Reasons to Call in Sick

Do You Have a Good Reason to Stay Home From Work?

Young woman sitting on edge of bed, holding head in hand
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When you wake up with an upset stomach or a stuffy nose, are you someone who thinks "Oh no. I don't want to call in sick." Alternatively, maybe you're one of those people who feels that it's okay to take a sick day even when you aren't ill. If you are a member of the first camp, you may be underutilizing your sick days, but if you count yourself among the second, you may be misusing them.

5 Good Reasons to Call in Sick

Your sick days are yours to use when you need them. Put your workaholic tendencies aside. Organizations rarely fall apart because of one employer's absence. Calling out from work may even save everyone else from catching what you have. Going to work sick means spreading your germs around the office, which is sure to annoy your coworkers. It's also difficult to be productive at work when you aren't feeling well. Here are some appropriate reasons to stay home:

  • You Have an Illness That Might Be Contagious: If you suspect your coworkers could catch your illness, stay home until you are better or know for sure that what you have isn't contagious. For example, if you are throwing up or have diarrhea, you could have a stomach virus. The sudden onset of symptoms like fever, chills, and body aches, could mean you have the flu. Both a stomach virus and the flu can spread through a workplace like a wildfire, taking down everything in its path. If your eyes are red, swollen, and crusty, you may have conjunctivitis—also known as pink eye—which is highly infectious. A severe sore throat with swollen glands is a symptom of strep throat and you can spread it to your coworkers.
  • You Have a Fever: You will get a fever when fighting an infection. Not only is it a symptom of a contagious illness, but it will make you tired and keep you from being able to work efficiently. Go to the doctor to find out if an antibiotic is necessary. Also, get plenty of rest.
  • You Have a Rash: In addition to rashes making you extremely uncomfortable, some are also communicable. Until you know the cause, avoid contact with other people. If you find out it isn't contagious, go back to work, but don't be surprised if your coworkers keep their distance. While you don't have to go until detail, inform them they can't catch it. Don't forget to mind your manners and relieve any itchiness in private.
  • You Are in Significant Pain: Headaches, injuries, sprains, broken bones, and other problems can cause severe or significant pain. After you have taken the proper measures to make sure nothing that can endanger your overall health is causing it, you can go to work if you choose. Realize, however, that that you may not be able to operate at your peak performance and pain medication will compound that problem. Rest is beneficial.
  • You Have a Common Cold: Whether or not to call in sick because you have a cold depends on its severity. A case of the sniffles isn't a good reason to take the day off, but if you are rapidly emptying boxes of tissues and have an uncontrollable cough, your cold is pretty bad. It can cause problems with concentration and can spread to others in your workplace. If you decide to go to work, wash your hands frequently and keep your phone and computer germ-free by wiping them down with alcohol wipes if others share them. If your coworkers keep their distance, don't be offended. It may not be the garlic dill you had with lunch, but instead their fear of catching what you have.

    The need for extended absence due to a more severe illness may qualify you for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). It allows eligible workers to take up to 12 weeks off from work. According to the FMLA, your employer doesn't have to pay you for this time— a state law may require that it does—but the organization must allow you to return to your position or a similar one when your leave ends.

    5 Bad Excuses for Taking a Sick Day

    Excessive use of sick days may catch your boss's attention. When you call in sick, it is usually on short notice and can leave your boss scrambling to cover your duties. 

    Do not take advantage of sick days to tend to matters for which a personal or vacation day would be more suitable.

    Whenever you can notify your boss ahead of time that you need to take off—using a personal or vacation day—do so. Here are some examples:

    • A Previous Engagement: If you know in advance about something you need to attend—for example, an event at your child's school or an appointment—use your personal or vacation time.
    • A Beach Day: When you wake up on a hot summer day, your thoughts may turn to sand and surf. It's unfair to leave your colleagues in the lurch to have a day basking in the sun. Plan your trip to the beach ahead of time and request a vacation or personal day.
    • A Job Interview: Congratulations! Interviews sometimes come up on short notice. Unless your boss knows about your job search, telling them you need to take off for an interview isn't an option. Instead, try to schedule it before or after work.
    • You Are Tired: Did you stay up too late? That isn't a good enough reason to take the day off. Suck it up and head to work. Take a quick nap during your lunch hour and plan to go to bed earlier that night.
    • Religious Observance: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers with over 15 employees to allow their workers to take time off for religious observance unless it causes undue hardship to the organization. This absence should come out of your personal or vacation time.