More than One-Third of U.S. Healthcare Employers Say Workers Call in Sick More Often Around the Winter Holidays

Employers Share List of 15 Most Unusual Excuses for Calling in Sick

Chicago, Illinois - October 19, 2011 - Healthcare employers expect to see less employee traffic as the holidays approach, a new survey finds.  Over one-third (37 percent) of healthcare employers reported that workers call in sick more often during the winter holidays.

While the cold and flu season is a heavy contributor to workplace absences this time of year, some workers may be using sick days to take care of some holiday shopping or other errands.  Twenty-eight percent of healthcare workers have admitted to already playing hooky from work this year, citing personal errands, doctor's appointments and lack of desire to work among the top reasons for calling in sick when they were well.  The nationwide study was conducted by Harris Interactive from August 16 to September 8, 2011 and included more than 280 healthcare employers and nearly 600 healthcare workers.

Top time of year for absenteeism
While healthcare employers reported heightened absenteeism around the holidays, the prime time of year when companies say employees call in sick is in the first quarter:

  • January through March - 34 percent
  • April through June - 10 percent
  • July through September - 30 percent
  • October through December - 26 percent

Texting in sick

When it comes to notifying employers that they are taking a sick day, some healthcare workers reported they are bypassing a phone call to the boss and relying on digital communications.

  • Phone call - 89 percent
  • Email - 20 percent
  • Text message - 14 percent

Most unusual excuses
When asked to share the most unusual excuses employees gave for missing work, employers across all industries offered the following real-life examples:

1)      Employee's 12-year-old daughter stole their car and they had no other way to work.  Employee didn't want to report it to the police.
2)      Employee said bats got in her hair.
3)      Employee said a refrigerator fell on him.
4)      Employee was in line at a coffee shop when a truck carrying flour backed up and dumped the flour into her convertible.
5)      Employee said a deer bit him during hunting season.
6)      Employee ate too much at a party.
7)      Employee fell out of bed and broke his nose.
8)       Employee got a cold from a puppy.
9)      Employee's child stuck a mint up his nose and had to go to the ER to remove it.
10)     Employee hurt his back chasing a beaver.
11)     Employee got his toe caught in a vent cover.
12)     Employee had a headache after going to too many garage sales.
13)     Employee's brother-in-law was kidnapped by a drug cartel while in Mexico.
14)     Employee drank anti-freeze by mistake and had to go to the hospital.
15)     Employee was at a bowling alley and a bucket filled with water (due to a leak) crashed through the ceiling and hit her on the head.

Checking up on employees
Calling in sick without a legitimate excuse can have serious consequences.  Seventeen percent of healthcare employers said they have fired a worker for this reason.  Thirty percent have checked up on an employee, citing the following examples:

  • 80 percent required a doctor's note
  • 50 percent called the employee
  • 18 percent had another employee call the employee
  • 10 percent drove by the employee's home

"Hospitals and other healthcare organizations are often already understaffed, so an unexpected absence can cause serious challenges," said Rob Morris, product director at "If you need time off, it's important to inform your manager, so they can plan for your absence.  While the unexpected can happen, you want to make sure you don't hurt your credibility with the organization."

Survey Methodology
This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Interactive© on behalf of CareerBuilder among 288 Healthcare hiring managers and human resource professionals and 598 Healthcare workers (employed full-time, not self-employed, non-government) ages 18 and over between August 16 and September 8, 2011 (percentages for some questions are based on a subset, based on their responses to certain questions). With pure probability samples of 288 and 598, one could say with a 95 percent probability that the overall results have a sampling error of +/-5.77 and +/-4.01 percentage points, respectively. Sampling error for data from sub-samples is higher and varies.

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