Common excuses for taking extra time off work

Hayfever — image by Getty Images

I wrote in a post yesterday about Bimbola who informed me his GP told him to take a week off work because of his new diagnosis of ‘hayfever‘. Now, my sons are both plagued with hayfever during certain months of the year and while it’s irritating and makes them irritable, they still go to work each day. And you might think I was insensitive by telling him to get his backside into work that day but Bimbola had previously used every excuse in the book for taking time off work.


Let me tell you, our wonderful NHS offers terrific benefits, including:

  • 27 days holiday + bank holidays — after 5 years you are entitled to another 2 days holiday and after 10 years you get an extra 4 days = 33
  • 10 sick pay tho’ if it’s a long-term illness (such as mine – Transverse Myelitis) you will receive full pay for 6 months and half pay for the next 6 months
  • 5 days discretionary compassionate leave
  • 5 days discretionary carer’s leave (if you have small children)
  • Study days – discretionary

I think these benefits are very generous but unfortunately, far too often, they’re are abused. Staff would ask how many sick days, compassionate leave or carer’s leave they had left — as though this was an entitlement to have few more days off each year.


Our African nurses appeared to have lots of people they called brother, sister, grandmother or uncle and aunty, so regularly requested compassionate leave when someone died.

One guy had asked me for leave as his grandmother had died and when I looked through his records his ‘grandmother’ had already died three times (prior to my arrival on this ward), so his request was declined.


Image by Wavebreak Ltd

Another called to tell me his daughter had the sniffles and couldn’t go to school so he needed to stay home to care for her. The next day I asked how his daughter was and he said she was much better and was going back to school that day. “Aaaww, that’s good, bless her, how old is she?”

“Oh, she is 20 and is at university.” he smiled proudly.

“Ah. Right — that changes things Kwami. Unfortunately, you can’t have carer’s leave for your adult daughter who just had the sniffles I’m afraid.”


Remember Bimbola, who wanted a week off for his hayfever? Well, one of his girlfriends was pregnant and had gone into labour. Bimbola called to say he would be taking his two weeks paternity leave and the next day he let the team know that he’d had a healthy baby boy named Rio – whoop, whoop. We were all delighted for him and put in a kitty to buy a gift — two of our girls went shopping and brought back loads of goodies, all blue, together with a card and one of those huge helium balloons.

Beautiful baby girl — image by

About three months later, Bimbola’s girlfriend dropped by to show us their beautiful baby girl who was just two weeks old. His face was a picture when I went to let him know the said girlfriend was on the ward. Of course, he was disciplined and was unable to take any more paternity leave.


Another chap, our in-house Latino lothario, was continually hooking up with girls via the internet, called to say he was locked out of his house and couldn’t get in to shower or change his clothes. When he came to work the following day his wife rang asking to speak to him. It turns out his long-suffering wife had locked him out — no, no one knew he was married. His compassionate leave day was cancelled.

Glenmore had me spluttering coffee all over patient’s notes when he rang to whisper “I can’t come in today. Me swollen — down there. I can’t get me jeans on”

image by

“Eh? Sorry Glen, I don’t understand,” I mumbled to cover the sound of me putting him on loudspeaker cos our deputy manager was in the office and she loved a good laugh too.

“My girl, she pierce me, with her teeth, ya know…….”

“No, sorry Glen….”

“Girl, when things get heat up, ya know. She go a bit wild and me thing swollen now,” he grimaced.

Me and Jackie sniggered and spluttered as I suggested I call him an ambulance, which would bring him to our general hospital next door, so we could visit him in our break. Kissing his teeth, “No girl. No. Don’t put me there. Let me fix it,” he groaned and this was real — this was no malingering or joking, Glenmore was in pain. His request for a few days off was granted.


He was mortified when he returned to work. He made it clear he didn’t want to talk about it or how the problem was resolved. However, his new attire of jogging pants, his strange new strutt and the eye watering bulge didn’t need any explanation.

His kind GP had chosen to leave the full details off his sick note and Glenmore asked me to do the same.


We live in a world now where taking the occasional “sick day” is often actually frowned upon — that’s probably because lots of people tend to take advantage, as I know from my time in the NHS.

However, we all know it’s essential when you’re genuinely ill, you take some time off to recuperate. But often one of the most difficult reasons to request sick leave is often for mental health.

Anecdotal evidence says that some companies offer duvet days, in an attempt to reduce sickness leave, which offer opportunities for people to take a break during difficult times, particularly for those with mental health issues and who, on certain days, just can’t face getting out of bed.

Hmmn. Why do people who have mental health issues have to request a duvet day? Why is it so difficult to ask for time off sick when we have mental health problems?

What the worst excuse you’ve heard from people asking for a sick day? Have you ever given another excuse to cover for mental illness?


Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

33 thoughts on “Common excuses for taking extra time off work”

  1. I was just thinking, was this all day shifts? How did you go on with night shifts? I remember from my wife’s time at Bournemouth that absenteeism there was rife. Even for her, she seized upon any excuse she could not to work nights. The nice thing about being in a Gp world now is that it all finishes at a sensible time.

    1. People tended not to go sick when they were on nights (1) because they got paid well for night shifts and (2) they knew how difficult it would be to get cover that late at night.

      When I was a nurse, I loved nights cos I got to complete lots of outstanding paperwork.

      However, when I became a Senior nurse and ward manager, I often got calls to come in (after I’d already worked 9 til 5, 6 or seven) as the night Duty Senior nurse hadn’t turned up — I lived round the corner from the hospital so I always got called first.

  2. Wow, those are some crazy stories! I felt especially sorry for Glenmore. Um, can I say OUCHIE?!

    On the reverse side of the coin are supervisors who flip out every single time you need time off. When I was working at a residential treatment facility for mentally ill and abused teens, I was working night shift, which ended before wake-up time. So there were no morning duties, other than passing the reins to day staff. And there was this one night where I felt like absolute [bleep] because I was going off of Lexapro, and I was having flashes in my head. (Brain zaps? L’hermittes sign? Whatever you want to call it, it hurts!) I finally begged to be sent home early, but my supervisor, who was controlling and anal and rigid and uptight times a million, gave me a huge guilt trip over it, and I still feel guilty to this day! But like, why, Meg? Why should I feel guilty? I couldn’t turn my head without a zap going through it.

    But I have to admit that there’s potential for people to misuse sick days, and that bites! (Sort of like Glenmore’s girlfriend…)

    1. Lol. Oh, that’s bad Meg! Your supervisor sounds awful. I’d have sent you home!

      As a senior nurse and Ward Manager I was used to turning wards around – making it a more healthy place to work, so that staff didn’t want to take (fake) sick time off. Our attendance level got better — then they’d move me to a new ward and I had to start all over again lol.

      I know some of them wouldn’t take time off sick if they weren’t being paid. You kind of get to know the fakes and nip it in the bud quickly.

  3. Back in my old job, I think there were times a colkeague I worked with took advantage of sick. Unfortunately there were times there was genuine sickness required. But because she had a lot of abscences in so many months meant she was on a very fine line eventually. Basically she had a warning verbally how fine it was from what she told me.

    Also, with this old job, as it was in the NHS, I remember one time they tell us if we were ill, like flu, etc.. don’t come in because of spreading it around. But you dare not have time off for such thing because of their abscence policy in case your job was on the line.

    As for me when I was in this job in the NHS as a cleaner, I came in regardless of how I felt physically and mentally. Only time I wasn’t in when it was that nasty bug that you have to allow 48 hours after your last symptoms before coming back, a couple of times for stress/depression. But many a times I was in work at my worst state, before eventually I was off sick for either a week or two.
    Another time I was off after injurying myself at work from my wrist up to my elbow. And over the years wirking there, I had a couple of operations, so meant I couldn’t be in.

    Now where I work, although my work place is much kinder towards mental health, I still came in regardless of how I felt because of what was going off in my life then.
    I felt burntout for some time at one point and although it was offered to me to take a break if needed, I didn’t until eventually I couldn’t do it anymore and had 5 days off sick.
    Even my work colleagues are understanding and supportive. A total opposite and much better than my old workplace. But what I want to add is though, it’s not the NHS I have an issue with. Although I was NHS, our department was run by a private company and so I was secondment contract: NHS staff but under orders by them. It waa them that were the problem.

    1. I get it – where you’re told not to come in for fear of infecting others but it just didn’t feel right for me — taking a few days off because of a cold. Fortunately, I loved my job and hated taking time off. Even when low in mood and axious, I found work distracting. And as a Manager, they were quite cool with me coming in late as I’d already given them many hours of my time i.e. covering wards if they had no manager.

      I think we’re similar LIz, in that we continue to work until we drop — not sure it’s such a good idea tho? I’m glad your colleagues are understanding and yes, I know about jobs being contracted out by the NHS. Then the contractors put in a new set of rules (for the domestic staff) which really p’d me off cos our domestic staff were a vital part of team and the patients loved them. I would say to our ward domestic lady to take some time off when she looked exhausted. She said she was too afraid because she might lose her job. I’d speak to her supervisor telling him how sick she was and how disgusting it was that she was afriad……. He let her take the last 3 days of the week off (paid).

      1. 3 days sounds right. I would have been surprised getting that myself, but wouldn’t expect anymore when you just get 3 days for a family bereavement.
        I wasn’t allowed timr for an aunt when it came to family bereavement. But they did allow me to go up to the ward in my shift to see her.

        Yes, depending on what it is, I think it doesn’t help when you practically feel like dropping due to illness whether physical, or mental. But even now, with a supportive employer, I am still the same. I am a person who can’t keep still, so when I do eventually curl up on the settee, or end up in bed, happy to not move, then you know I am not well.

      2. Compassionate leave is a difficult one because some people are closer to an uncle say than their own father – when they come to say I need time off because my uncle just died, normally that leave is for immediate family, Like parents, siblings or children.

        I used to do that when I got in from work, exhausted – curl up on the sofa with my favourite blanket 🙂

      3. Yes, at my old workplace it was supposedly just for parents, siblings etc.. like you say. My aunts funeral who I was close to out of many aunts I am not, luckily my annual leave fell on the week it was her funeral. But unfortunately I was too ill to attend. I came down with a virus that kept me in bed.
        Later though, someone else apparently got compassionate leave for an uncle. Whether this was true I don’t know. Wouldn’t surprise me if it was, cos they change their minds to suit them.

      4. Yes. A lot of people commented when daughter got a certain position and yet there were no interviews so others with more experience could apply if they wanted.
        Another daughter was a secretary and a son was on cleaning and seemed to have what he wanted.
        A lot of NHS staff left. They left either leaving early or soon as retirement came.
        I was glad to be another that left and never looked back.
        I actually seen my former boss last year. She said hello and asked if I was still working. I said yes same place and went to when I left and never looked back, on top of another job elsewhere, so now on more hours than ever before. Both looking after me very well. Very happy thank you. 😁

      5. Thank you. I enjoyed revealing how happy I was working for them and how caring these employers were. Looking after me. 🙂

  4. Duvet days? What a ridiculous-sounding concept. In the contract that covers nurses in my province the employer can’t ask why someone needs to take a sick day. Personally I wouldn’t be comfortable with a manager being able to demand personal health information from an employee. If someone is sick for more than 5 consecutive shifts then the enhanced disability management program gets involved, and they only pass information to the employer on a need-to-know basis.

      1. Length of time and return date makes sense. My personal belief is just that employees shouldn’t have to disclose information about their health to their manager.

  5. I LOVE the term duvet days! I call mine Fort Blankie days. Duvet sounds so fancy.

    Great post and apologies on behalf of decent people that you have to deal with such deception from some with questionionable ethics.

    I’ve never had a problem with a doctor writing a note for my Fort Blankie time and the law requires it be complied with from employers but let’s just say that attitudes change toward you when it is discovered your note is nor for a specific PHYSICAL ailment. I think what drives me as crazy as the mental disorders is how people somehow get wind of it and think it somehow means I am less intelligent or of weak character. That is ludicrous. You don’t lose IQ points with a broken bone, but depression somehow means you’re dumb? You had to have spinal surgery and are in pain so you’re somehow not a good person anymore? Hardly. Only mental health disorders, the unloved stepchild of the medical world.

    But it is people who inflate their illnesses and situations and outright lie and stuff that makes it even harder for people to seek and get treatment for mental health disorders as it is assumed we are malingering.

    1. Lol 😉 at your comment ‘duvet days sounds fancy’.

      We only had to give a sick note from the GP when you were off more than 5 days.

      Of course we’re not dumb. Numb sometimes, but less intellectual — Pah! Yes, I agree, because we had lots of staff faking it created problems for everyone else. Even those that faked benefits for years (my poor bad back and stress!) yet they still were able to work cash in hand i.e. my neighbour was on benefits for years because of his back yet he went out every day painting and decording! In fact, my whole street had disability badges on their cars!

      However, a few years ago, the government changed the rules in that everyone had to go for assessment – hundreds of thousand of people throughout England suddenly felt better and stopped claiming benefits!

  6. I really like the term duvet days. I may start using that.

    In my job now I am very grateful that I can call in and say I need a mental health day and it counts as a sick day. I am a case manager for children with developmental disabilities so the stress level is pretty high most days. I have actually been TOLD to take off and give myself a break at times because I was totally burnt out and didn’t even realize it. I call these my burnt toast days or being crispy creamed.

    To be honest when it comes to sick days it really is nobody’s business if it’s for mental or physical health problems because each affect the body in their own ways. I can see how people would take advantage although with all the days your job offers I don’t see why. I hate when people take advantage though because it ruins it for everyone else.

    1. Wow, my friend is a social worker for looked after children and boy, her job is tough too. It’s not good that you HAVE to be told to take time off but I know, I was like that too.

      Yes, some people ruin it for others. But as you said, our benefits from the NHS were generous. Unfortunately, some people worked too many extra shifts so they were exhausted, which I understand. But don’t come to our ward for time off sick when really you’ve been working over the legal time limit elsewhere! Aarrgghhh…..

  7. I’ve never heard crazy stories to avoid coming to work, only when people were really ill. I know my colleague told me that the needed all his teeth being pulled because he was getting false ones. His GP didn’t put him on sick leave and he was forced to work for two weeks without any teeth. That wasn’t a sweet memory for him.
    I never took sick days, quite the opposite, I worked with 40° fever and on an other occasion with a sprained ankle. Now I can see that that is maybe over the top. I need to have more Bimbola (I just love love love the name!!) attitude in my life!

    1. Oh no! That poor man! I would have used my annual leave for that cos there’s no way I’d go into work without teeth (Oh my word, that’s just brought back a great memory about a nurse and her teeth – I’ll have to blog it lol)

      And you going to work with that fever -what were you thinking. You must have been dead on your feet when you got home, you poor thing.

      Bimbo wasn’t the only name — you’ll see some more coming up soon. You might have already seen one of my earlier post talking about MoreBlessings – not happy with just Blessings 🙂

  8. Let’s see, bad excuses for leave…My parents knew someone who requested funeral leave weeks in advance. 😅

    The hayfever example did make me pause. 🤔 I know that with allergies, things vary widely from person to person, so I tried not to be judgemental immediately. However, knowing this guy had a history of bad excuses explains things. My hayfever actually gets better at my workplace because of the air filters, so I sometimes take extra shifts when it’s bad. 😁

  9. This was such a fun read lol Thank you so much for sharing! I needed the laugh.
    And the comments were a hoot as well 😀 I’m trying to catch up on all that I’ve missed lately, just trying to keep my head above water here.

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