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What are the most common reasons for sick days — and should you take one?

April 13, 2022

Full disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. Should you be in a sticky situation, you should always seek out advice from a legal professional.


We’ve all been there — head cold out of nowhere, unexplained tiredness, responsibilities feeling like a little bit too much to handle.

The solution? Chuck a sickie. Sometimes it’s as simple as the Monday blues. Sometimes it’s a hangover that you didn’t anticipate lasting as long as it has… And more often than not, it’s the case that you’re genuinely sick and need a day off.

That’s why thousands of Aussies use MinuteHealth. Simple, remote consultations with real Australian doctors to get a medical certificate when you really need one, but really can’t be bothered getting out of bed. It’s better to have a Netflix binge on a day off and get some rest in bed than to spend half of your day organising appointments and travel, only to feel worse by the end of the day.

What reasons do employers accept for sick leave?

Even though taking sick leave is beneficial to both employees and employers, unfortunately employers are less forgiving of you taking a day off even if you are sick. Research has shown how many managers or bosses believe a particular reason is good enough for a day off from work — and you’re probably surprised it isn’t higher. After all, it’s usually good enough for a doctor!

Out of the managers surveyed in this research, the following are the percentage of those who considered the excuse good enough to be absent from work:

  1. Flu: 41.4%
  2. Back pain: 38.6%
  3. Injury caused by accident: 38.3%
  4. Stress: 34.4%
  5. Elective surgery: 35.1%
  6. Depression: 33.2%
  7. Anxiety: 25.3%
  8. Common cold: 23.7%
  9. Migraine: 21.6%
  10. None of the above: 7.8%

Studies have shown that when considering a day off work, there may be 3 factors contributing to whether someone asks for a sick day:

  1. Experienced degree of illness, focusing on the present health condition and indicators of whether you are fit for work or not
  2. Daily life habits, where attending work was a daily routine, often learned from childhood
  3. The importance of the job, with focus on the importance of work, colleagues, customers and work environment.

Obviously, mental health and in particularly anxiety or stress about an employer reaction to asking for a day off from work can contribute to whether somebody asks for sick leave. This can often contribute to employees making up reasons to take a day off work.

These are the top 10 excuses that an employee is likely to use to lie to their manager about in the current day:

  1. Anxiety: 41.4%
  2. Depression: 39.5%
  3. Stress: 37.8%
  4. Common cold: 22.1%
  5. Migraine: 12.4%
  6. Elective surgery: 9.8%
  7. Flu: 7.1%
  8. Back pain: 7.1%
  9. Injury caused by accident: 5.4%

People are surprisingly less likely to lie about injuries that they think their employers will perceive as serious. This is because people can get a day off work, but they don’t to risk their employer seeing their injury as serious enough to warrant some sort of dismissal. Although this is somewhat irrational thinking, it still factors in and can cause a lot of stigma around taking days off from work.

Should you take a sick day off?

Although it may seem fair to employees that employers are often so skeptical of sick leave, it’s hard to fully blame them as almost everyone has abused the system at one time or another and called in sick when they probably could have worked.

Some employers require medical certificates specifically when long weekends are coming up, or a public holiday is around the corner — meaning you need a legitimate doctor’s note when those times come around if you’re planning to get an extra holiday in.

With that in mind, if you are sick and feel like you can’t work, it’s more beneficial for employees and employers that sick days are taken when needed. This is because a slightly sick employee will be less productive, feel worse about themselves, and this can have a cyclical impact on wellbeing and self-worth.

This can impact turnover and the bottom line can be severely impacted if employees aren’t supported with their days off. Additionally, sickness can spread to other employees, which can be disastrous (especially in the case of COVID or even the general flu).

What can I do about taking a sick day off?

Most common sick leave problems are able to be sorted by a Partner Doctor through MinuteHealth, such as a common cold, the flu, period pains, migraines, gastro — just to name a small few.

Being an Aussie owned & run company, MinuteHealth understands the importance of helping our fellow Aussies out in times of need.

We also understand what it’s like to be in the queue at a doctor’s office just to get a note to confirm things you already knew about your health, just so you can get paid on what should be your day off. Being able to get medical certificates online helps Australians get the rest they need when they need it so they can get back on their feet and back to contributing in no time.

If you need an online medical certificate, it’s a simple process to get one through MinuteHealth:

📱 Head here

📝 Fill in a short form — it asks for key details about your medical issue

👨‍⚕️ Consult with your own Partner Doctor — they’ll take the medical information you provide and review within 24-48 hours

📥 Get your medical certificate to your inbox — you’ll receive an SMS and an e-mail with your medical certificate ready to download

It’s important to note that the independent Partner Doctor will read your health notes and make an informed decision on whether to provide you with a medical certificate or not. The Health Practitioner does not work for us, and we’ve created MinuteHealth to facilitate a convenient, ongoing connection with them.