Recent research has revealed that one in five employees in the UK were prepared to admit that their last "sick" day was actually taken for other reasons. The fact that not everyone who has done so would be likely to own up suggests the actual figure for "pulling sickies" will be even higher.
It is suggested that the number of sickies increased during the recent World Cup although one wonders whether this is merely anecdotal bearing in mind only one England game was during normal business hours.
The research went on to find that half of those questions claimed that they would be less inclined to take sickies if they were offered more flexible working arrangements.
If that is true recent Coalition proposals to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees should see a reduction in the number of days lost sick. Perhaps we should not hold our breath.
If people are taking days off sick to care for other family members then this may be unnecessary given the statutory right to reasonable time off for this purpose in certain circumstances. That right is to unpaid leave and if people have entitlements to sick pay then the temptation will of course still remain.
An employer who genuinely believes on reasonable evidence after a proper investigation that someone has falsely claimed to be sick would be entitled to take disciplinary action, possibly including dismissal for gross misconduct. It would however be a brave employer who exercised this right unless there was a pattern of suspicious absences or very clear evidence of wrongdoing.