Ask LH: Is It OK To Take Sickies After Quitting A Job?

Ask LH: Is It OK To Take Sickies After Quitting A Job?

Hi Lifehacker, So I’ve submitted my resignation and am counting down to my last day of work, with three weeks left to go. Last week, I decided to take a — ahem — “sick” day. Now I’m wondering what’s stopping me from taking more. (What are they going to do, fire me? Or what?)

I’ve taken sickies plenty of times during my notice periods over the years, but I was a little worried about some blowback this time. I’m wondering what everyone else does — should you use up your sick leave during your notice period? Have you ever been pulled up on it? Thanks, Seeking Sickies

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Dear SS,

This really comes down to work ethics and what you personally feel comfortable with. In most workplaces, chucking an occasional sickie won’t get you into too much strife with the boss. [Oh really now? — Ed.]

It has become semi-accepted practice ever since Bob Hawke encouraged the entire nation to take the day off following our victory in the 1983 America’s Cup. As long as you keep your responsibilities ticking along and don’t make a habit out of it, nobody is going to raise an eyebrow.

By contrast, it’s plainly poor form to deliberately use up all of your sick leave after handing in your notice. That kind of stunt will get noticed — and it won’t just be the boss who’s pissed off. Your co-workers will almost certainly be annoyed with you too; especially if your absence results in extra work for them. Do you really want to leave on such a sour note?

Even if you hate your job and everybody you work with, there are still potential repercussions to be mindful of. For example, you may need a reference from this workplace in the future. (For all you know, this new job might not work out for whatever reason.) A glowing reference isn’t likely to be forthcoming if you go on a sickie bonanza just prior to leaving. Plus, word has a way of getting around in some industries. Personally, I’d prefer to have an untarnished reputation than a few extra lazy days in bed.

With all that said, you can probably get away with one or two more if you’re that way inclined. Like dieting, the key is planning and moderation. Here are some choice tactics from Kotaku editor Mark Serrels (who, incidentally, has an excellent work ethic):

If possible, set up your sickie in advance. Display subtle symptoms on the day before if possible – sniffles, sneezes if you’re going to play the flu/cold card. Stomach pains and subtle moans if you’re pulling the gastro sickie. Making your boss or supervisor say, “why are you in the office you crazy, overworked son of a bitch?” is your goal here. You are playing the role of the loyal worker bee, sacrificing the needs of his own health for the sake of the colony.

Also, before you indulge in a sneaky day off, you should probably reacquaint yourself with the current sick leave policy — some workplaces require employees to provide evidence of illness even if they were only off for one day. If that’s the case, you probably won’t get paid. Fortunately, as our friends at Business Insider have demonstrated, getting a bogus doctor’s certificate is surprisingly easy.

What are your thoughts surrounding post resignation sickies? Are you sick of co-workers not taking their share of the load? Tell us in the comments.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    • Ethical Egoism: Do whatever is in your own self-interest.

      All I’m hearing is go for it!

  • There was a receptionist who did this at a business I used to work at. She got away with it but it didn’t make anyone feel sorry to see her leave. And I remember one of our clients mentioned they were considering hiring her, the client manager told them not to bother.

  • who cares if it’s “OK”. If you have the sick leave and they don’t check up on you then go for it. Geeze, everyone does this.

  • Don’t fool yourself that these things aren’t noticed. And never burn bridges once you’ve decided to leave.

    • This..
      Especially in this job market.
      If the new employer goes belly-up or loses a big contract, you’ll be first out the door and a good reference from your previous employer is going to be vital to ensure you get back onto your feet quickly.

  • People like this are the reason so many places require you get a doctors cert for even a single day off. Get some ethics.

  • Hmm…I didn’t think it was such a big deal to take one day off. I wasn’t sure if two was pushing it, but I guess judging by the responses here, it definitely is.

    I know some people who regularly take sick days in general when they’re not sick, not particularly during their notice period though

  • You can do whatever you like

    Just know that if you do that you will be burning a bridge. You are probable already hated for taking a sickie when you aren’t sick (people can easily tell) but no former workmates will help you if their last memory is of the ass who couldn’t bother to help them in his last few days.

  • Its a shame there isn’t some Australia wide system in place where the employer is obliged to pay out any unused sick days in cash at the end of each year (or at the end of employment) plus some form of loading whereby you are given an additional bonus for each sick day you have unused. It would make for a more productive environment and in many cases save the employer money as they wouldn’t have to get a temp in to fill the position for the day (which may often work out more expensive for them). I believe this does already occur in some businesses, not sure about the loading though.

    Of course you may end up with workers who are genuinely sick and decide to stay on at work and then underperform, as well as the risk of passing on the sickness to other workers.

    • Your last paragraph is why most businesses don’t do it. A very small number do. Those businesses have low numbers of individual sick days generally, but then they come to work sick, passing their illness on to everyone else – and half the office is then off work sick.

  • It’s too small a world to be taking sickies when you don’t need it. You’ve got to remember that people within your industry talk to each other – and word spreads about what type of person you are. Remember to maintain your own personal brand – it travels with you for the rest of your life.

  • I’ve thought about this myself. Consider how hard that option is for an employer who not only has to pay sick leave but also a casual wage to a replacement. Too much of this will mean less money to go around to other employees (depending on your industry).
    The best option I could devise is a third party health insurance company. This would be much like superannuation or even health insurance where the employer pays a nominal fee based on the earnings of the employee. When the employee requires a sick day, they deal with the third party organisation to recover their pay. This is great for employees because you can accumulate sick days across multiple employment situations. For employers it’s great because you can budget how much it is going to cost. If all else fails it could be a government run incentive where it is directly paid for though income tax, then it can be linked to sickness allowances and other government support schemes potentially including unemployment.

  • I’ve just had an employee resign and then immediately provide medical certificates for the 2 weeks of her notice. Spurious sick leave, when the employee is really leaving without giving the required 2 weeks notice, really pisses bosses off. Sick leave is for when you are sick, or you have to care for an immediate family member in an emergency. I was going to pay her her full wages and annual leave entitlement anyway (because she hadn’t provided the minimum amount of notice, I could have withheld 1 weeks pay), but I object to paying someone sick leave when they are not sick and I have to employ someone else.

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