Sick day

Not At Work? Excuses, Excuses!

If you’re a freelancer or run your own small business, then pulling a sickie isn’t a viable or attractive option. You try really hard not to become ill and if that doesn’t work, you take to your bed/the couch for the minimum amount of time possible – because, unlike most employees, you can’t relax in the knowledge that a colleague has the reins.

Nobody has your reins. The horses are running wild and free, meaning that once you’ve regained minimal function you’ll have to discover where all your overdue work fell off the wagon, work out how you’re going to get the mud off it, and then try to do it all in double-quick time – alongside the new work that’s now waiting.

Sick of Excuses

But while you may know there’s no point in pulling a sickie, there are plenty of people out there giving it a try. In honour of National Pull A Sickie Day, business marketplace Bizdaq asked 500 small businesses for the weirdest excuses offered for employee no-shows. If you have employees, you might like to watch out for this top 10, but my suggested replies are entirely optional.

  1. My mum is vacuuming the stairs and I can’t get past
    Even presuming you had lost the power of speech and couldn’t say ‘excuse me,’ unless your house is of Buckingham Palace proportions, surely the staircase is only big enough to make you late rather than completely absent?
  2. I don’t want to lose my parking space
    And I don’t want you to lose your job, but – oh, look! Someone else has taken it.
  3. My flatmates took the door handle off my door and I can’t get out
    This shows a worrying lack of ingenuity. Haven’t you read any Famous Five books? I’m probably better off without you.
  4. All my clothes are wet
    We’ll find you a waterproof chair. See you in ten minutes.
  5. I forgot to charge my phone and it died overnight, so it didn’t wake me up in the morning
    And how did that stop you coming to work this afternoon?
  6. I tripped upstairs and broke my foot
    Potentially, this sounds reasonable. Where is your doctor’s certificate?
  7. I accidentally drank some mouthwash
    We’ve all done that. Get a grip.
  8. I have conjunctivitis (employee had sprayed deodorant in her eyes to make it look like she did
    Is that the sweet smell of Sure for Women I detect? No? Then let me put some chlormaphenicol eye drops in for you – they can be tricky to do by yourself. No, really, I insist – those side effects I mentioned only occur if you don’t have an infection…
  9. The power has gone out and I need to wait for it to come back on
    The world will not end because your oven thinks it’s 8.25. Your job will end if you’re not here by 9.
  10. A pipe has burst (employee was stood next to a shower)
    And so has the delicate bubble of my patience. You’re fired.

The Serious Side of Pseudo-Sickness

Of course, employee absence has a serious side too.

“We work with a lot of small businesses on a daily basis, and we’ve certainly heard some strange and funny stories from owners about their staff,” said Sean Mallon, CEO of Bizdaq.

“Whilst it’s fun to see these weird excuses, there’s always going to be an impact on small businesses when someone doesn’t come in. Ringing in sick often means other people have to stay late, or someone else has to make up the hours. Of course, when the excuses are as bad as some of these, the only answer is to come in because you’re obviously making it up!”

He makes a good point – and employee absence often has a greater impact on smaller businesses because there are fewer employees with the time (or appropriate skills) to take on the extra work. As a small business owner, you need a reliable team around you and there’s no space for time-wasters and excuse-mongerers.

Have you tried to get away with a terrible excuse yourself, or have you had some tall stories from your own absent employees? Let us know.

Kara Copple
An experienced business and finance writer, sometimes moonlighting as a fiction writer and blogger.