The Most Common Day for Sick Leave Is This Week

Kathryn Mayer By Kathryn Mayer August 22, 2023

​There's a chance employers might be dealing with a number of employee absences this week.

That's because Aug. 24 is America's "sickest" day of the year, according to data from leave management platform Flamingo Leave Tracker. Its new analysis tracked the most common days U.S. employees have taken off work due to sickness over the last five years.

Although many might think the fall or winter seasons contain the sickest days, the findings indicate that illnesses strike even outside of what many consider to be the most typical times of the year for illness. In fact, the data comes as COVID-19 cases rise across the country.

"When we found that the sickest day of the year is in fact in August, it was quite a surprising result," said David Hehenberger, founder of Flamingo Leave Tracker.

Overall, stomach bugs are the most common reason for sick leave among U.S. workers—accounting for more than half of sick leave (54 percent)—followed by COVID-19 (25 percent), anxiety or stress (9 percent), and musculoskeletal injuries/broken bones (6 percent).

"It's clear that despite the height of the pandemic a couple of years ago, COVID-19 is still having a large impact on our workforce, with a quarter of sick days taken over the last five years due to employees being affected by coronavirus," Hehenberger said. "As the news has recently reported, cases in the U.S. have risen. Businesses still should expect to see absences in the workplace due to COVID-19 over the coming months."

While the sickest day of the year is in summer, the sickest month of the year is February, the analysis found. During the second month of the year, businesses across the country saw an average of 10 percent of their workforce taking sick leave. April and December fall close behind.

According to Flamingo's analysis, the 10 most common days for employees to take sick leave are:

  1. Aug. 24
  2. Feb. 13
  3. Oct. 25
  4. Dec. 15
  5. April 18
  6. Feb. 2
  7. Jan. 24
  8. June 26
  9. Dec. 12
  10. Sept. 5

The data is helpful information for employers to know, Hehenberger said, although it's still worth noting that many employees do not take sick time. According to data from business data firm Statista, 26 percent of Americans between ages 18 and 65 did not take a single sick day in 2022.

While on the surface, workers not taking sick time might appear like a sign of dedication and high productivity, the reasons behind it can be more complex, Hehenberger said.

"If it's because of genuine good health and wellness, that's of course a good thing," he explained. "However, if workers are not taking sick leave due to fear, pressure or lack of adequate policies in the workplace, it can be problematic in the long run for both the employees and the organization."

He also said company mental health days—an offering among employers that is growing more popular—are a positive trend and possibly one that can cut down on employees taking traditional sick leave for stress and anxiety. Even more importantly, he said, they can "reassure workers that as a business you care about their overall well-being."

Hehenberger said he hopes HR leaders can benefit from learning about sick-leave patterns as they plan out leave strategy.

"Businesses will always struggle to precisely plan for illness-related absences because illnesses are unpredictable by nature; however, by sharing sick-leave patterns, we can offer businesses insights into workplace health, morale and potential burnout," he said. "By being aware of peak times for illnesses and sick leave, employers and HR leaders can make sure they have proactive management strategies in place to ensure operational continuity."



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