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Employees get creative when calling in sick

Maybe your boss would accept the fact you couldn't come in to work because your mother was being chased by a crazed chicken. But many managers would want to check out your excuse, a recent survey has found.

Results of the latest collection of nose-stretching excuses for not showing up at work showed at least some hooky players deserve credit for ingenuity. One claimed his finger was stuck in a bowling ball. Another complained that he couldn't come in to face co-workers for a while because a hair transplant had gone bad.

One American worker even claimed to be stuck on the Canadian side of the border because his boat ran out of gas in Lake Erie and the Coast Guard towed him to shore in Ontario.

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The annual survey on absenteeism found 29 per cent of those surveyed admitted to playing hooky from the office at least once this year, calling in sick when they were well.

Twenty-seven per cent of employers think they are seeing an increase in bogus sick excuses from employees owing to continued stress and burnout caused by the weak economy. The survey conducted by Harris Interactive included more than 3,100 U.S. workers and more than 2,400 employers.

But employers are getting more likely to check out even believable excuses, found the survey, conducted by Harris on behalf of job site

While the majority of employers said they believe their workers when they say they're feeling under the weather, 29 per cent reported they check up on employees who call in sick and 16 per cent said they have fired a worker for missing work without a proven excuse.

Of the employers who checked up on an employee, 70 per cent said they required the employee to show them a doctor's note. While half called the employee at home, 18 per cent had another worker call the employee and 15 per cent drove by the employee's house or apartment.

"Just not feeling like going to work" is the No. 1 reason workers cited for calling in sick with made-up excuses. Other common reasons were "just needing to relax" and "catching up on sleep." Other reasons included doctor's appointments, needing to run personal errands, and plans with family and friends.

"Six in 10 employers we surveyed said they let their team members use sick days for mental health days," said Rosemary Haefner, vice-president of human resources at CareerBuilder. "If you need to take some time away from the office, the best way not to cause yourself more stress is to be open and honest with your manager."

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Sick-day stories

When asked to share the most unusual excuses employees gave for missing work, employers offered the following real-life examples:

Employee fell asleep at his desk while working and hit his head, causing a neck injury.

Employee said a cow broke into her house and she had to wait for the insurance man.

Employee's foot was caught in the garbage disposal.

Employee called in sick from a bar at 5 p.m. the night before.

Employee said he wasn't feeling too clever that day.

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Employee had to mow the lawn to avoid a lawsuit from the home owner's association.

Employee called in the day after Thanksgiving because she burned her mouth on a slice of pumpkin pie.

Employee's girlfriend threw a child's Sit 'n Spin through his living room window.

Source: survey

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About the Author

Wallace Immen is an award-winning staff writer for The Globe and Mail whose stories about workplace trends and career advice, as well as about cruising and travel destinations around the world appear regularly in print and on-line. He has worn many hats in his career with the Globe, including science writer, medical writer and columnist, urban affairs reporter and travel writer. More

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