HR Strange But True!
October 24, 2008

Employees have a variety of excuses to explain an absence from work to their employer. Some are typical (e.g. "I am sick") and some are atypical (e.g. "My psychic told me to stay home"). We have 11 more of the latter for you. Tell us if you think these are really good excuses or really bad ones. conducts an annual survey on absenteeism among employers and employees. This year, when the survey asked employers to identify the strangest reasons employees have given to explain an absence, they cited the following examples:

  • Employee's wife burned all his clothes and he had nothing to wear to work.
  • Employee didn't want to lose the parking space in front of his house.
  • Employee hit a turkey while riding a bike.
  • Employee said he had a heart attack early that morning, but that he was "all better now."
  • Employee donated too much blood.
  • Employee's dog was stressed out after a family reunion.
  • Employee was kicked by a deer.
  • Employee contracted mono after kissing a mailroom intern at the company holiday party and suggested the company post some sort of notice to warn others who may have kissed him.
  • Employee swallowed too much mouthwash.
  • Employee's toe was injured when a soda can fell out of the refrigerator.
  • Employee was up all night because the police were investigating the death of someone discovered behind her house.

If one of your employees called you with one of those excuses, would you believe him or her?

The survey found that 33 percent of employees admit to calling work with a fake excuse to explain an absence at least once this year.

The top reasons for doing so included:

  • Needed to relax and recharge (30 percent)
  • Had to go to a doctor's appointment (27 percent)
  • Catch up on sleep (22 percent)
  • Run personal errands (14 percent)
  • Catch up on housework (11 percent)
  • Spend time with family and friends (11 percent)
  • Wanted to miss a meeting, buy some time to work on a project that was already due, or avoid the wrath of a boss or colleague (9 percent)

Are employees fooling their employers? Not all the time. The survey found that 31 percent of employers said they have checked up on an employee who called in sick.

The most common ways those employers checked up on employees included:

  • Requiring the employee to show a doctor's note (71 percent)
  • Calling the employee at home (56 percent)
  • Having another worker call the employee (18 percent)
  • Driving by the employee's house or apartment (17 percent)

The survey included more than 6,800 workers and 3,300 employers.

Tell us about your strange experiences with employee absences at What's the strangest excuse you've heard? Did you believe the person? Did you check up on him or her? What do you do when you catch an employee trying to use a fake excuse?


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