Known as National Sickie Day in the U.K., the first Monday of every February is statistically the day when most workers are likely to call in sick, according to research first conducted by British law firm ELAS in 2011. Experts attribute this to a combination of gloomy weather, post-holiday blues, and seasonal illnesses. Unsurprisingly, depression and anxiety run high during the winter months. Although the term ‘sickie’ implies false pretenses, labor and mental-health advocates argue that the stigma around mental-health issues leads many people to use other, more ‘legitimate’ illnesses as their stated reasons for staying home.
History of National Sickie Day
National Sickie Day was first coined in 2011 by a British law firm ELAS after they published research showing that the first Monday in February is the most likely day for workers in the U.K. to call in sick. Reasons (legitimate and otherwise) range from an illness or a hangover (it’s the first Monday after Dry January, after all) to staying up late to watch the American Super Bowl.
In 2020, around 600,000 workers called in sick, costing the British economy close to 45 million pounds. However, experts argue that taking a day off may actually be more productive than going to work sick, where the employee is likely to spread illness and function at reduced capacity.
A 2015 survey showed that workers calling in sick with a mental-health issue were more likely to lie to their employers than those with a physical ailment. Doctors and mental-health professionals argue that employers must emphasize the importance of mental health and reduce the stigma around it. Some employers show little sympathy for physical illness too, with only 42% of senior managers viewing the flu as a reason to stay home.
Although Monday is the most popular day of the week for calling in sick, in recent years, other Mondays throughout the year have supplanted the first of February for the highest absence rates, making the title of National Sickie Day less accurate. However, the ‘holiday’ remains a popular talking point and excuse for people to take a day off, knowing others are likely doing the same.
National Sickie Day timeline
Matthew Broderick’s breakout role as America’s most lovable truant in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” elevates calling in sick to an art form.
The Statutory Sick Pay Bill is passed in the U.K. Parliament, mandating paid sick leave by all employers.
The term ‘National Sickie Day’ first appears after research shows that one day of the year has more sick day call-ins than any other.
San Francisco becomes the first U.S. city to require paid sick leave for all employees.
National Sickie Day FAQs
Why is Monday the most common sick day?
Many people call in sick after a holiday weekend when they’re likely to either get a legitimate illness or feel tired or hungover from the weekend’s festivities.
Can you be sacked for pulling a sickie?
If an employee is caught exaggerating or fabricating an illness or injury to pull a sickie, the employer can dismiss them for misconduct and breach of trust.
What is the best excuse for calling in sick?
Physical ailments and illnesses like the flu, back pain, or an injury caused by an accident rank as the best excuses for calling in sick.
How to Celebrate National Sickie Day
Take the day off
That’s a no-brainer. If you can, take the day off work and spend it with your family, pets, or engaging in a hobby you don’t usually have time for. 2. Promote mental-health support It’s ok to take a mental-health day. Lend your support to an organization that works on reducing stigma and enabling access to mental-health resources. 3. Take the day off from everything Maybe you’re staying home from work, but if you spend the day mindlessly scrolling through your social media, your brain isn’t getting much of a break. Make it a point to truly disconnect and stay off Facebook, email, and news sites for a day.
Promote mental-health support
It’s ok to take a mental-health day. Lend your support to an organization that works on reducing stigma and enabling access to mental-health resources.
Take the day off from everything
Maybe you’re staying home from work, but if you spend the day mindlessly scrolling through your social media, your brain isn’t getting much of a break. Make it a point to truly disconnect and stay off Facebook, email, and news sites for a day.
5 Of The Worst Sickie Day Excuses
"I stayed out partying and didn't get enough sleep"
Believe it or not, some people think honesty is the best policy, even when it comes to sick day excuses!
"I’m having period pains”
This is a perfectly valid excuse… if you have a uterus!
"I got arrested"
If you end up in the slammer the night before Sickie Day, you may not want to tell your boss.
"The cat stole my house keys"
Although it sounds like a variation on “the dog ate my homework,” this was a legitimate excuse used by a worker in 2019.
"I have Ebola"
If you’re going to claim to have a disease, maybe stick with a more common one — not one that would cause the National Health Service to examine and quarantine you!
Why National Sickie Day Is Important
It reminds you that sick days are a worker’s right
This unofficial ‘holiday’ reminds workers to take time off when they need it.
It draws attention to mental-health issues
Too many employees lie about why they stay home because they’re afraid of the stigma that comes with admitting to mental-health issues. Destigmatizing mental health will help more workers feel comfortable accessing resources and taking time off when they need it, leading to happier workforces and improved productivity.
It promotes healthier work policies
Many activists argue that the reason workers ‘pull a sickie’ is often related to their fear of retribution from their employer. Fair, reasonable time-off policies can reduce worker dishonesty and improve worker health and relations between employers and employees.
National Sickie Day dates