More than half of employees admit to ‘pulling a sickie’, finds new Harris Interactive research

Harris Interactive UK

On National Sickie Day, survey reveals that a third of workers who called in sick had nothing wrong with them, while one in five had been ‘found out’ by employers

London, UK, 4th February 2019: The first Monday in February has become known as National Sickie Day – when UK employers brace themselves for a host of excuses as to why people can’t make it into work. And a new employee opinion survey from Harris Interactive reveals that over 50% of people admit to having ‘pulled a sickie’ in the past, with 71% of absentees saying they felt ‘justified’ in doing so, and two-thirds confessing they would do it again in future.

Download Work Life Insights Infographic (pdf)

The study of more than 1,000 UK respondents, found that more than half (530) had pulled a sickie, and 51% of those had done so in the past 12 months. Of the absentees, 32% were totally fine, while more than a third (34%) were exaggerating a minor illness or ailment. Sixty per cent of absentees said they would definitely pull a sickie again in the future, although 21% per cent revealed they had been caught out by their employer.

The study also found:

• More than a third (31%) of absentees planned their sickie in advance
• Sickies are more likely to be pulled in winter (28%), although 46% of absentees said the season made no difference
• Almost a quarter (24%) of those who have pulled a sickie don’t feel positive about going to work when they wake up in the morning

The research revealed that UK workers felt it was ‘acceptable’ to pull a sickie if you have mental health issues or are under stress, or for childcare reasons, but that it was ‘unacceptable’ if you had a hangover or to extend a holiday. More than half (59%) of respondents said if employers offered flexible absence schemes that did not affect annual leave then they would no longer be tempted to pull a sickie.

Vijay Mistry, Head of Employee Research at Harris Interactive, comments: “While the notion of National Sickie Day and ‘pulling a sickie’ may be considered light-hearted, the wider implications of why employees call in sick are more serious and suggest an underlying issue – that of mental health. With many workers feeling it is acceptable and sometimes necessary for them to pull a sickie when feeling overworked or stressed, there’s an implicit suggestion that employers need to be more aware of how they can support the psychological well-being of staff.”

The survey was completed by 1,039 UK participants and was conceived, designed, fielded and analysed by Harris Interactive’s Employee Research Insights team during January 2019.


About Harris WorkLife Study
Harris Interactive’s Work Life study explores the attitudes and opinions of employees in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy (European ‘big-five’). In addition to providing Harris Interactive Employee Research clients with objective country, sector, industry and demographic benchmarks for their opinion surveys, this Work Life panel survey also provides thought provoking insights about the things that organisations (HR, People and Organisational Development specialists) should be thinking about for today and tomorrow.

About Harris
Harris Interactive is a full-service, consultative custom market research agency. We are responsive, agile and committed to our clients’ success above all. We have a long history of helping brands succeed and we continuously innovate new means for obtaining insight. We set ourselves apart as we fuse sector expertise and award-winning research designs with innovative tools and technology to deliver impactful, actionable insights that keep our clients ahead of what’s next.

Expert in all areas of research design, implementation, analysis, and reporting, Harris Interactive has particular strengths in customer experience, brand and new product development. Working internationally, our activities in the UK span both business-to-business and consumer markets.

At Harris our legacy, expertise and relationships made us who we are, but technology drives our future and speed of delivery allows us to anticipate challenges.

Press contact:
Nadine Sanders
GingerMay PR
0203 642 1124