Global Trends in Playing Hooky
Aug. 31, 2011
Our global survey reveals that employees in Australia, Canada, China, France, India, Mexico, the U.K., and the U.S., have all, to varying degrees, played hooky – called in sick to work when they were not actually sick. The Kronos Global Absence survey 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.
According to Joyce Maroney, director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos, “This survey provides a fascinating look at the issue of absenteeism around the world. It is interesting to see both the many similarities between regions and the marked differences also. Employers everywhere can learn from this survey – about the problem of absenteeism and the possible fixes – from providing more flexible work arrangements, where possible, to enabling employees to work from home.”
- Significant numbers of employees around the world admit to calling in sick to work when they were not actually sick. China led all other surveyed regions with 71 percent of employees admitting to calling in sick when they were not actually sick. France had the smallest number with only 16 percent. Other countries polled included India with 62 percent, Australia with 58 percent, Canada with 52 percent, the U.S. with 52 percent, the U.K. with 43 percent, and Mexico with 38 percent.
- 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 percent in Canada, 62 percent in the U.S., 60 percent in China, 57 percent in the U.K., 53 percent in France, 51 percent in Australia, 46 percent in Mexico, and 44 percent 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.
- So, how did they spend their day off? The top two activities 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 percent – also felt that providing more paid time off to employees would make a difference – this was higher than in any other region: 38 percent in Canada, 34 percent in the U.S., 32 percent in the U.K., 25 percent in Australia, 24 percent in India, 15 percent in France, and 12 percent in Mexico.
- The majority of employees in all regions said that they were negatively impacted when co-workers called in sick, with the top reason being that they had to take on the work or shift of the missing employee. The second reason in every region except Mexico and France was an increase in stress. Employees in Mexico and France don’t get stressed as much, but they do worry about things getting overlooked or forgotten.
- When asked whether or not their employers used an automated system to keep track of absences, only in Canada, China, and India did the majority – 53 percent, 56 percent, and 53 percent respectively – of employees say yes. In all other regions the majority said no or that they didn’t know.
- Unscheduled absences, like when an employee calls in sick at the last minute, cost organizations 8.7 percent of payroll each year as discussed in a recent survey conducted by Mercer and sponsored by Kronos.
The Kronos Global Absence survey was conducted online within the U.S. between July 19-21, 2011 among 2,293 adults (aged 18 and over), of whom 1,209 are employed full-time and/or part time; within Canada between July 18-25, 2011 among 1,006 adults (aged 18 and older) of whom 538 are employed full-time and/or part-time; and within the U.K., France, Australia, Mexico, China, and India between July 19-27, 2011 among 6,153 adults (aged 16 and older) of whom 4,860 are employed full-time and/or part-time, by Harris Interactive on behalf of Kronos via its Quick Query omnibus product, the Harris Decima Canada online omnibus, and the Global omnibus product. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100 percent response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.