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More than half of UK sick days are not legitimate

Fewer than half of the days lost due to sickness absence in the UK are legitimate, new research reveals.

A study of 1,920 employees by MyVoucherCodes.co.uk, found 46% of sick days in the UK are legitimate, where the person believed they physically couldn't perform their work duties.

Men top the polls of taking days off sick unnecessarily, with almost three quarters (74%) of men agreeing that they had ‘pulled a sickie' in recent years without actually being ill, compared with 65% of women who admitted the same.

The survey also found the number one reason men feign illness to stay home from work is to play with a video games console and a third of all sick days, genuine or not, are spent playing videogames. Video games are played by 24% of men when off ‘sick' compared with just 5% of women.

Videogame release days are the time most people will make the call to inform their boss they are ‘too ill to work', with 14% of men admitting they had no qualms calling in sick in order to play high-profile releases such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto on the day they are released.

Last year, sickness absence cost employers an average of £666 per employee and cost the UK economy £13.2 billion.

Judging by the 54% of false sick days which are taken each year, £7.1 billion is lost due to people having time off when they are physically capable of performing their duties - which equates to a cost of just over £1 billion for people simply taking sickness absence in order to play videogames.

But a fifth of women admitted they had feigned illness in order to shop with friends. Half of the women who took time off to shop said they would shop in other cities so as not to be seen by people they may know. And a third of the women who admitted to skiving in order to shop said they had shopped online.

Mark Pearson, managing director of MyVoucherCodes.co.uk, said: "The sickie is a time-honoured employment tradition, and although employers, including myself, wouldn't be happy to know that our workers are faking a cold in order to play the latest PS3 or Xbox 360 hit, you've got to admire their dedication to their interest.

"Whatever the reason people decide not to go into work despite being fully capable, sickies cost the UK economy a shedload of money. Perhaps the Government could look to recoup lost revenue from games developers and fashion outlets?"

The top five reasons men have time off work other than illness according to the survey are as follows:

1   To play videogames - 24%

2   To attend an appointment - 16%

3   To visit friends and family - 13%

4   To do DIY around the house - 10%

5   To catch up on sleep - 7%