sick-time

Calling in summertime sick. Grab your bikini!

July 11, 2012 at 7:41 AM ET

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Nearly half the workforce has taken sick time during the summer months even though they weren't sick, according to a survey.

Some people have a hard time keeping their minds on work when the sun’s shining outside, and that can lead to summer hooky.

Nearly half the workforce has taken sick time during the summer months even though they weren’t sick, according to a June online survey by Monster.com of about 1,400 employees.

The Monster poll found that 8 percent said they frequently called in sick from work in order to enjoy the summer, and 11 percent said they did it occasionally.

We all work hard. What’s wrong with taking a Monday off to extend your summer weekend?

That kind of thinking got one major employment law firm to send an advisory out to workers thinking of taking summertime sick time.

“We sent a letter out to our federal employees that especially this time of year, agency managers are looking at how employees are using their leave time,” said John Mahoney, an attorney for Tully Rinckey, that specializes in federal employment law. They’re looking for strange sick-time patterns, he explained, such as taking a lot of Mondays off sick after three day weekends.

September is the end of the fiscal year for the government, he continued, and given that budgets are tight, agency heads “get serious about taking action against employees who engage in this conduct.”

Mahoney pointed to a U.S. Treasury study that looked at IRS workers in 2005 and 2006 and found they used over 15 million hours of sick leave, for an estimated cost of $450 million in lost productivity.

That’s why, given recent budgetary restraints, government heads are starting to crack down on leave abuse, more so than in the 1990s, he added.

Sick days can be expensive for all types of employers, and there is no federal requirement in this country to provide paid sick time. Only about six in 10 workers in the private sector have paid sick leave, compared to nine out of 10 government workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Tough times in the public and private sectors have led to little tolerance for abuse of sick time, and during the Great Recession, workers actually reduced the number of sick days they were taking ... until recently.

In the first quarter, the absenteeism rate experienced a modest uptick, after plunging to record lows in 2009 and 2011, according to a Bloomberg BNA report released in May. 

While still below pre-recession levels, Matthew Sottong, director, surveys and research reports for Bloomberg BNA, said the increase could be a sign that workers are feeling a bit more secure in their jobs and willing to put in for sick time.

He expected the job-absence rate to continue to climb, but couldn’t say whether it’s because people are getting sick more often, or just abusing their leave benefits.

Whatever the reason, he said, “If this economic recovery does prove to create jobs, we’ll see people a little more apt to let go of their insecurities and take the time off.”

Sottong may be onto something. In some nations where the economy is growing faster than the United States, workers are more inclined to take those fake sick days.

A global study by The Workforce Institute at Kronos found that China was at the top of the list when it came to countries where employees admitted to playing hooky most.

In China, 71 percent of workers said they called in sick with out being sick; compared to India at 62 percent; Australia at 58 percent; Canada and the United States at 52 percent; the UK at 43 percent; Mexico at 38 percent and France with 16 percent.

Who would have thought the French would be more diligent than American workers?

Or maybe it’s because we need more time off. In France, workers typically get 30 days off for vacation, compared to 14 days for U.S. employees, according to an Expedia 2011 vacation study.

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