Is “calling in sick” a thing of the past?

Written by Annie Makoff-Clark Wednesday 22 February 2023
Calling in sick still forms part of many workplace sickness policies. Given the shift towards hybrid working since the pandemic, is calling in sick out-of-date in the context of the modern workplace, or is it still a necessary process?
Man calling in sick

Anna Morrish, founder and MD of content marketing services Quibble found calling in sick extremely anxiety-inducing. 

Anna lives with Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), a long-term skin condition that causes painful abscesses and scarring. Yet, in a previous role several years ago, she had to navigate HR and workplace sickness policies on top of managing her condition. “At one point I needed four operations over the space of a year. I also developed septicaemia and I had a really high temperature, but I was still working,” Anna recalls. “I was terrified of being seen as a ‘sick note’.” 

Even if Anna was horrifically ill, she was so anxious about ringing in that she’d force herself to work. “That just isn’t productive, no one is benefiting from that. But you find yourself worrying about people not believing you. Do I sound sick enough? Will they understand the reason?”

A changed approach: “tell, don’t ask”

The practice of making workers “call in sick” validates the idea that only illnesses that can be seen or heard over the phone justifies time off, explains Ally Fekaiki, employee wellbeing expert and CEO of employee benefits platform Juno. “It’s still very much a feature of work culture today and it shouldn’t be. Making staff phone in to effectively ‘prove’ they’re too ill to work will only make matters worse.”

Want to learn more about how workplaces are adapting their sickness policy to be more flexible?


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