It's unhappy Monday and economic crisis is set to send sickies soaring

IT'S Monday morning, the alarm clock is buzzing, snow and blizzards are forecast, summer holidays are months away, we're in the middle of an economic meltdown and, to top it all, you've got a bit of a cold starting up.

But if you're thinking of phoning in sick to take a "duvet day" today, be warned. The first Monday in February has been dubbed National Sickie Day and is statistically the worst day for absenteeism in the UK. Your excuse better be good.

According to research from the "Britain Under Pressure" report, today is expected to be the most dire day for sickies ever, with last year's figure of 30,000 call-offs expected to soar as worry about the credit crunch begins to affect the nation's health.

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According to the report by Friends Provident, pension and insurance protection providers, nearly two thirds of Britons (61 per cent) feel more prone to illness, more stressed and less fit and healthy compared to the pre-credit crunch days three years ago.

The figure is worse in Scotland, with 65 per cent of employees saying they feel more stressed and run down than three years ago.

Mark Jones, head of protection at Friends Provident, said: "Our research shows the UK's health is being affected by the credit crunch.

"As Britons feel increasingly unwell and stressed, action is needed. People need to make more effort to protect and care for themselves, otherwise National Sickie Day could be the start of a long-term national health issue."

Credit crunch concerns mean that one in five (19 per cent) people are sleeping less, while more than a third (37 per cent) are worrying more. This could potentially trigger anything from headaches to clinical depression, or a range of stress- related illnesses.

David Lonsdale, assistant director of CBI Scotland, said that while the credit crunch was worrying many workers, many jobs would be secure.

He said: "If people are genuinely ill then employers appreciate that and don't want them coming in and infecting others.

"Otherwise it is very unfair on fellow employees and employers who have been encouraging staff to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

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"The economic downturn will make more people anxious about their future and that of the businesses which employ them. This is perfectly understandable but the vast majority of employers and staff in good businesses will continue through the downturn. Anyone with concerns should speak to their employers about their concerns."

Believable to unlikely to plain outrageous – top excuses

THE top ten excuses to take a sick day range from the mundane and boring to the inspired and fantastical.

1. I've got a terrible cold, I'm burning up – best said with croaky-voice sound effects.

2. It must have been something I ate, I've been sitting on the pan all night – offering further details will ensure your boss wants you off the line asap.

3. I just feel so depressed , my cat died at the weekend. I know he/she was just an animal but he/she was like one of the family and I'll need today and probably the rest of the week to come to terms with things.

4. I've got a terrible migraine, everyone in my family gets them. I'll need to lie down in a darkened room until it goes away. Medical science can't cure it.

5. I was in a charity football match on Saturday and I've pulled a ligament. I can't walk. I'm going to A&E but it could take hours.

6. The cold weather has b*****ed the lock on the front door and I can't get the key in. The emergency joiner can't get here until 4pm.

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7. I'm dog-sitting and the owner has been delayed in Bognor. The dog doesn't like strangers so I'll need to stay at home and look after him.

8. My skin has come out in terrible red blotches after going for a facial.

9.My street has been closed off by emergency services due to a bomb scare.

10. There's a smell of gas, I've got an emergency to deal with.

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