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Is National Sickie Day really the worst day for employee absence?

4 February 2019 6 min read

national sickie day

The first two months of the year have a bad reputation for employee attendance.

January has Blue Monday, often described as “the most depressing day of the year.”

Then comes the first Monday of February, which is popularly known as “National Sickie Day”.


What Is National Sickie Day?

Early February is a trying time for many: There are short days, low temperatures, and a lot of nasty bugs going around. Many people are feeling anxious about Brexit and other world events, and many will still be struggling with Christmas debts.

Each one of these factors can be challenging in itself. But taken together the effect can be overwhelming.

Then there’s the general gloominess most associate with Mondays. Mix all this together and you get an awful cocktail of negativity. For some, it’s too much, and the temptation to simply ignore the alarm clock and go back to sleep is irresistible.

That’s why the first Monday of February is National Sickie Day. More sick leave is taken on this day than on any other day.


Is National Sickie Day Real?

Is the first Monday of February really the worst day for employee attendance?

We took a look at the 2018 data gathered from our world-famous absence management software.

Based on a sample of 500 UK organizations, the data reveals a few interesting trends: While National Sickie Day and Blue Monday are bad days for unplanned absences, they’re by no means the worst days.

Blue Monday is the third Monday of January. On that day, 93 employees took unplanned absences. On National Sickie Day, the first Monday of February, 86 employees called in sick.

So what was the worst day of 2018 for unplanned absences? It was the last Monday of November, which saw 107 employees call in sick.

Indeed, neither Blue Monday nor National Sickie Day made the top three days for unplanned absence. Coming in second was Thursday, March 1st, a Thursday when 103 sick days were taken. In third place was the first day of November, when 101 sick days were recorded.


What Makes People Call in Sick?

We’ve already mentioned how the first Monday of February developed its reputation as National Sickie Day. It’s the combination of the bad weather, the prevalence of illnesses making the rounds, and a few other factors.

Outside influences seem to play a big part in determining just how many people will call in sick on any given day.

One of the worst days for unplanned absences in 2018 was March 1st. This day was an anomaly. Remember the Beast from the East? It was a long period of unusually low temperatures that hit the UK in early 2018. This best joined forces with Storm Emma to create pure weather chaos, which caused a lot of people to take leave on the first day of March.

Statistically, November seems to be the worst month of the year for unplanned absence, with employees taking an average of 88 unexpected days off this month.

Why could this be? It could be due to the falling temperatures, or an increase in cold and flu cases. Or perhaps the knowledge that Christmas is fast approaching, with all the pressures and deadlines this implies, causes people to call in sick for workplace stress or anxiety-related reasons?


Understanding Sick Days

All employers know that sick days are bad for business. So if a greater number of employees than normal call in sick, the costs can be high.

One employer went so far as to work out precisely how much each individual sick day costs each individual employer. The average UK salary for a full-time worker in the UK is £27,600. This breaks down to £14.38 per hour. So assuming that employees work 7.5-hour days, and assuming that they receive full sick pay, each individual sick day taken will cost employers approximately £107.85.

So on days when greater numbers of employees supposedly call in sick, you can imagine how much it’s going to cost your business. It all adds up, too. It’s estimated that sick leave costs UK employers around £29bn per year.


How to Reduce Unexpected Absences

Is it possible to reduce the number of sick days your employees take?

Absolutely. All you have to do is learn to understand your employees and the sort of things that might encourage them to call in sick. The more you know about the reasons behind unplanned absences, the more you can reduce the likelihood of them happening in the future.

Absence management can help here. It can give you a clear overview of your business’s absence data. This can help you to spot patterns, which could help you to identify ways in which you can act to make sick days less likely.

But another way to reduce unexpected absences for your business is to make employee wellbeing a priority. This involves creating a working environment that actively champions your employees’ physical and mental health.

We have some excellent resources relating to employee wellbeing. First, take a look at our pick of 7 of the best employee wellbeing programs in the world. Learning how some of the world’s biggest successes manage employee wellbeing could give you all the inspiration you need to develop an effective employee wellbeing program of your own.

But it’s one thing to have an employee wellbeing program in place. It’s another thing entirely to ensure it’s a success. To help with this, we took a look at the three biggest barriers to employee wellbeing, before offering tips on how you can overcome these barriers to make your corporate wellness program a success.


Don’t Ignore National Sickie Day

So maybe National Sickie Day isn’t real. A lot of people do seem to call in sick on the first Monday of February, but this is far from the worst day for unplanned absences based on our own data.

Nonetheless, National Sickie Day, along with Blue Monday, should act as a strong reminder that unexpected absences are not something to take for granted.

Act now: Take the time to understand your employees, and make their emotional and physical wellbeing a priority.

Absence matters. Edays’ purpose-built software helps you track holidays and absences. Book a free demo to learn more.

See Edays in action >


Katrina Bennett People Director at edays
February 4, 2019

Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.