The first Monday in February (which this year was the 1st) has been coined National Sickie Day in the UK.
Statistically this is when most people will phone in sick to work using a range of different excuses to take the day off. Having a cold or flu are the most popular excuses given for taken the day off, but it is telling that these are ‘excuses’, which suggests that maybe they are not as true as employees would have their bosses believe.
This is somewhat backed up by a poll taken by ITV in 2014 on this subject. Whilst colds, flu, and food poisoning were the most popular excuses given, 46% of those interviewed stated that ‘feeling tired’ was the real reason and 40% also said ‘they just didn’t feel like it’.
This is an all too familiar trend we are seeing where the issues around how a person is feeling are masked with a physical issue. Culturally colds, flu and other physical ailments are still much more readily accepted than stating your mental health is suffering and you need to take a break.
Furthermore, employers feel that any mention of a mental health problem means a member of staff will be absent long term. Whilst taking a longer period of sickness is true for some cases such as stress, anxiety or depression, others who are finding it difficult to cope with mounting pressure may simply need a day off to martial their feelings. In these instances, it is worth employers having a long hard think about allowing time off.
If one day of sick leave saves one month of absence further down the line, is it not worth doing? By doing so it will save much more money for companies and give employers potentially happier and stress free staff, which is what they should aim for.
By working with a range of employers in all sectors across Northern Ireland, I have come across some who use ‘duvet days’. These are a great little idea which allow employees to call in that morning and say they are taking a duvet day and that is that. No need to feel guilty for ‘not being up for it’ and no need to make excuses. This is great for employees and means that when they come back the next day they are more likely to be refreshed and ready to go.
What kind of things can employers do to make the first Monday in February National Sickie Day? Firstly becoming more aware of what could be impacting on staff’s physical and mental health. Why don’t they feel like it today?
In January we had ‘Blue Monday’ and in February we have National Sickie Day. This is not a new phenomenon, we have been aware of these days for a number of years and yet the desire to combat the issues leading to them does not seem to be there.
Companies and society as a whole need to do more in terms of talking about what is causing this suffering for a large number of people every single day. We need to ask staff, are they happy? If not, what can we do make them happier?
Organisations can no longer operate with a policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, they need to show employees that their health and well-being is of paramount importance to the organisation’s productivity ratings and staff engagement.
For help in improving the mental health and well-being of your workforce contact AMH Works on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the programmes we run that can help your organisation save around 30% of costs relating to mental health related sickness absence and sickness presence.