By Daniel Hunter

New research from the UK's largest money saving brand has revealed that retail is the most likely sector to experience employees pulling 'sickies', followed by customer service workers and those in sales and marketing. By contrast, the most reliable employees were those that worked in health, education and agriculture.

It seems that employees working in ‘retail’, ‘customer service’ and ‘sales and marketing’ are the most likely to call in sick to work; with only one third of Britons, 29%, being ‘genuinely ill’ every time they take a day off and cite illness, according to the results of a new study.

The study, conducted by, polled 1,921 UK based workers from across the country as part of research into the financial costs of time off. All respondents were currently in full or part-time employment.

Respondents were initially asked which sector they worked in and chose one from a list of options that they felt best fitted their current occupation. They were then asked ‘How many sick days have you taken in the last twelve months?’ which revealed the average answer to be ‘4.8 sick days’ across all respondents.

However, when the results were broken down across the different sectors, a top ten was revealed of the sectors in which employees are most likely to take sick days. The top ten sectors with the highest number of sick days taken were as follows:

1. Retail — Average of 6.4 days off sick in the last twelve months
2. Customer service — 6.2
3. Sales and Marketing — 6
4. Recruitment and HR — 5.8
5. Energy and Utilities — 5.5
6. Public sector (civil service etc.) — 5.2
7. IT and Communication — 5
8. Transport and logistics — 4.6
9. Construction/trade — 4.5
10. Law — 4.1

The study then looked at the legitimacy of these sick days, asking ‘Are you always genuinely ill when you claim a sick day at work?’ to which only 29% said ‘yes’. The majority, 45%, claimed this was the case ‘most of the time’. However 26% said they were ‘rarely ill’ when calling in sick. Of those ‘pulling a sickie’, i.e. pretending to be ill when calling in sick, ‘retail’ was again revealed as the most common sector for this to happen within; with 39% of those who admitted that they were ‘rarely ill’ when calling in sick working in the retail sector.

The study then looked at the reasons for this, asking, ‘What are your main reasons for calling in sick when not genuinely ill?’ which revealed the following top five answers. Respondents were allowed to select more than one option if they had taken a sick day for more than one reason, with the most popular answers as follows:

1. Hangovers — 27%
2. Shopping — 19%
3. Utilities Appointments — 17%
4. Planned activities (days out etc.) — 15%
5. Job Interviews — 12%

Those who had admitted to lying about being ill were asked as to whether or not they ever felt any guilt about being dishonest, to which 61% said that ‘yes’ they did feel guilt. Those who admitted to feeling guilty were asked for their main reasons for feeling guilty, with the number one reason for 49% of respondents was that they felt they had ‘let their colleagues down’ as they had to bear the burden of their absence. Only 27% felt bad for their ‘employer’.

Of all sectors, the most reliable in terms of not calling in sick were those working in 'Health', 'Education' and 'Agriculture'. Health workers on average only had 1.3 days sick; education sector employees 1.7 and agricultural employees 2.

Matthew Wood of made the following comment: “Now and again, you might find yourself in the situation where you have to fib to your employers about where you are on a certain day. If you’ve got a job interview in the pipeline it can be tricky to organise time off without letting on the real reason, in which case a ‘sick’ day might be the easiest solution. But a hangover?

“Hangovers are never an enjoyable experience, but if you have work the next day maybe you should hold back and think of the sore head that’s bound to follow. Sick days cost industry millions of pounds every year. You might not think that the odd sick day here and there hurts, but collectively, the cost to the British economy can be considerable.”

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