I’m sorry I couldn’t write this blog post yesterday, but my pet rabbit escaped and I had to rescue him from the foxes in the woods.

What?  You don’t believe me? Oh alright then. The real truth is that like a third of all workers, I didn’t really feel like it and decided to throw a sickie and in the process, contributed to the widespread problem of workplace absenteeism.

The pet rabbit story, by the way, is one of the real examples given by respondents to a recent Pricewaterhouse Coopers survey on short-term absence. One in three of those who took part in the research admitted to taking time off ‘under false pretences’.

Good weather, a heavy night out or (ahem) romantic reasons were the most common excuses given for people deciding to swing the lead. Illness (and particularly the ubiquitous tummy upset) was the most common excuse given, although pet-related problems also featured high on the list. Some of the more ‘interesting’ excuses included ‘I was beaten up by a bouncer’ or ‘I fell out of the loft’.

It’s laughable – but actually a serious problem. Add up all these duvet days and you find that workplace absenteeism is costing UK plc a staggering £32 billion a year.

One of the most significant findings to emerge from the research is that six out of 10 of those who skived off said it was because they were ‘bored and depressed’ at work. So maybe employers are partly to blame for not paying enough attention to motivating and engaging their employees?

A culture of ‘acceptance’ also appears to be exacerbating the problem. According to the statistics, employees felt they could happily take around five days off before anyone started to take notice, while a third of employees said they were more likely to throw a sickie if they saw their colleagues getting away with it.

So what steps are you taking to manage workplace absenteeism in your business, and is your business prepared to manage its sickness absence rates effectively? And what’s the most creative excuse you’ve ever heard?

Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.