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I work at a large company in the UK, but not a client facing role. It usually has projects to be delivered over a couple of months. I am entitled to some sick days a year, and I usually take them if I feel unwell, stressed, or poorly rested. In 6 months, for example, I've taken 4 sick leaves (single days).

We work from home.

I was provided feedback by my manager that me taking a sick leave every now and then gives others the impression that I do not have a sense of urgency and may negatively impact my career progression. He gave his own example, and said usually at his office (I work in a different time zone) people show up unless they really really can't, so I look like a complete outlier.

I am quite confused. I am entitled to a sick leave and haven't used them for any other reason than me not feeling the best. Officially, I am within my rights to do it, so why should it negatively impact my career? I always make sure none of my projects are affected by it.

Should I be taking less sick leaves because of this feedback?

Edit: I want to clarify that I had proper medical reason for taking two of those leaves, in fact I ought to have taken more but I didn't because of a deadline. I would be happy to furnish medical evidence but nobody asked me for it. The other two were due to idiosyncratic stress.

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    Could it be that your sick leaves persistently coincide with important project deadlines?
    – fraxinus
    Jun 30, 2021 at 8:48
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    This might be an issue of different norms in different countries. You wrote you are in the UK but your boss is in a different time zone, so I assume he is not in the UK. He might be (subconciously) applying the standards of the country where he is located not the UK ones. Unfortunately I don't see how knowing this helps you with your situation.
    – quarague
    Jun 30, 2021 at 9:26
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    Which countries are you in, respectively (you and your boss)?
    – jcaron
    Jun 30, 2021 at 10:08
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    Is your sick leave limited to e.g. N days a year? I've heard of companies creating unlimited sick day policies with the alleged intention that employees will actually take fewer sick days than normal because they (or their managers) will worry about appearing to 'abuse' the policy.
    – CCJ
    Jun 30, 2021 at 17:04
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    @njzk2 Yeah, taking a sick day for being poorly rested seems odd to me. Either you suck it up and feel tired for the day or you take a vacation day. Sick days are for when you're actually sick and can't work because of that. If they actually say they take the day because they're poorly rested, I can see why the manager might take issue with that.
    – Dnomyar96
    Jul 1, 2021 at 6:40

9 Answers 9

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This comes down to culture at a company. The sensible thing when feeling ill is to not work. You may infect others and further reduce productivity. The other reason is, when you are ill you may enter the land of negative productivity. You end up making so many mistakes, that fixing them takes more time than is saved by you showing up. Another important aspect is HSSE (Health, Safety, Security and Environmental) work-safety when operating machines, vehicles or working with tools while not being well as this could result in environmental-polution, injury or even worse.

That being said, this relies on people judging accurately enough when they are too ill to work.

In some companies, there is a culture of mistrust, with the suspicion that people will abuse sickdays. If that culture exists, and you happen to be sick more often, you will get accused of slacking. The reasoning is: "Nobody is sick that much, I am not sick that much, no way that person is actually sick that much, therefore they must be slacking!" This of course leads to people coming in when they shouldn't and becomes a reinforcing cycle. This may be paired with stories of "heroism": "I was so sick, and even then I came in!" This further reinforces that taking sickleave equals slacking.

If it's that far, you can't do much from the bottom of the food chain. You either deal with it, or search for a more reasonable workplace.

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    you are right! I am often so caught in my office worker bubble that I forget things like that. When I do mistakes, I only kill money. So thanks for the improvement
    – Benjamin
    Jun 29, 2021 at 12:27
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    I don't really think there's a company culture where "nah, I'm sleepy" is a valid reason to take a sick leave.
    – Neinstein
    Jun 29, 2021 at 23:16
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    Depending on the illness, when you go to work while ill, you may also be making yourself more ill (which especially applies when going to the office, but also applies to some degree when working from home). That might result in being ill for longer, or aggravating your symptoms, which may lead to more serious short-term or long-term health consequences.
    – NotThatGuy
    Jun 30, 2021 at 1:35
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    'We work from home'. So not capable of spreading sickness? This answer hinges on 'going in to work' - which OP says he doesn't.
    – Tim
    Jun 30, 2021 at 15:04
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    @Neinstein I have certainly told my boss on a couple of occasions “I was not feeling well last night, and didn’t sleep, and now I’m just staring blankly at my code and not coming up with anything. I don’t feel like I can claim to be working, so I’m just going to take a sick day.” They’ve always been unbothered by this, and appreciative that I didn’t “charge them” for me sitting in my chair like a zombie. I, on the other hand, got a much-needed nap. (My productivity in general is very well-regarded, and I’ve never gotten close to using up all my allotted days, which might play a role.)
    – KRyan
    Jun 30, 2021 at 19:37
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The ways that different employers view staff taking sick leave are hugely varied - from the permissive extreme where they support you taking it for anything all the way to the other end of the scale where taking a sick day is viewed akin to robbery from the company and you should come in unless you're literally dying.

Most, of course, sit somewhere between the two and as a result there's certainly a balance to be struck by the employee between taking sick leave when necessary and not taking the mickey.

On the face of it 4 days in 6 months isn't wildly excessive, in the absence of a chronic health condition it's a little on the high side though (NB: I'm coming from a UK perspective where the average sick days per employee per year is ~4.4, obviously this will vary substantially from country to country).

If your manager is one of those barbarians that believes in the dreaded Bradford Factor (in case you can't tell I hate BF - it's a stupid metric used by stupid employers), then assuming they were 4 single day absences that's a BF of 64 - high enough to raise "concern", even if they aren't using such metrics though you still have perception to contend with and perception is a tricky thing - you don't really know how someone's going to react to something like this until after the fact. Certainly there's signs that you manager isn't too impressed. Whether that's justified is another matter, regardless he's seeing a problem here.

Personally I can't stand the weird culture that sometimes develops around expecting employees to come in when they're actually sick as if that somehow makes them "better" employees. Ugh.

You don't say how much detail you give your employer as to why you're taking the sick leave but from what you've said here there's some alarm bells ringing:

I feel unwell, stressed, or poorly rested.

"unwell" - fair enough, that's basically the point of "sick leave", especially if you're afflicted with something that's transmissible. Bringing down half the office with a bug is exactly the scenario a sane manager/company is trying to avoid.

"stressed" - unless you're working at one of those extremely permissive companies then simple, garden variety "stressed" doesn't really count as "sick", clinically diagnosed stress (as in part of a mental health condition) does of course. Managing normal work-stresses are what annual leave and weekends are for, and if you're getting to the point where they aren't cutting it then it's perhaps a reason to move jobs.

"poorly rested" - barring truly exceptional circumstances it's your responsibility to ensure you're suitably rested to go into work and do what they hired you for. To be honest unless you're so tired as to be unsafe (either getting to work or performing your duties) this is a pretty shoddy reason to call out.

By and large people can't really control whether they get sick - and we don't really expect them to. But things like getting enough rest and how we respond to and manage stress are things we can influence to a much greater degree. Carried to extremes your manager may well be thinking "If user121416 working on something that's important and has a strict deadline are they just going to call out "sick" if it's a bit stressful? Can I count on them?" - not something you want your boss thinking!

When you're working from home (either permanently or because of extenuating circumstances such as COVID) things shift quite a bit - the concern about whether you are going to infect other colleagues goes away and only whether you're too ill to work matters. Personally my bar for how sick I'd have to be to call out sick from WFH is much, much higher than working on-site at the office.

So perhaps you need to re-assess the criteria you're using when deciding whether to call out "sick" - if e.g. half of your absences in the last six months are ones where you were "just" stressed or poorly rested could you have gone in on those days? Eliminating even those two absences would have a massive impact in both the metrics (BF drops to 8 for the same period) and likely in perception as well.

If you aren't giving these reasons (i.e. it's generically "sick" as the reason) then I think there's one of two things going on - either your boss doesn't fully believe you (and not entirely without justification it seems) or they think sick people should come in to the office and soldier on. If it's the former then the advice above stands - if the latter then you're unlikely to convince them to see sense and are probably still better off restricting your sick times to actual sickness and chalking "manager has weird notions about why sick leave exists" into the cons column next time you evaluate whether you want to stay there.

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    @user121416 I apologise if it seemed I was accusing you of that - I really wasn't intending to, I was suggesting that it might be the most extreme outcome of how your manager might perceive it.
    – motosubatsu
    Jun 29, 2021 at 12:53
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    And I believe my manager's advice is coming from a good place - he only points out the this may be percieved negatively due to discrepancy w.r.t others, not that he personally has a problem with it.
    – user121416
    Jun 29, 2021 at 13:01
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    @user121416 perceptions around absenteeism are absolutely the sort of thing that can affect discretionary bonuses, not saying it's right or fair but it does happen. So that being the case it's probably wise to weigh up any borderline incidences where you are thinking about calling in sick vs the bonus and deciding which is more important in the moment.
    – motosubatsu
    Jun 29, 2021 at 13:17
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    Fatigue is a symptom of a large number of things.
    – jmoreno
    Jun 29, 2021 at 23:59
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    Excellent answer, except for the fact that it overlooks that many times not being rested is totally out of your control. There can be a myriad of reasons why you can't get to sleep. You may feel sick the night before, or have a sick child, or your neighbour's child is, or a crane colapses at 3am just in front of your window and recovery work takes all night (this literally happened to me once while at uni, we couldn't sleep until 7am or so). Jun 30, 2021 at 20:58
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I think that you have an incorrect view of sick days. Having 6 sick days doesn't mean that you're "entitled" or "within your rights" to take all 6 of them every year. These are not extra vacation days.

Webster's Dictionary defines "sick" as "affected with disease or ill health." General stress, "not feeling well," or fatigue are not "disease or ill health" - they're conditions that everyone has to cope with sometimes.

That being said, whether you ought to take a sick day or not really does depend on what the problem is. "Not feeling my best," being stressed, and being poorly rested are not legitimate reasons to take a sick day. If you think that you have some specific contagious illness (e.g. influenza, strep throat, etc.), then by all means take a sick day - you shouldn't spread whatever you have. If it's something like "I'm tired," then drink some caffeine and go to work.

By way of personal example, my last couple of sick days were when I tested positive for strep throat (which is quite contagious) and when I got major knee surgery (which made it essentially impossible for me to work for a little while for a variety of reasons). I wasn't just "not feeling my best" - I had specific, objectively demonstrable reasons that I couldn't or shouldn't go to the office.

If you just want a day off here and there, pre-arrange to use some vacation time here - don't use sick days as an extra vacation bank because you're "entitled to use it."

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Jun 30, 2021 at 6:02
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    While this answer is correct, I'd like to add that mental health can absolutely be a valid reason to take sick days. But as this answer states "not feeling my best" is probably not it...
    – fgysin
    Jul 1, 2021 at 8:30
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    @ fgysin The OP gives no indication that that's what's happening. Jul 1, 2021 at 12:28
  • @EJoshuaS-ReinstateMonica: but you mention stress, and that can definitely be a legitimate reason to call in sick. As is "not feeling my best", as that is often just a light illness. Jul 2, 2021 at 10:29
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TL;DR - The problem is not the number of sick days, it's the motive behind them. Sick leave is not an "I have a bad day" pass, it's for serious cases.


There are actually two questions here.

Did you use too much?

No.

In itself, 4 sick days in 6 months is not very bad, not eyebrow-raisingly bad at least. It's not uncommon to fall ill for two weeks. That is, if the reason for the sick leave is legitimate.

But it doesn't seem so.

Were you wrong to use it?

Yes.

In Europe (and other places I guess), generally, sick leaves are for when you are sick and have to go to a doctor's appointment. As a legal default, you need to be able to present a doctor's certificate, though many companies don't actually require this, to build an atmosphere of trust. Sick leave is for when you're so sick that it prevents you from working, or if work would put you and/or your colleagues at risk of further damaging your health. Fever, infectious disease, serious pain, asthma attack, broken hand, or other temporal disabilities are fine.

Being tired, feeling down, stressed, or having a minor headache - these are not valid reasons for sick leave, by far, in pretty much any workplace culture around the word. (The only exception is having a psychiatrist's diagnose, and subscription of recovery leave.) As a worker, it's your responsibility to keep yourself in a condition of being able to work. If you feel tired, you drink a coffee and suffer for your long Netflix night, if you're burning out you request a week off or a sabbatical, and so on. But sick leave is not for this, and using it does make you appear as lazy, shirker and unmotivated.

What to do?

Your manager, in fact, doesn't have a problem with the amount of your sick leaves. He has a problem with the reason behind them. From now on, don't use sick leaves as an "I have a bad day" pass, because that does have a negative impact on your image and career. Use it as intended: when you are so sick, that you cannot work at all, or working puts you (or others) at a risk of further damage to your (or others) health.

Note: technically, this does include mental health - but only if you visited a psychiatrist, and he did recommend a sick leave. But those cases are usually handled differently since the recovery period is longer than a few days. In such cases, a sabbaticon (a long unpaid leave), or decreasing the work time, are the common solution, and the sick leaves only apply to the days you go to doctor's visit outside of these.

P.s.: Afterthought - there are areas where being sleepy actually puts you or others in risk, and therefore you should ask a day off if you feel so. But this won't change that it's your failure. The workers must be present at the beginning of worktime in a state to be able to fulfill their duty, and it's their responsibility to do so. This is often verbatim included in the work contract. Failing to do so doesn't make a resulting sick day look good at all.

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    "being seepy actually puts you or others in risk", whilst this is certainly the case with any illness that causes seeping sores I'm sure you actually mean sleepy
    – Jon P
    Jun 30, 2021 at 6:06
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    Requiring someone to go to a doctor when they are sick to "get a note" is incredibly stupid. Why on earth would a doctor want someone who has a bad cold to come into the office to get everyone there sick to verify, "yeah i guess you have a cold". I really hope that is not the case in most companies.
    – eps
    Jun 30, 2021 at 6:10
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    @user121416 The culture is not universal, sure, but the reaction of your manager suggests me that I'm right. Pherhaps an 1v1 could clear things up. Also, yeah, sometimes people fail - but failure always have consequences. In general, it doesn't paint a good picture if you have to skip days for lack of sleep or just feeling somewhat down. It's certainly not as common as you seem to believe - maybe it can happen once or twice a year, if you have a good reason, but if it happens practically once a month, then it does raise some concerns.
    – Neinstein
    Jun 30, 2021 at 7:02
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    This answer has some generalisations which don't always apply. Stress is definitely a reason for taking sick leave in some organisations, especially in countries where the work-life balance is less tilted towards the interests of the employer (e.g. not the US). It is absolutely not a requirement that you have visited a psychiatrist to diagnose you with having mental health issues before you consider taking sick leave for mental health reasons in the UK. Jun 30, 2021 at 7:10
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    Every salaried job I've ever had, they never once asked me why I was sick and I never had any issues taking sick days. Simply an email or phone call to boss saying "I'm not feeling well and going to take a sick day" has always been sufficient.
    – Kevin
    Jun 30, 2021 at 20:17
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There are several answers and comments which talk about how things are in the USA, how things are in the EU, how some companies use the Bradford Factor, and so on and so forth. None of that is relevant to your situation.

You're working in the UK, not in the USA or in the EU, and there the law says.

Employees can take time off work if they’re ill. They need to give their employer proof if they’re ill for more than 7 days.

If they’re ill just before or during their holiday, they can take it as sick leave instead.

That's it. If you're ill then you can take time off. If you're ill for more than seven days in a row (including weekends and public holidays) then you have to go to the doctor to get written confirmation.

Employees must give their employer a doctor’s ‘fit note’ (sometimes called a ‘sick note’) if they’ve been ill for more than 7 days in a row and have taken sick leave. This includes non-working days, such as weekends and bank holidays.

To clarify:

If employees are off work for 7 days or less, they do not need to give their employer a fit note or other proof of sickness from a medical professional.

Now, you may get paid less money for the days you're off sick:

When an employee changes their holiday to sick leave they’re paid Statutory Sick Pay which will count towards the amount of holiday pay they’ve received. The exceptions to this rule are:

  • they do not qualify for Statutory Sick Pay
  • they were off work sick and being paid ‘occupational sick pay’

Even if you're sick for a long period of time then you still get paid:

Employees who are off work sick for more than 4 weeks may be considered long-term sick. A long-term sick employee is still entitled to annual leave.

Only if you're sick for a long period of time can you be dismissed for it:

As a last resort, employers can dismiss an employee who is long-term sick, but before they can do this employers must:

  • consider if an employee can return to work - such as by working flexibly or part-time, doing different or less stressful work (with training if necessary)
  • consult with employees about when they could return to work and if their health will improve

An employee can take their case to an employment tribunal if they think they’ve been unfairly dismissed.


To summarise: your boss might not like it, but there's very little that they can do about it. If you get your work done on time then there's no problem. The only thing that they can realistically do to get rid of you if they want to is to make your job role redundant. If they choose this route then they'll have to pay you redundancy.

However, having said that, just because you know your rights doesn't mean that you should have a bad attitude and say to your boss "I know my rights!" in a confrontational manner. I'm not suggesting for one moment that you do have a bad attitude, nor am I suggesting that you would ever say something like that to your boss, but it would be remiss of me to not point it out.
Being pleasant, personable, and professional will obviously get you a lot further. If you're well-liked and good at what you do then most companies will give you a lot of leeway, in my experience.

You mention in your edit to your question that you were legitimately ill on all of the occasions that you took sick days. My advice to you, therefore, is to obtain a doctor's note for every single sick day that you take in future, and to send it to your boss and to your HR department. Don't wait for them to ask for it (they won't ask for it if you're off sick for less than seven days).

This includes any occasions where you're suffering from "idiosyncratic stress".

Doing this might require you to take even more time off: a visit to the doctor will take time, of course - as it's rare that a doctor is available on the same day that you call for an appointment; and the doctor may well tell you to take more than one day off - for example in the case of stress.

But it might be important to cover your back from now on: your boss obviously doesn't believe that you were ill, so if you worry about how you're perceived and any fallout as a result of that; then you should ensure that any illness is backed up by a medical professional, in order to head off any future issues with your boss and/or HR department.


Appendix: thanks to these useful comments from ColleenV which have helped me improve this answer:

a company can’t prevent an employee from using their sick leave. That doesn’t mean that it’s a good move to use sick leave to take time off because you stayed out too late the night before. There’s more to being successful in the work place than knowing the legal limits of what a company can and can’t do. There are plenty of perfectly legal ways to make it clear an employee is “in the dog house” without actually firing them.

the OP’s boss has noticed enough to mention the problem. Their boss is probably trying to head off future problems, and the attitude that “I’m entitled to it and you can’t legally fire me over it so kick rocks” may not be the best response. There’s a perception that the OP was taking sick leave even though they were well enough to work, and that needs to be handled whether or not that perception is correct.

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  • (you may have noticed my god-given talent is picking nits :) ) I don’t mean to be excessively critical of your answer. you’re a good sport for not telling me to shove off and write my own answer.
    – ColleenV
    Jun 30, 2021 at 20:30
  • @ColleenV heheheh not at all! Thank you for helping me improve my answer - you were right to point out that, in my eagerness to point out OP's rights under UK law, I hadn't really addressed OP's issue in a constructive way (or at all). Your comments were the epitome of the phrase "constructive criticism". (I think I've rambled on too much in my edit (brevity's not my strong point), and that Benjamin's answer puts it better and more succinctly, but I hope it helps OK nevertheless)
    – Aaron F
    Jun 30, 2021 at 21:02
  • I'm still very uncomfortable with this answer. Colleen's Appendix point is important. It should not be an Appendix. People should not have to read through paragraphs of "Everything is irrelevant" and "The only thing that matters is the law" before getting to an appendix that clarifies that it's not a good attitude to ask "What is the most I can legally get away with?" The clarification means the claim about the law being the only issue of concern is false, so your edits should prominently moderate that claim.
    – Josiah
    Jul 1, 2021 at 7:22
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    @Josiah fair point. I've just removed the text "only thing that matters", which I hope helps somewhat? I still think it's important to put what the law says first and foremost, to point out the differences between the UK and other locations, as that's something missing from other answers. That part is long, true, but mainly due to the quotes I've copied from the gov.uk site.
    – Aaron F
    Jul 1, 2021 at 7:53
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"...gives others the impression that I do not have a sense of urgency and may negatively impact my career progression."

Your actions are creating an impression that is impacting your career. What you think you are entitled to isn't the issue, the perception you are creating is.

Talk to your boss and get an idea of what the expectation is. Continuing as is will impact your career. If you don't agree with the expectation then you can:

  1. change his mind (unlikely because it's likely company policy/culture you need to change).
  2. change your mind and your behaviour.
  3. continue as is and live with the consequences (limited career progression at best, terminated at worst).
  4. find a new job that provides a more flexible work schedule.
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    I think this is one of the most helpful and clear answer I've had. Thanks.
    – user121416
    Jul 1, 2021 at 9:36
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You are the best judge of your own fitness to work when you haven't seen a doctor.

There is no prerequisite of averting catastrophes for taking a sick leave. When you have food poisoning and got chained to your toilet, you can probably tell you shouldn't go to work, despite not running the risk of having a car crash or burning your company down.

Likewise, you shouldn't go to work when you are going to have zero productivity because of mental issues.

That said, as other answers have mentioned, you are obligated to keep yourself well as a worker. Should you call in sick because you just pulled an all-nighter with Netflix two days in a row? YES, because you will be actively doing harm on the third day. Is that anywhere near responsible behaviour? No, and there should be consequences.

That is to say, if you know you have chronic sleeping/stress problems, you have to take measures to solve them, be it lifestyle changes or seeing a doctor.

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  • "Should you call in sick because you just pulled an all-nighter with Netflix two days in a row?" - NO: you should call in and request a day of _ annual-leave _. If your boss says "just take sick-leave" then ok, but don't expect it.
    – MikeB
    Jul 2, 2021 at 13:48
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On one side ...

Your boss is applying in appropriate standards.

You are in the UK working from home and your boss is apply a viewpoint from a different timezone working in an office.

He gave his own example, and said usually at his office (I work in a different time zone) people show up unless they really really can't, so I look like a complete outlier.

You look like a complete outlier (according to your boss !) only when compared to his office in a different timezone. You do not work there or even in an office (you stated you work from home). If your boss wanted to be fair they would have compared you to figures for workers local to you - although maybe you'd still look bad.

I think your boss has an unreasonable expectation here and is not allowing for cultural (and legal) differences. This is not uncommon in multinational companies, particularly if managers are not familiar with the working cultures of the countries the people they manage are in (or just do not care).

Note your boss (and company) may simply be looking for any excuse not to payout bonuses or e.g. salary increments and is making the most they can from something trivial.

I would (carefully) express this view to your boss or possibly find a new employer without these issues. You need to express clearly that your work and deadlines have not suffered at all (assuming this to be the case - they would have complained about that if it had).

On the other hand ...

I am entitled to some sick days a year, and I usually take them if I feel unwell, stressed, or poorly rested

You are entitled to sick leave that is certified when you are sick or have a legitimate reason for thinking you might be. I get the impression you are stretching the definition here, although that could be your choice of wording.

You are not entitled to sick leave for not being properly rested. It is your obligation to your employer to ensure you are properly rested to carry out the duties they pay you for. Not being properly rested is your problem, not a sickness (unless you are diagnosed with a condition that causes that). On the occasions this happened me and I was not able to work effectively I would take annual leave if possible - not being rested is my responsibility, not an illness. If I was unable to take annual leave I would use that other fallback - (too much) coffee.

Regarding being stressed, well that either than means you are overloaded by your employers (actually quite common for work-at-home circumstances where employers do not respect the boundaries of working hours or emplyees do not maintain strict working hours themselves), or actually not able to cope with work, in which case you need a different job. Some stress is going to happen - it's unavoidable, so you must be able to cope with a "normal" level of stress (whatever "normal" is).

"Feeling unwell" is too vague to take a meaning from. I occassionally get severe migraines - I can't work or read and require a dark room for hours and a bed (after taking pain killers) until they go away. That's unwell - I'm simply not able to work or anything else. A bad headache is nothing much by comparison - two ibuprofen and I'm good to go. Be careful you are not letting yourself fall into the trap of letting minor things that your could work through become "sickness".

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    Voting down without explaining why doesn't help anyone. Jun 30, 2021 at 16:38
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    "you must be able to cope with a "normal" level of stress" -- I don't think that matters. If he is unfit to work because of stress levels, he is unfit to work should call in sick, period. There is no such thing as a "normal" level of stress and it is irrelevant. And as for "Be careful you are not letting yourself fall into the trap of letting minor things that your could work through become "sickness"." -- I'd say, be careful to not go to work when you are actually sick because it may worsen the sickness. That other people have worse headaches is irrelevant. Jul 2, 2021 at 10:36
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Have you come across the Bradford factor? It's a very controversial but not unusual measurement in HR, and might provide some insight into just how your situation looks. If your HR department uses the metric, taking 4 individual days of sick leave is seen with the same level of suspicion as being away for two solid months!

You say you're in a different timezone, so this may be a cultural difference. In the UK, annual leave allocations are very generous, with employers providing a legal minimum of 20 days off on top of public holidays. That time is entirely for you; you can spend it on a fishing holiday or to move house or to go to a job interview or to watch TV all week. The broad cultural expectation then is that if all goes well you finish the year having used that annual leave.

At the same time, the "if all goes well" expectation for sick leave is that you finish the year without dipping into it. It's not "This is mine and I might as well spend it." It's more "In the event that I get the flu and can't get out of bed for a week, I'll still be able to pay the rent and I'll still have a job to wake up to, but I hope to not need it." Going out of your way to use it is seen a bit like going out of your way to dent your car so you can claim on your insurance.

The Bradford factor claims to be scaling up to account for the disruption caused by unexpected absences. It is true that a week off sick is often less disruptive than 5 individual days. In practice, there's at least as strong a cultural judgement about whether these absences are a mark of abusing the system.

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    I think it's a long shot to assume a certain controversial management system from OP's info. Most management would have a problem if an employee signed out sick for "I'm sleepy"...
    – Neinstein
    Jun 29, 2021 at 23:03
  • I agree. I'm not saying they're using that particular formula. I am suggesting that if the OP assumes the Bradford model, and thinks about the sorts of reasons that people do use a Bradford model, it may help to understand their manager's perspective. (The key reasons being disruption from unexpected absences and a perception of using sick days flippantly)
    – Josiah
    Jun 29, 2021 at 23:16
  • 1
    what an utterly horrible metric ... Jun 30, 2021 at 18:34
  • It is a hilariously horrible metric. Anything that makes 10 days off in a year look worse than the whole year off is obviously stupid. Even so, it's a metric that people use, and it's worth being aware that some people use stupid metrics.
    – Josiah
    Jul 1, 2021 at 7:26

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