Have you ever gotten lost on the way to work and found yourself in another state or had your car swarmed by bees so that you just couldn’t get to work?  Some employees have had those days and called in sick from work.

CareerBuilder’s annual survey on absenteeism in the workplace reveals some of the most creative excuses employees used this year when calling in sick.  The online survey included 2,099 hiring managers and human resource professionals and 3,484 full time employees.

Up two percent from last year, 2013’s survey shows that 32% of workers called in sick when they were not actually ill.   The majority of employees, however, use sick days to recover from being ill.  After that, the most common reasons employees do not come into work in statistical order include:   just don’t feel like going; felt like they needed to relax; doctor’s appointment; wanted to catch up on sleep; or errands to do.

What are some of the more interesting excuses employers reported hearing this year?

  • Employee’s false teeth flew out the window while driving down the highway
  • Employee’s favorite football team lost on Sunday so needed Monday to recover
  • Employee said that someone glued her doors and windows shut so she couldn’t leave the house to come to work
  • Employee bit her tongue and couldn’t talk
  • Employee claimed a swarm of bees surrounded his vehicle and he couldn’t make it in
  • Employee said the chemical in turkey made him fall asleep and he missed his shift
  • Employee got lost and ended up in another state
  • Employee couldn’t decide what to wear

See the full list of excuses reported by CareerBuilder.com.

So what are employers to do?  The best practice is to have clear policies on paid or unpaid time off from work.  Policies may specify different types of time off (for example, sick, personal, or vacation) while others may allow a general amount of time off.  There may also be limitations or conditions to taking such time (for example, a notice requirement or a doctor’s note).  Employees need to know what is allowed and not allowed.  Employers need to confirm they are complying with any federal or state law as to requested time off and that they are applying their policies consistently.

This year’s survey further revealed that some employers follow up on employees who call in sick.  Of those responding, 64% had required a doctor’s note, 48% had called the employee at home some time during the day, 19% had checked the employee’s social media posts, 17% had another employee call the employee, and 15% had driven past the employee’s house.  Employers also reported that while they allow flexibility for reasons to take the day off from work under their policies, no fewer than 16% had terminated employees who used false reasons for being out.