One Global Trend You Can’t Blame on the U.S.

A recent global survey reveals that employees from many different countries all play “hooky” from work to some extent.  

The concept of “playing hooky” – calling in sick from work when you’re not actually sick – is a global phenomenon.  The Kronos Global Absence survey, commissioned by The Workforce Institute, looks at which regions have the highest rates of absenteeism, how the rest of the workforce is affected when employees call in sick, and what employers can do to better manage the problem. 

China led all other surveyed regions with 71% of employees admitting to calling in sick when they were not actually sick. France had the smallest number:16%. Other countries polled included India (62%), Australia (58%), Canada and the U.S. (each with 52%), the U.K. (43%), and Mexico (38%).

When asked why they have ever called in sick when they were not actually sick, the overwhelming response in every region was that employees felt stressed/needed a day off: 71% in Canada, 62% in the U.S., 60% in China, 57% in the U.K., 53% in France, 51% in Australia, 46% in Mexico, and 44% in India. Other reasons selected included needing to take care of a sick child, having too heavy a workload, and not having enough paid leave.

Kronos found that the top two activities during a “sick day” in every region except India and Mexico were staying home and watching TV or staying in bed. In India and Mexico, staying home and watching TV was the top choice, but meeting up with friends and relatives was next on the list.

When asked what their employers could do to prevent them from calling in sick to work when they weren’t actually sick, the top response in every region but France was to offer employees the opportunity to work flexible hours. In France, employees said that summer Fridays – being offered the opportunity to take Fridays in the summer off and make them up during the week – would make the biggest impact. Being given the opportunity to work from home, and the opportunity to take unpaid leave, also rated high among employees around the world.

A high percentage of employees in China – 45% – also felt that providing more paid time off to employees would make a difference – this was higher than in any other region: 38% in Canada, 34% in the U.S., 32% in the U.K., 25% in Australia, 24% in India, 15% in France, and 12% in Mexico.

Unscheduled absences, like when an employee calls in sick at the last minute, cost organizations 8.7% of payroll each year, according to Kronos.