What is National Sickie Day?

By Anthony Wolny | 4th February 2019 | 9 min read

What is it? 

The first working Monday in February has been dubbed, somewhat dubiously, ‘National Sickie Day’ across the UK. It marks the day of the year where workers across the UK are most likely to call in sick to their workplace. It was first identified by law experts the ELAS Group in 2011, when a survey that they conducted estimated that 350,000 workers would call into work ill on the first Monday in February.

Why does it occur? 

We can’t be exactly certain as to why this phenomenon occurs, but experts believe it could be due to a build up of factors. These can include people finishing ‘dry January’ and celebrating a little too exuberantly, marking the first payday post-Christmas, or even the fact that many workers tend to re-evaluate their career over the Christmas period, and that in fact ‘pulling a sickie’ could be covering for attending job interviews.

What could it mean for businesses?

Whilst one day with an elevated absence rate doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for a company, monitoring the situation to ensure that it doesn’t escalate is vital if  you want to avoid a long-term business problem with absence.

With a current emphasis placed on the importance of mental health and wellbeing within the workplace, businesses would also be wise to assess whether a heightened absence rate could be attributed to employees struggling with mental health or emotional wellbeing issues. Research from the ONSillustrates that, on average, workers in the UK take only four sick days per year, and of those, only eight percent are recorded as being due to mental health.

Keeping a close eye on absence rates, and fully investigating any unexpected spikes and putting in place improvement initiatives, can go a long way towards fostering an open and honest culture around employee wellbeing.

Our top 5 tips to beat National Sickie Day: 

1. Invest in absence management software – Identifying sickness trends and patterns can be difficult, but investing in the right absence management system can make the process a lot easier. Absence management software is one solution that could really help you to monitor trends and keep on top of absence rates, without the need to invest time and effort into manual record keeping or data monitoring. The right system can guide you in logging, tracking, analysing and acting on the absence data that your company generates.

2. Use data to inform and educate – Ensuring that you focus on recording absences correctly means that you will eventually build up a complete picture of the absence rate culture within your business. Gaining the right information will help managers to identify any ongoing health issues, and to offer any appropriate support. Formally recording absences through an official company system can also deter many from taking a sickie.

3. Investigate employee wellbeing initiatives – With such a focus placed on the importance of mental health and wellbeing at work, an increasing number of companies are investigating ways in which they can add value to their workplace for employees. Whether that’s through offering discounted gym memberships, free yoga lessons, or providing a daily fruit basket, providing a healthy, proactive environment for your employees can only have a positive effect on absences.

4. Utilise return to work interviews in the right way – Many businesses schedule return to work interviews for employees returning to work from a period of sickness. These primarily exist to allow both employee and employer to assess the reasons behind the absence, the health of the employee, and whether they are physically and mentally fit enough to return to the workplace. Using a return to work interview to try and understand any problems that an employee might be struggling with, can go a long way towards reducing absence rates across your business.

5. Review your current sickness policy – How you choose to deal with sickness within your business can have a huge impact on your absence rates. Consider areas such as: whether you pay employees when they are sick, how they are required to report a sickness absence, and how ‘return to work scenarios’ are dealt with. Treating employees with kindness and respect in sickness scenarios can go a long way towards improving absence rates.