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That time of year: Great excuses for calling in sick

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Bats got in my hair. Honest

The weather's starting to get chillier, the holiday season is drawing closer... and the time of year has come for more workers to call in sick -- with some great excuses to boot.

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Nearly three in 10 U.S. workers called in to work sick with a fake excuse in the past year, according to CareerBuilder's annual survey -- and one-third of employers say that workers call in sick more often during winter holidays.

The cold and flu season is a big factor in workplace absences at this time of year, but so is the use of sick days to take care of a little holiday shopping or visit with family, found the survey of more than 2,600 employers and 4,300 workers.

That survey may have been conducted largely among bigger businesses, but the challenges of workers calling in sick can be even more significant for smaller enterprises, where fewer staffers on board may mean more noticeable effects when they're away, as we reported in a story in April.

"It's the mathematics of being small – if you only have five people in the workplace and one person happens to be ill and cannot come in to work, then you've lost 20 per cent of your work force, and it clearly has some implications," notedTed Mallett, vice-president and chief economist with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, in that story.

While employers in the survey reported greater absenteeism around the holidays, the first quarter is really the biggest time for sick calls, said 34 per cent of respondents, followed by Jully through September, for 30 per cent, October through December, for 23 per cent, and April through June for 13 per cent.

And don't necessarily expect a call: While 84 per cent of employees still use the phone to report a sick day, 24 per cent are turning to e-mail and 11 per cent to text messages.

So what are some of the whopper excuses?

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CareerBuilder has a list of most unusual reasons that employers reported employees gave for missing work. Among them:

  • An employee's 12-year-old daughter stole his car, and he had no other way to get to work. Oh, and no, he didn't want to report the incident to the police.
  • An employee said a refrigerator fell on him. That not work for you? Okay then, how about the employee who got bats in her hair?
  • An employee got hurt chasing a beaver. Another one's brother-in-law was kidnapped by a drug cartel while in Mexico.
  • Then there was the one who got a headache after going to too many garage sales. And another who was at a bowling alley when a bucket filled with water crashed through the ceiling, and hit her on the head.

Calling in with the excuse of a migraine might have been sufficient.

Are women past the mompreneur label?

Female entrepreneurs have "become a force to be reckoned with," observes an article in The Toronto Star, noting they have a stake in 47 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses, make up more than a third of all self-employed workers and are one of the fastest-growing business groups. So, it asks, are women with children in business still doing themselves a service by calling themselves mompreneurs?

The question is whether it is a smart marketing and networking business tool or a ghettoizer, painting an outdated picture of business dabblers with a focus on products for women and mothers, despite having moved into many more non-traditional and male-dominated fields. Time to move out of the pink ghetto?

Micro-business owners happy

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More than three-quarters -- 77 per cent -- of U.S. micro-business owners are happy running their own businesses, according to a quarterly survey by Vistaprint N.V.

And they're working hard at it: 44 per cent of them are working more hours this year than last year, and 65 per cent are working every or every other weekend, according to the survey of more than 1,000 micro-businesses, defined as having one to 10 employees.

And it seems to be paying off: 68 per cent were on track to meet or beat revenues from the same time last year.

However, they are not without economic worries: 67 per cent do not feel their local economy is headed in the right direction, and 76 per cent have concerns about whether the national economy is on the right track.


Wrapping up Small Business Week

As Small Business Week comes to an end, there are still a few events to catch. Tomorrow the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce will host the 26th annual business excellence awards,an evening to recognize the community contributions of local businesses and individuals. Friday night in Edmonton, the Sherwood Park Chamber of Commerce hosts its 2011 Business Awards. And on Oct. 26, the London Small Business Centre and partners will host an annual interactive, day-long event to bring entrepreneurs together in London, Ont. For a list of what's gone on and is still going on in celebration of Small Business Week, check out the BDC calendar

Join our Small Business Summit

Another reminder of the Nov. 8 Small Business Summit, hosted in Toronto by The Globe and Mail's Repport on Small Business in conjunction with Achilles Media. The one-day event for entrepreneurs to help kickstart your small or medium-sized business to the next level has a lineup of speakers, workshops and networking opportunities. Click here for more details, including registration.


Food trucks ride the cool factor

It's a food trend sweeping North America, and luring entrepreneurs out of their boxes and into ones on wheels. Popularized by the Food Network show Eat St., trucks that specialize in serving up gourmet curbside grub – everything from artisan grilled cheese sandwiches and perogies to lamb's tongue – are increasingly pulling creative, business-minded foodies into the streets, writes Jessica Leeder. Check out what's drawing them in, the challenges they face and the verdict on them.


Tacos from a truck for lunch

For a local lunch-hour encounter with a food truck, check out how one pop-up taco stand drew in hungry mid-day meal seekers in an August photo/text gallery. To deal with the legal restrictions around operating a food truck in Toronto, La Carnita dreamed up a solution: sell art work, not tacos. "You pay for the art, and hey, we just happen to give you a loot bag filled with tacos," said OneMethod president and CEO Amin Todai.

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About the Author
Terry Brodie

Terry Brodie is an award-winning veteran reporter and editor who has worked for numerous media outlets in Canada and abroad, including The Globe and Mail since 1996. Now a senior editor for Report on Small Business, she previously oversaw several sections of the Globe, most recently as editor of Globe Careers. More

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