The top 20 worst excuses for throwing a sickie

‘The dog ate my car keys’ and ‘goats got into my garden’ are just some of the excuses employees have used to throw a sickie from UK businesses, according to a survey by Activ Absence.

The list was compiled following research undertaken amongst HR Managers who attended this year’s CIPD Annual Conference. Over the two day event, Activ Absence collated more than 60 genuine excuses managers had heard from their teams and shortlisted the funniest 20 excuses.


The top three excuses were:

  1. “I don’t have the bus fare to get to work after my night out!”
  2. “I dreamed I had come to work, so thought I was there and stayed asleep!”
  3. “I went on a sunbed and got sunstroke.”

Pet ’emergencies’ were also high on the list – and not just emergency visits to the vet, with one employee demanding two weeks bereavement leave after the death of his pet cat and another taking a day off because his ‘hamster seemed sluggish’.

Naughty animals also seem to take the blame for many a late day or sickie, with excuses ranging from exotic animal bites to dogs fouling work clothes and eating car keys.

Activ heard a whole host of unusual injuries and ailments, from post coital injuries to bangs and scrapes – though perhaps the bravest excuse was ‘my boss has given me a headache!’

Absent minds also featured – employees forgetting where they’d parked their car, not washing work clothes, or losing shoes en route to work always seem to be common excuses.

The best excuse however came from Jacqueline Palmer at Carillion, who won a bottle of champagne because her employee had honestly admitted they couldn’t come in, because they had been out the night before and didn’t have enough money left to get the bus into work; the team were left shaking their heads in disbelief.

Adrian Lewis, director of Activ Absence, comments, !We can all laugh at some of the ridiculous excuses we’ve heard, and the bare-faced cheek of some people who use the death of the same grandmother four times in a row, and even smile at the laddish humour of those who dare to phone in sick because their football team lost.”

“However, the fact is, sickness absence is a serious matter that costs the UK £29 billion a year (1) and in the midst of a fragile economic recovery, that is money that is desperately needed by UK businesses to protect jobs and to enable us to compete on an international playing field that is sadly driven by cheap overseas labour and unethical work practices.”

“Tackling absence certainly doesn’t require a big stick and a stern HR presence, but it does require better processes and technology to help HR managers get on top of their absence management and be able to analyse the root causes of problems.”

#CIPD15 – Silliest Sickness Excuses


I don’t have the bus fare to get to work after my night out


I dreamed I had come to work, so thought I was there and stayed asleep


I went on a sunbed and got sunstroke


I lost my flipflop down the side of a train, so I had to go home


I didn’t have any clean clothes


My bed was too nice to get out of


Man U lost the premiership


I lost my car in the car park (there were only 20 spaces)


My television broke


The roof blew off my house


Goats got into my garden


I have a cotton bud stuck in my ear


Fell out of bed and banged my head


I have post coital soreness


I got bitten by a llama


My dog got lost in the snow


My cat had a miscarriage


The dog urinated on my suit


My dog ate my car keys


I don’t think my hamster is well, he seems a bit sluggish this morning

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