can be done to limit the damage this does to business.  The results of the survey were also used to advise business owners what they can do to help avoid staff taking too many sickies.

One way of avoiding too many sickies would be to allow staff to work from home if this is possible.  Somebody suffering the effects of a night out may find the thought of getting up and making their way into work a little bit too much to face, whereas having the option to work from home instead could result in them being less inclined to phone in sick.

Another practice that could reduce the number of sick days is flexi-time.  The increased use of technology often allows for more flexible working hours that mean jobs don’t necessarily have to be nine-to-five all the time these days.  Parents of young children and those with transport issues often find that flexi-time is the only thing that allows them to even consider some jobs. 

Another major reason for absence was tiredness – one more issue that could be improved by the introduction of flexi-time if possible.  An extra hour in bed can make all the difference to somebody who is tired and it means they are more likely to perform well at work if they are allowed to arrive an hour late and make up the time later during the day. 

Another revelation following the survey is the second most popular reason for taking a sickie – dreading work.  This is a serious issue – having a hangover does not reflect badly on your business (unless you’re actually driving your employees to drink!) whereas employing people who genuinely dread coming into work does not look great for you as a business owner.  Maintaining good staff morale is essential for smaller businesses with fewer staff – after all, being one team member down can have quite a negative impact on the day’s work.

Another reason for taking a sickie is holidays.  If staff are unable to take their holidays on the dates requested, or if they have to give notice in advance, they may be tempted to take a sickie when they just need to take a day or two of holiday leave.  Making holiday requests more flexible can be a great way of addressing this issue and offering flexi-time is an opportunity for staff to build up the odd day off here and there if they need more holiday time.


While the sickie will never be totally eradicated, offering employees some flexibility when it comes to working hours could drastically reduce the number of sickies.