Most employees who call in sick aren’t actually ill: survey
Published Saturday, April 4, 2015 12:21PM PDT
Last Updated Saturday, April 4, 2015 1:32PM PDT
Ever call in to work sick for a reason that has absolutely nothing to do with illness? You’re in the majority, a newly released survey says.
In Canada, more than half of all employees – 52 per cent – say they’ve ditched work for reasons unrelated to sickness, and that’s posing big problems for employers, according the Morneau Shepell survey.
One-third of employers claimed illness is not one of the top three reasons why their employees are usually absent. Many say the unscheduled time off “is a serious or extremely serious issue” for their company.
“One of the facts that we found…is that there is a correlation between workplace stress and people taking time off for non-medical reasons,” said Morneau Shepell spokeswoman Paula Allen. “Everything from family issues to looking for other jobs to having conflict with other coworkers, or not liking your boss.”
But if you think employers asking for a doctor’s note will help deter would-be work skippers – think again.
“If you’re only asking for a medical note, what you’re saying is ‘Give me the validation, all I really care about is that you’re not lying to me, and that’s the end of it,” said Allen. “It’s not helpful.”
Only five per cent of doctors surveyed by Morneau Shepell say they think medical notes help combat unnecessary absenteeism.
Many physicians who responded to the survey said they don’t see much value in writing notes at all, saying things like “Truancy management is not a medical service,” and “Using the family doctor as police, in effect, may delay return-to-work as patients waits until has note, then returns to work.”
“I think we have an obligation not to waste the physicians’ time if it’s not solving the problem that we hope it is,” Allen said.
More than half of doctors said they aren’t comfortable speculating on how health conditions could impact work performance, and three-quarters said they think employers need to do a better job understanding the issue.
Employees who reported taking time off work for non-medical reasons were also more likely to report higher work-related stress – and Allen said that is likely the reason behind absenteeism rates.
According to Health Canada, high job strain can be detrimental to employees’ physical health as well as lead to stress, burnout and emotional distress.
For employers, that stress can actually cost companies money in disability and health premiums and workers compensation claims.
A 2013 Sun Life report found that the average absenteeism rate in Canada was 9.3 days per full-time employee, at a cost of $16.6-billion to the Canadian economy.
Those experiencing high workplace stress are encouraged to talk to their employers about the root causes of stress, and to ensure work priorities and deadlines are clear – and realistic.