People & Human Resources

Which age group is guilty of chucking the most sickies?

Broede Carmody /

YOLO*: young workers are more likely to fake a sick day than other age groups, according to research from Melbourne University.

Almost 40% of employees aged 18-24 and 43% of people aged 24-34 admitted to faking a sick day in the past year in a poll of more than 1000 Australian workers conducted by the Centre for Workplace Leadership.

In comparison, workers over 45 years old or in senior management positions were least likely to fake a sick day.

Founder and director of the Centre for Workplace Leadership, Peter Gahan, told SmartCompany the study also looked into what employees thought of their workplace more generally and received some interesting results.

“More than twice the number of young workers were reported as taking a fake sickie than older workers,” he says.

“And about half of them who were among that group said they were not looking forward to coming into work after a weekend. I suppose it suggests to us that your past absence behaviour is probably a good indicator of future absence behaviour and the likelihood of people taking a sickie.”

Gahan says this widespread “Mondayitis” should be at the forefront of managers’ minds, and while it can be easy to label young people as lazy it is worth looking at the bigger picture.

“Given about half of them are also not looking forward to coming back to work, it tells us there is an issue with engagement and the extent to which people are happy at work,” he says.

“Have a sense of absence behaviour as an important way to get a sense of how engaged your workforce is. When people take an absence, don’t assume it’s because people are being irresponsible – it might be that you have an issue with employee engagement and satisfaction.”

“Managers need to think about how they can ensure that there is an opportunity for their workforce to express that dissatisfaction and be provided with a sense that they’re being listened to.”

Gen George, founder of short-term jobs platform OneShift, told SmartCompany in light of the research businesses could look at how flexible their workplace is.

“I’m not justifying people lying, I just think it should be reviewed to suit the new culture at work,” George says.

“It works both ways, but maybe there’s happy medium… but of course while still protecting businesses.”

(*Maybe it’s just a case of You Only Live Once)

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Broede Carmody

Broede Carmody is a former senior SmartCompany reporter. Previously, he was a co-editor of RMIT University's student magazine Catalyst.

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