What should I answer to the days off sick question on job applications?
August 23, 2006 4:44 AM   Subscribe

Possibly a very stupid job application question, but what is 'Provide details of absence due to sickness over the last 2 years' really asking?

Whenever I fill out a job application form I tend to write something like 'no prolonged absence due to illness' or similar. Is this a bad idea? Should I check with my current employer how many days Ive had and put that figure on the application or is the question designed to find out if I have any rather more serious illnesses?

I ask as I was photocopying some job applications for a colleague recently and noticed that every single applicant answered 'none' to this question.

I very rarely take sickies, I've probably had two days off ill in two years. Any insights from people who shortlist or in HR would be appreciated. I'm in the the South West UK and am applying for admin/support roles in Higher Education.
posted by Ness to Work & Money (8 answers total)
This isn't really an answer (tho it kind of is), but I'm currently filling out an application form for an admin role at a uni in South East UK and they are much more specific in their wording of the question:
Please state how many days sickness absence you have taken within the past 12 months, indicating the length of each separate period of absence, the reasons for absence and the month the absence occurred in. Information supplied will be confirmed with your current/most recent employer when calling for a reference
So it sounds like they want more than just a generic "1-2 days". That's not to say they all want that, but this uni certainly does.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 4:50 AM on August 23, 2006

Is this a UK norm? I've never in my life seen anything like this. Companies provide you with sick days specifically because people get sick. Your personal medical history is none of their business. In the US, most companies won't answer that question during a reference check anyway. Most big companies will respond with "yes, he worked here those dates, yes that was his salary" and that's it.
posted by Spoonman at 6:12 AM on August 23, 2006

I would second Spoonman's opinion that this is something over-intrusive for a prospective employer to ask - or for a previous employer to provide. I suspect that if your previous employer were to attempt to question your response to this question they would be opening themselves up to a number of legal problems. This is particularly the case since in the UK you would be able to use the data protection act to ask for a copy of correspondence.

I would have thought that wiser employers would use a pre-employment medical - or at least a direct question in an interview - as a way of trying to get a handle on somebody's sickness record.
posted by rongorongo at 6:28 AM on August 23, 2006

I'm not a lawyer, so what follows is opinion- and experience-based, rather than absolutely fact-based.

If they were asking about disabilities, that would probably contravene a law or two.

As someone who gets involved in the recruitment process for my company, we just want to make sure potential recruits don't abuse the full pay sickness allowance system - if a CV shows ~10+ days off per year (when the industry norm is about 6) in 1 and 2 day chunks for minor ailments then it may be that the person in question isn't particularly stoic about their commitment to their employer.

Doesn't make them a 'no' for a job interview but it would be something to either pick up on in an interview or follow up in a request for references.
posted by mooders at 6:41 AM on August 23, 2006

Given that it would only be used against you, and everyone else says "none", it would be foolish not to do the same.
posted by smackfu at 7:07 AM on August 23, 2006

if a CV shows ~10+ days off per year (when the industry norm is about 6)

Wow, I've never even had more than 5 sick days off per year. When I had pneumonia a few years back, I had to suck it up and go back to work or forsake a few days pay.

posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:10 AM on August 23, 2006

I can confirm that it is standard especially in jobs which lead to a permanent appointment after the probationary period - 3 months.
While I did find it intrusive applying for my first UK job, I balanced that with the knowledge of my employers extremely generous sick leave certification process. That is I only need a doctor's certificate if I am sick for more than 5 consecutive days
posted by Wilder at 7:11 AM on August 23, 2006

Given that it would only be used against you, and everyone else says "none", it would be foolish not to do the same.

Well I've just sent mine off and told them the truth. If they check with your previous employer and find out you've lied they definitely won't employ you. (and I've had to ask my previous employer for their sickness records and she didn't say "what? how dare they ask that!")
posted by ClarissaWAM at 7:16 AM on August 23, 2006

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