Almost a third of employees admit to ‘pulling a sickie’ at work – MetLife UK

  • 30% of employees have or would call in sick to miss work, despite feeling healthy
  • However, cases of actual staff burnout and mental health concerns are on the rise
  • Childcare is another factor behind growing number of sick days for employees

Almost a third (30%) of employees admit they have or would consider ‘pulling a sickie’ to miss work, despite feeling healthy, according to new research from leading insurance and employee benefits provider MetLife UK.

On National Sickie Day, Monday February 5th 2024, the day when most workers are likely to phone in sick – the research explores some of the key reasons why employees would seek time off work. 40% admitted they feel burned out, rising to 47% for women compared to 31% of men. Many also cite needing time away from the workplace as their sick day excuse.

Some also feel they needed extra time off work last minute due to personal circumstances. Almost a quarter (23%) say they took time off to attend a necessary appointment, while one in six (17%) did so due to emergency childcare issues, and 15% to care for a relative.

Top reasons why employees have or would ‘pull a sickie’ to skip working:       

Due to feeling burnt out 40%
For a break from my work 31%
To attend an appointment 23%
To help look after my children 17%
To care for a relative 15%
To avoid an ongoing issue 13%
To miss a deadline/ avoid doing a piece of work 8%
To get out of a meeting/ pitch 8%

Of those who have previously called in sick, 45% have taken up to a week off. A third (31%) have taken up to three days, and 17% have taken less than a day.

Adrian Matthews, Head of Employee Benefits at MetLife UK commented: “Stress, declining productivity and a lack of engagement are all common signs of employee burnout. And with two in five employees citing this as a reason to call in sick, this could easily spiral into a larger problem and is something employers and managers need to pay careful attention to – especially as we’re at the start of a new full working year.

“While taking time off work should be encouraged in the workplace and is a vital part of balancing home/work life commitments and preserving mental health – it’s important to understand if there are bigger issues at the root. Not only might there be employees who are struggling due to burn out or worrying about childcare, but these sick days can quickly stack up and could cost businesses significantly, with losses in both time, money and potential for long-term retention issues.

“To help address these issues, it’s critical for businesses to deploy regular, effective, and varied communication about workplace employee health and wellbeing benefits and other supportive policies available. Whether that’s mental health support and wellness sessions, counselling, bereavement support or financial protection. Doing this consistently throughout the year will help maintain engagement, productivity, and overall happiness at work – as well as helping to remove any stigmas attached with needing a break – potentially leading to less longer term sickness absence.”