A few employee absences each year (especially during cold and flu season) are understandable, but a few people always seem to push the envelope. In a survey this year by CareerBuilder, 38 percent of respondents admitted to calling in sick when not, up from 28 percent in 2014. Some bizarre excuses? “I broke my arm reaching to grab a falling sandwich,” and “I poked myself in the eye while combing my hair.”

Those call-ins were likely not amusing to the employers. Employee absences generate heavier workloads for those present and on average cost businesses 35 percent of annual payroll, says Mercer LLC research.

Is this a major hassle in your workplace? Here are ways to stop the madness.

  • Even if problematic employees are legitimately sick, protect your interests with frank discussions, advises Alison Green on www.askamanager.org. Her wording: “Going forward, we need you to be here reliably, every day, except in the most extreme of circumstances. If you’re not able to do that, I understand, but the job does require it.”
  • Combine sick, vacation and personal days for employees into one “Paid Time Off” or PTO category. “Sick-day abusers may think twice before calling in because the absences cut into what could be their vacation,” explains Nate Hindman on the Hartford Financial Services Group website.
  • Disallowing voice mail messages might dissuade those not wanting to fake sickness with their supervisor. But sick workers just trying to sleep off their ailments might resent that, warns Green.
  • Workers may be less likely to abuse sick day policies when working on their own schedules. That correlated with worker satisfaction in a 2008 study in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
  • Organizations that let employees work from home saw a 63 percent reduction in unscheduled absences in American Management Association research. Teleworkers can often work at home while sick, and return to work more quickly following surgery or medical issues.
  • Be aware of the law, Hindman advised.  The worker might need a schedule accommodation based on the Americans with Disabilities Act or Family and Medical Leave Act.