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September 23, 2021

When is it ok to call in sick?

According to the most recent Stats Can numbers, absenteeism rates in Canada have been rising over the past 10 years, jumping from roughly seven days lost per worker annually to more than 10 currently.   

Workers in the federal public service continue to top the list. Last year, federal employees were absent more than 16 days on average, between sick leave, family demands, and other personal reasons but excluding vacation days, maternity leave and other scheduled time off.

Chances are many of these folks really were ill.

But, according to CareerBuilder, 33 per cent of workers admit to playing hooky from the office, regularly calling in sick when they aren’t actually under the weather – a fact that’s not lost on employers.

A worker in Switzerland recently got fired because she made the mistake of simply logging on to Facebook from home. The trouble was that she'd called in sick and told her boss that a migraine meant she was confined to a darkened room and couldn't use a computer. The same thing happened to a school principal who took TGIF to new heights by regularly padding his weekends. 

While the majority of employers admit they typically don't question the reason for  absences, 31 per cent say they check up on sick employees, either by demanding a doctor’s note, calling the house, and, yes, even swinging by employees' homes to try and catch them out.

When asked to share the most unusual excuses workers gave for taking a few days off, managers claim to have heard it all – including pitches from employees who were worried about losing the parking space in front of their house, had donated more blood than they could handle, had swallowed too much mouthwash, or had been warned off by a psychic.

Tell us: Have you ever called in sick when you were really ok? Did you feel entitled to that extra day off?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...