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Friday, 28 July, 2000, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Don't blame the parents

Parents are resented by their co-workers for taking time out for family duties. But the young, free and flippant have some wily ways of avoiding work.

So much for staff solidarity - a new workplace survey has exposed how childless professionals resent the "perks" enjoyed by colleagues who are parents.

The study, involving 2,000 managers, found the introduction of flexible policies allowing workers more time with their children was causing tension in the workplace.

Anna Kornikova
Some days you just don't feel like going to work
Workers with no children felt they missed out on extra leave and other family benefits, and resented having to make up for the absences of colleagues.

But hard-pressed parents probably think this is all a bit unfair?

Working mums and dads may have to skip an afternoon to see a school play, or stay at home with a sick child, but the young, free and flippant professional also has an armoury of excuses for skipping work.

And the beauty of not being a parent is that even if skiving involves a little white lie, there are no children to set a good example for.

The big match

We might not be much good at it, but the British would rather watch one of their national teams go down 5-0 in a football match than face the pressures of work.

English football fans
"...and it's back to work tomorrow."
In 1998, an estimated one in five workers stayed at home to catch England's initial World Cup match, against Tunisia. Fifteen million people watched the game on television. Scotland's first round games also caused disruption by falling on weekdays.

Another common "rest day" in the sports fan's diary is the first day of a cricket test match, which always falls on a Thursday. Conveniently, this lays the foundations for a long weekend.

The hangover

Where can you be found at 11pm on a weekday evening? While a dutiful parent will winding down at home, having put the their brood to bed, the pubs are full of young drinkers supping their nth pint before closing time.

Kenneth Clarke enjoys a pint
Hangovers cost the economy millions of pounds
But this sort of hard living takes its toll the following day. According to a 1998 survey, a fifth of respondents named a hangover as the main reason they sometimes found it difficult to get up.

On a more serious note, it takes one hour to break down each unit of alcohol drunk. Alcohol Concern says 3-5% of all work absences are down to binge drinking (1998 figures). Hangovers cost 14 million working days a year and 358m to industry.

Mental health day

The effects of alcohol aside, there are some mornings you just don't feel like getting up. Parents though, rarely have the luxury of a lie-in.

A handful of enlightened employers have recognised this fact, and introduced "mental health days" or "duvet days". Companies such as Cabal Communications, in London, factor in four such days a year for each employee.

The procedure is simple - if you wake up and can't face the thought of going to work, take an impromptu day off. Less progressive managers are more likely to be hit with the age-old "food poisoning" excuse from a shirking staff member.

Cultural pursuits

Some things just cannot be missed: weddings, funerals ... the opening day of the new Star Wars movie.

Fans queue for premiere of Star Wars, Phantom Menace
"Shhh, don't tell Darth."
That was the sentiment in the United States last year, on the opening day of The Phantom Menace. Some 2.2 million people were estimated to have taken the day off work to see the film, accounting for $293m in lost wages.

Again, there are some employers who actually appreciate this sort of single-mindedness. Gary Copeland, the president of a small California software company gave his 19 employees the day off to see film, and bought them tickets.

The weather

Just think of it as a short summer holiday
Californian Mr Copeland might be less sympathetic to this one, but it only takes the hint of a perfect summer day to prompt staff into calling in sick.

A poll by Virgin Radio showed a quarter of the population admit to missing work, and 34% of those say they would do so in the summer, compared to 21% in the winter.

So there is the proof - those who are young and cavalier enjoy a range of informal liberties that suit their lifestyle.

But in case anyone begins to feel guilty, it's worth remembering that even with all the extra sickies clocked up by the British, our average days off work is no more than in southern Europe, where public holidays far outstrip ours.

Maybe we should follow the lead set by Portugal, where all blood donors get a half-day off work. In the run up to an afternoon match, the football-mad Portuguese can be seen queuing outside hospitals to make their donations.

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15 Oct 99 | e-cyclopedia
Serial skiving: What's your excuse?
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