If an unusual number of employees called in sick at your organization today, some of them are probably faking it. As many as one in 10 American workers may miss work because of the Super Bowl, a new survey suggested last week. The survey, commissioned by Kronos, finds that 77 percent of American workers plans to watch the NFL championship game, and estimates that 16.5 million Americans expect to miss work the day after, 10.5 million of whom have already asked for the day off while the rest plan to call in sick. Extrapolating from its sample of 2,042 adults, Kronos further estimates that another 7.5 million were likely to show up late to work today.
Younger workers, as well as men, are more likely to take a postgame personal day, according to the survey. Of all employees 18-34 years old, 20 percent said they might skip work today. Of those who plan to watch the Super Bowl, 32 percent of men aged 18-34 and 20 percent of men aged 35-44 said the same. So did 10 percent of all women who said they were going to watch the game. Fans of the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos were particularly likely to say they would request the day off in advance.
This year’s game is not exceptional in this regard: 15 percent of adults who have ever watched the Super Bowl said they had missed or been late to work the next day as a result, while 14 percent of all employees said they had been tardy or absent on account of some personal, non-essential activity like a sporting event, concert, parade, awards show, or political event. On the bright side, 74 percent said they would tell their boss the truth about why they missed work in such instances.
SHRM’s legal editor Allen Smith offers up some suggestions for how employers can anticipate the annual “Super Bowl flu” or protect against employees abusing sick leave:
Employers may give employees a late start option, pushing the start time back by one to two hours, to encourage them to come in on the day after the big game, noted Kevin Curry, senior vice president and national practice leader at Reed Group, an absence management company. A company might also provide an attendance incentive for showing up, like a gift card, free breakfast or extra paid time off.
Be aware, [attorney Sean] Ray cautioned, that “If an employee calls in sick the day after the Super Bowl, that leave may be protected under state law, though some states have carve-outs for suspected abuse of sick leave.”
[Attorney Richard] Meneghello said that many state leave laws let employers request medical certification for workers who call in sick or late, especially if the employer suspects a pattern of abuse—such as repeated absences on Fridays and Mondays. “Let your employees know ahead of time that you will consistently enforce your attendance policies and will require certification where allowed, which might cause someone to think twice about their weekend activities.”