How to Minimise False Sick Leave in the Workplace

Author: Eugenija Steponkute
Published: 19/05/2019
minimise false leave

There is something for company founders and ops directors to ponder on - how often do your staff take sick days? What’s that number compared to their annual leave? Unless you are aware your employee has a condition that prompts frequent sick leave, a high number of it may indicate you’re dealing with absenteeism. And it costs your business a lot.

The Automatic Data Processing (ADP) survey, cited by the Chartered Management Institute, uncovered that 27% of UK employees think it’s acceptable to ‘pull a sickie’ at work. Of those, 85% said it’s reasonable to do so two or more times every year.

As a whole, absenteeism costs our economy a whopping £18bn every year. It can be a huge headache for all companies, especially small and medium-sized businesses with smaller workforces and less wriggle room to reallocate work if needed. However, there are ways to address and prevent this from happening. Carry on reading to find out more.

Build a Relationship

The root of claiming to be sick when an employee simply wants a day off is their lack of trust in you as an employer. They may not feel comfortable requesting a day off simply because they are tired and choose to lie as a solution. You need to build an environment in which they feel safe, to be honest with you.

Personalise Your Approach

Have you taken the time to get to know each of your employees individually? Building stronger bonds on a personal level can strengthen professional relationships. So, take the time to schedule regular one-on-ones with each employee; find out how they’re doing, talk about their work, praise their achievements and discuss goals.

These meetings are also good opportunities to identify any issues employees are having, and for you to offer support and effective solutions – showing them you’re an employer who cares. In other words, as Kim Scott teaches in Radical Candor: care personally and challenge directly.

Tighten Team Bonds

You can also build stronger bonds between you and your team, and among colleagues, by taking the company out on a team-building day. Team building activities are said to bring benefits in the form of increased motivation and collaboration, improved communication and morale.

But for team building to succeed, the activities have to be fun – i.e. no ‘fall back and I’ll catch you’ exercises. Think more of things like minigolf, a cocktail mixing class, a trip to a theme or adventure park, or an escape room experience.

Show Appreciation

Humans tend to lose motivation when their effort goes unnoticed. Lack of recognition leads to lower performance, loss of interest, lower ambition and, eventually, disengagement in a form of faking sick leave. This is fully preventable - and easier than you think.

Recognise and Reward

Failing to acknowledge your team for their work can be incredibly demotivating – so, give credit where credit is due! A sincere, face-to-face ‘thank you’ goes an incredibly long way and shows employees their efforts aren’t going unnoticed.

Has a certain employee gone the extra mile? You could recognise them in a group email or company newsletter. You might also want to consider the occasional reward for individual employees or your team – an early Friday finish, a bottle of bubbly,  or vouchers, for instance.

Flexibility to Show Trust

If you’re not already offering flexible working, then you’re late to the party. Offering flexible work options can help your employees to strike that golden work-life balance, which in turn can help to lower stress and the need to ‘pull a sickie’.

You could consider allowing employees to work at home one day a week. Or, you might want to let your team start and finish earlier or later, if they need to do the school pick-up or simply want to dodge the morning commute. Not only will this show you care for their wellbeing, but also indicate you trust them.

When to Take Action?

You may not have issues with false sick leave in your company - or you have no evidence of it being false. Either way, you should take action as soon as possible. Even if absenteeism doesn’t seem like it applies in your organisation, you lose nothing from applying the above-described measures.

Quite the opposite - you gain plenty. By building a healthy, trust-driven environment in which you care for your staff, you drive improvement across many areas of your business: cooperation, alignment, trust. So, the things listed in this article are not just solutions or preventative measures: they’re elements that build a healthy company environment.

Absenteeism Management

Timesheet Portal has a unique Absenteeism Management feature that allows employers to record, approve and report on staff absences. Unexpected illness can be recorded using the timesheet module, while planned sick leave can be approved in advance with the leave management feature.

Our software allows your business to work out absence statistics such as total absence spells; an individual’s total absence and average absence; and the Bradford factor score calculation.


Employees choosing to take false sick leave instead of the time off they’re entitled to is financially damaging to your business. But, more importantly, it indicates there are more deeply rooted issues within your organisation that you must address ASAP.

If you want to curb absenteeism in your company, you should work hard to provide a positive, supportive and inclusive workplace for your team. Show them you care about their health, happiness and general wellbeing, and they’re more likely to care about their job and your company. It’s as simple as that.

Start building a healthier work environment today so it pays off in the future. We will help.

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