It’s Monday morning, three minutes to nine and the phone begins to ring. Everyone in the office knows what’s coming; a colleague is calling to (cough) say that they’re really poorly and (cough), can’t get out of bed so they won’t be able to make it in today (sniff).

Cynicism aside, we do all get ill and it’s far better to recover at home than attempt a woozy commute or risk infecting the team. However, Monday, 7th February is ‘National Sickie Day’ and managers up and down the country are being warned to expect lots of calls from depressed staff who fancy a day in bed, many of whom will have been up all night watching the Super Bowl.

Last year, apparently, some 375,000 British workers took the day off, costing millions in lost productivity. The excuses will have ranged from a bog-standard (excuse the pun) dodgy stomach to the frankly rather lacklustre “my trousers were wet”. Here are a few of the most incredulous excuses as seen on the world wide web:

Too much information

There are some excuses that are just so…excruciatingly personal, that they can’t be argued with. This is a clever tactic, any normal manager will simply want to get the offender off the line. They include:

– “Women’s problems”
– “My new girlfriend bit me in a delicate place”
– “I need to check on something that is bleeding”
– “My boyfriend and I were play fighting and I hurt my finger”
– “I need to dunk my backside in cold water to numb the swelling”
– “I’m in A&E as I got a clothes peg stuck on my tongue”.


If you can’t reach the office, then how can you work? While that theory might make sense, are these excuses believable? See what you think about the following:

– “My car got blocked in so I couldn’t get out of the driveway”
– “I got drunk last night and am over the limit, so can’t drive to work”
– “I can’t afford to put petrol in the car”
– “My car exhaust has fallen off onto the driveway”
– “My 12-year-old daughter stole my car, but I don’t want to report her to the police”
– “My handbrake broke and the car rolled down the hill into a lamppost”.

Domestic life

Ah, the trials and tribulations of daily life. Looking at these excuses, it’s a wonder so many of us manage to go to work at all:

– “I sneezed in the shower and cracked my head against the wall”
– “My mum washed all my clothes and shrunk them”
– “I swallowed some glass and need to go to hospital”
– “My dog/ hamster/ llama is sick /missing /eloped”
– “A can of baked beans landed on my big toe”
– “A cow broke into my house and I had to wait for the insurance man”.

How to pull the ultimate sickie

If you’re going to do it, then you need to set the scene in advance and avoid any dramatic scenarios. Start ‘feeling sick’ or sniffing the day before, that way, everyone in the office will say “ah, yes he/she said they weren’t well yesterday” and it’ll come as no great surprise. Of course, the consummate sickie-puller gets themselves sent home by turning up at death’s door, full of protestations that they’re “fine really”. Just remember not to post your sick day exploits on social media.

We jest, naturally!

Of course, one of the most common reasons for taking unauthorised sickness is lack of motivation. To discourage this practice, you could try to find ways to boost morale, perhaps by reviewing your holiday policy and allowing flexi-working. Most importantly, try to create an open culture within which your direct reports will feel confident enough to raise issues with you before they escalate towards absence.