Survey: Two-thirds who call in sick aren’t

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This just in! From AccountingWeb:

While 34 percent of people who call in sick to work at the last minute do so because of illness, 66 percent are taking time for other reasons, according to the 2007 CCH Unscheduled Absence Survey.

No kidding! So what were we doing–hitting the salon for a mani-pedi? Hitting that Super Wednesday sale at Kohl’s? Hitting the snooze button 1,234 times? Nah:

The reasons for the other-than-sick absences were: family issues (22 percent), personal needs (18 percent), entitlement mentality (13 percent), and stress (13 percent).

Let’s parse these. So two-thirds of employees take sick days for reasons other than dire illness. Of those, 22% are handling dire family issues: taking a sick kid to the doctor, driving over to mom’s to help her fix the furnace. Another 18% are taking care of personal issues: handling backed-up bills, getting the car fixed. Stress, I also get–that’s another 13%. Entitlement mentality, 13%, is the only questionable reason of the bunch, even though I’d guess those workers just feel so overloaded they deserve that Tuesday on the couch.

This kind of news may have HR types and bosses gnashing their teeth, their darkest suspicions confirmed. But here’s the point, made in the AccountingWeb article:

“Most people today are juggling the demands of busy personal and professional lives, and are trying to do their very best in both places,” said Pamela Wolf, JD, an employment law analyst with Riverwoods, Ill.-based CCH, which provides businesses with human resources and employment law information. “Organizations need to stop the tug of war with people for their time, and become a partner to employees to help them, and the business overall, be more successful.”

What they’re saying is that employers need a new way to parcel out time off to workers. We’re going to take the time off anyway; don’t make us lie about it.

The set-up is inherently unfair. Say Company A allots 10 paid sick days a year. Mike rarely gets ill. Bob, however, has a chronic illness for which he really does need those 10 days. Mike may not get sick himself, but he does have an ailing dad whom he’d like to visit. But he’s got to use up his vacation days to do that. So in effect, Bob gets double Mike’s two-week vacation time. To achieve parity, Mike has to fake some complicated disease in order to fly out to care for his poor Pop.

And in the end, employers lose out, too. Consider:

“Traditional sick leave and inflexible time-off policies may put an employee in the position of having to conjure up a cold and take off an entire day when they really just needed two hours to take a parent to a pre-arranged medical appointment,” said Wolf.

Some U.S. companies offer personal days that can be interchanged with sick days. That’s a good solution. Another is giving employees more flexibility to work from home. For instance, last Thursday I worked from home to accommodate two doctors’ appointments at both ends of the day. Together they took up a little over an hour. I spent the rest of the day reporting and writing from home.

No, I didn’t sneak in a mani-pedi. I’d show you a photo as proof, but I have the world’s ugliest feet and I wouldn’t want to gross you out so early in the morn.