The most popular sick day revealed

Is Monday the most popular day to take sick leave? Our data reveals something surprising.

NB: this article was written before FirstCare rebranded to GoodShape on 30.10.21

We all know that Monday morning feeling. The start of the week can sometimes feel like an uphill climb. From Blue Monday to Manic Monday, we don’t always see the first working day in a positive light.

Our latest figures show that while Monday is generally the start of most absence periods, it is not the most popular day to call in sick. Wednesday is in fact the day of the week that sees the highest absence rates.

We’ve looked at data from over the last ten years and found that employees are more likely to be sick on Wednesday than any other day, with Tuesday coming a close second. In 2016 and 2017 firms lost an average of 1.5 days per employee on Wednesdays, with 2016 being the peak year for Wednesday absences.

So why is Wednesday such a popular day to be absent from work? And what can businesses do to prevent this?

Wednesday is the middle of the working week, and if the week is a proverbial hill to climb, this makes Wednesday the highest part. In the US, and increasingly here in the UK, Wednesday is commonly known as ‘hump day’, alluding to the bump workers need to get over to reach the weekend.

This idea has gained popularity on social media, with Twitter users posting motivational quotes to encourage people to reach the end of the week using the hashtag #Wednesdaymotivation.

But could there be more to Wednesday absences than a simple mid-week slump? FirstCare’s Commercial Director Steve Carter thinks that Wednesday’s position in the week is important for a number of reasons.

“Wednesday is the day with the potential for the greatest crossover in terms of absence duration, at least in the five day working week”, explains Steve. “Most absences start on a Monday, but they only need to extend for two more days to include Wednesday.”

Steve also believes that employees who have less genuine reasons for absence may choose to call in sick on Wednesday to lay the groundwork for a long weekend.

“A more cynical take might be that employees who are planning to be absent from work on a Friday will attempt to make this more convincing by calling in sick on Wednesday. They’re getting ready for an extra-long weekend.”

This trend of Wednesday absences runs throughout the year. But FirstCare data does show peaks in certain months, often coinciding with key holidays or festivals. Perhaps the most surprising of these is Ash Wednesday –which falls the day after Shrove Tuesday.

FirstCare figures reveal that for 3 of the past 10 years, the day after Pancake Day has seen the highest absence of any day during the month it falls – either in February or March. And for 5 of these years, it has been in the top 5 days of absence for its respective month.

While it might be tempting to blame overindulgence – or undercooking – there may be a dangerous flip-side to post-Pancake day absence. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has previously warned about the dangers of Shrove Tuesday cooking, revealing that 250 people are hospitalised annually with burns.

Whatever the reasons for Ash Wednesday absences, the first step to tackling sickness trends is good absence management data. Simply knowing when staff are more likely to take leave can help businesses to put preventive strategies in place, managing risk, reducing costs and boosting productivity.

FirstCare’s Steve Carter explains:

“Good absence management data can help businesses to identify trends and put steps in place to plan for times of reduced workforce. It can also help organisations to address the causes of absence, put measures in place to support staff and reduce overall rates of sickness. From identifying unusual peaks such as Ash Wednesday, to highlighting longer term issues, we help some of the UK’s leading businesses to reduce their absence rates and save millions of pounds in the process.”

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