Even though I have been in the workforce for 20 years, somehow I have just recently come into my first ever job with paid sick days. It’s a part-time (3 days a week) job and I get 6 paid sick days a year. If I don’t use them by the end of the year… they’re gone forever.

Honestly though, I pretty much never get sick. I recently finished up the first year at this job and if I recall correctly I only took 1? sick day. So the other 5 went to waste. It sort of makes me feel like I’m getting ripped off a bit, because as far as I can tell everyone else is using all of their days so… I’m getting paid the same (relatively speaking) to be at work more often.

I’ve thought about just faking sick to use up some more of the days but like… is that a SERIOUS ISSUE that I could get into SERIOUS TROUBLE if I were caught on or just kind of one of those things everyone with extra sick days does? I've even thought of going to my manager and asking if this would be ok but I don't know if it is the kind of thing that is accepted in the workplace in general, and I feel like asking and being told no would lead to every future sick day off being looked at suspiciously.

  • 4
    Keep in mind that in most companies, sick time can be used for doctor's appointments and such as well. I've also had days where I come in late or leave early because I needed more sleep or was just feeling tired. I wasn't sick, but I count that as taking care of my mental and emotional health, which is just as important as physical health.
    – David K
    Jul 17, 2015 at 18:53
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    Did you ask HR the acceptable use policy for sick days? For example, maybe you want to schedule an doctor's visit and never seem to get around to it. If HR ok's you taking a sick day for this, win.
    – Brandin
    Jul 17, 2015 at 19:32
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    Is it common? Reportedly yes. Is it wise? Emphatically not; getting fired for abusing benefits is also fairly common.
    – keshlam
    Jul 18, 2015 at 1:10
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    @AndrewWhatever are you seriously asking this question? If you do use a sick day for a non-sick-reason, best not fb, tweet, instagram or otherwise let anyone know what you are doing.
    – bharal
    Jul 18, 2015 at 22:06
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    Some countries (such as the uk) sick leave is near unlimited. It's 4 weeks continuously off sick before you're considered "long term off sick" and they still can't just fire you then (6 months off sick isn't uncommon). Would you feel hard done by if someone took 6 months off because they have cancer? I hope not Jul 19, 2015 at 17:12

7 Answers 7


Yes, lying is a serious issue. Trust is in many jurisdictions an implicit and essential part of the employment contract. If you call in sick and are not ill, most employers would be at liberty to consider that gross misconduct and grounds for immediate dismissal.

Sick days should not be used as holidays, don't even ask. Otherwise they would call them holidays. Your workplace will probably have a sickness absence policy explaining what you can use it for, and what you must do to qualify. Refer to that.

Additionally, beware that in some places it is legal to use sickness absence as a measure when deciding things like who to make redundant.

The tone of your question suggests you won't take that as an answer. Let's dig down a bit.

I pretty much never get sick.

Lucky you. Let me explain it for you. Being sick is not a holiday, it is not fun. It usually means spending your waking hours in some sort of mental or physical pain or discomfort severe enough that you cannot safely perform usual daily activities. Going to work while healthy is generally much more pleasant than staying at home while sick - unless you have a really awful work environment. (And going to work while sick is incredibly unpleasant and sometimes outright dangerous - and not only for you: just don't do it).

It sort of makes me feel like I’m getting ripped off a bit

Why? You benefit from your colleagues not bringing their germs into work and taking time off to get treated before they infect you, and from the benefits that brings to the company, keeping you in a job. You benefit from the financial peace of mind that six sickness days gives you (though in the UK that would be astonishingly stingy, I'm guessing you're somewhere like the US).

Think of it like insurance. Personally I am very glad that I have not been in a car crash. I hope I never have that experience. Yes I'm 'losing out' on that compensatory insurance payment, but I'm gaining by not having to actually be in a car crash and have the need for money to fix a car or deal with injuries. Likewise, consider yourself 'insured' for up to 6 days' absence due to sickness. You'll be (somewhat) compensated if you need them. If ill, by all means, please do use your sick days. But if you don't need them, great - just stop worrying about it.

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    I think in the USA there are places that give you x days "holidays and sick days", so if you are healthy and don't get sick you can spend more days on holidays, and if you get sick all the time it cuts into your holidays.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 18, 2015 at 12:45
  • What do you do when you exhaust all X days? Loose the job?
    – eee
    Jul 19, 2015 at 9:24
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    Probably not get paid.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 19, 2015 at 9:36
  • Right; in the US it becomes unpaid time off unless you have purchased salary replacement insurance. And your deductions may also go unpaid unless you have purchased insurance to cover them. The US doesn't really have a health system; we have a firmly entrenched health insurance system.
    – keshlam
    Jul 20, 2015 at 19:48

If you're caught lying about using sick days and you're using them for something other than being sick, most companies can discipline you with anything from a write up to outright termination. Put yourself in your employers' shoes. How would you feel as a manager if your people were taking sick days as a substitute to vacation days?

When you do that, you're putting your manager, your teammates and others on a course for setback. The effect can trickle up and down the organizational chain; especially if multiple people begin abusing sick time hours simultaneously.

If you don't want to risk being caught and potential termination, don't use sick days for anything other than that. You'll never know when life throws you a curve ball and you might really need them.

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    I agree. People that use sick days for things other than being sick are asking for trouble. Friends of mine have really done themselves a disservice and almost gotten terminated because of their abuse. HOWEVER, if you're anything like me my philosophy used to be "If I'm sick and I can work through it, even if I'm tearing up with a terrible headache, I should go into work." I was also the guy who never took vacation. I've learned that's a terrible thing to do both for yourself and for others. So, maybe evaluate what you consider worth a sick day? For me it really helped.
    – zfrisch
    Jul 17, 2015 at 19:01
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    Honestly if I were a manager (and I sort of am at my other part-time job) and our company offered paid sick days, I'd expect everyone to take the full amount of days any way they could. Jul 17, 2015 at 19:02
  • @AndrewWhatever: In many ways I agree with your sentiment in that people who are "sick" shouldn't get more free days off than those that aren't. However I don't think anyone should lie to make that happen. It would be far better to try and convince the company and HR to get rid of "sick" day policies and instead get with the times to make it more fair by having PTO instead.
    – NotMe
    Jul 17, 2015 at 19:34
  • That's why you would use them more near the end of the year (which I think a LOT of my coworkers do unless they all happen to get sick near the end of the year a lot.) And it's not like we're not allowed to be sick more than the sick days, we just don't get paid beyond that. In theory, albeit I have no idea how that all works since we're on salary. Jul 17, 2015 at 20:58
  • @JoeStrazzere even if you use these 6 days for illness, there's still a change of getting sick in December. Jul 19, 2015 at 13:52

I worked for an employer that had actually two different policies. Non-exempt had 5 sick/personal days and exempt had unlimited.

Turns out that the "unlimited" people took on average 3.5 days, the limited people typically took them all: the average was 4.9 or so. So it's safe to assume that people took sick days when they weren't sick. As far as I know nobody ever got in trouble for this and everybody (including management) thought this was normal behavior.

It's an interesting example: when you treat people as responsible adults they mostly behave as responsible adults. Of course there is always the occasional idiot that abuses this: there was one guy that took over 40 days.

So the direct answer to the question is: it's not unusual for workers in the US to use up all their sick days even if they are not sick. Whether that's ethical or can get you in trouble depends on your specific regulations and the culture in your company.

See also http://dilbert.com/strip/1996-04-17

  • "there was one guy that took over 40 days" -- so what was the average of the unlimited people, excluding this outlier? Apr 26, 2016 at 9:58
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    The Dilbert strip is implying a truth: since Friday and Monday are 40% of all workdays... that means a perfectly honest staff who never cheated would take 40% of their sick days on those days. The joke is on PHB, who has that ideal 40% number and yet thinks he has a problem. Jun 23, 2017 at 23:57
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    Do you actually know what caused the 40 days it might have been a serious illness - I had 3 months out for a transplant two years ago Jul 13, 2019 at 15:46
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    @Neuromancer: any type of real medical issue would be handled through short term disability or medical leave of absence. This guy was blatantly abusing the policy since "he wasn't feeling like coming in" or "being busy otherwise"
    – Hilmar
    Jul 14, 2019 at 17:45
  • @Hilmar Ah I see in the UK its is just called sick leave in general use only HR/IR professionals would make a distinction. Jul 14, 2019 at 20:48

Many companies these days no longer have sick days and vacation days. If they are still maintaining the distinction, you can bet it is important to them.

The problem with using sick days is that, except for DR's appointments, they are not scheduled in advance so they put a higher burden on the company when they are taken. Most companies will not ask for proof that you are sick if you take only one day at a time, but if you take more than one in a row, your boss had better believe you are sick or they might ask for a note from a doctor. (I have had bosses that insisted that you had to call them instead of sending an email message so they could determine if you sounded sick.)

Also if you take a sick day and you aren't sick, you had better not be seen out in public (like, say, at the beach) or post anything about the wonderful fun day you had on social media. Using sick leave when you are not sick can result in termination. It is up to you to determine if you have the risk tolerance to do that.

  • This is country dependent. In Switzerland, it may cost around $120 to visit a doctor even with many types of valid medical insurance, to would be madness to require a note for a day or two of absence.
    – eee
    Jul 19, 2015 at 8:42
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    "Most companies will ask for proof that you are sick if you take only one day at a time" - do you mean will not ask? Apr 26, 2016 at 9:57

It's almost impossible to prove someone isn't 'sick' as an employer, hence why your co-workers probably go ahead and just use them. There are a lot of legal issues they can get into for even fighting that battle, it's better just to let your employees have that sick day. Sick days cover even 'mental health' problems which could even be determined by 'too stressed out'.

Not using sick days will make you look better in the company, so it's not like there isn't a boon to not using them. There are a lot of companies in the game industry that do something we call 'Crunch' where everyone works 12-16 hours and are 'allowed' to take time off but whenever they do they inevitably get fired. However, during this time no one bats an eye at a 'sick day' because it's better you don't show up then get everyone sick and stop the whole project - so it's no wonder the Game Industry has more sick days used then most of the rest, and honestly, working 12-16 hours a day is going to cause health issues as it is.


None of the answerers seems to be married with children or has a family life, because one obvious use of sick days is taking the kids, the spouse or a parent to the doctor.

Personally, I don't like the concept of sick days. I'd rather the company combine the sick days plus the vacation days as paid time off, with the company not butting in into my personal life and asking what sickness do I have. Again, people do get headaches, foot poisoning, etc. and the effects don't last more than a day.

I rarely use sick days but if I call in sick, my management had better take my word for it, or they can do without me as an employee. I feel strongly enough about it to send the two-week notice out the window once I line up a better job. Calling in sick when I am not sick doesn't really pay off for me because my work just piles up and I have to catch up.

I think there is a duplicity/hypocrisy about an employer expecting me to put in 50 to 60 hours a week and paying me for 40, and then turning around and acting as if someone is a thief for taking sick days when that person is not feeling well but recovering quickly. Makes me wish that I were an employer since being an employer is such a good deal.

If your definition of work ethic is showing up even though you are not ready, willing and able to put in a full day of work, then I suggest that you are not adding anything to the team effort and that you are wasting everyone's time - We can do without that. If your definition of work ethic is showing up to work while you are sick and infecting everyone who has the misfortune of being around you, then I suggest that you take yourself and your work ethic elsewhere.

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    "one obvious use of sick days is taking the kids, the spouse or a parent to the doctor" This is not necessarily a permitted use of sick days. Check your company rules.
    – user52889
    Jul 18, 2015 at 10:30
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    @user52889 As long as the law is on my side, I don't give a damn what the company rules say cssny.org/pages/paid-sick-days-faq " You can also use your sick leave to take care of a family member who needs medical care. The family members covered under the law include a child, grandchild, spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandparent, child or parent of an employee’s spouse or domestic partner or sibling." Jul 18, 2015 at 11:19
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    inc.com/suzanne-lucas/… Jul 18, 2015 at 11:27
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    Family Leave Act: dol.gov/whd/fmla Jul 18, 2015 at 11:35
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    Of course, the law overrules company policy. The law is not the same everywhere, however, and in jurisdictions other than the US you may not be entitled to use sick leave when you yourself are not ill (gov.uk/time-off-for-dependants); furthermore the FMLA does not even cover all employers in the US (kb.dol.gov/…). As I say, it is not necessarily permitted, and you need to check the rules which apply to you, or consult your union rep or a legal professional.
    – user52889
    Jul 18, 2015 at 11:59

It is possible to do harm for a company by simulating a sick leave, but this is only one of many opportunities. It is possible to steal pencils, disclose confidential information to the competitor, put viruses on a shared network folders and play computer games during working hours. The possibilities are endless. However majority of people are somehow avoiding this even if seriously disgruntled.

The employer should generally be aware about the possibility of such events and, if you are caught, will react in various expected ways.

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