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I Think I Caught a Bug, I Can't Make It In Today
December 17, 2009 5:47 AM   Subscribe

Sick leave. In some countries it's taken for granted. In the USA it's controversial. A bill before congress would mandate 5 days of paid sick leave a year for businesses with over 15 employees. Some without sick leave are going to work sick. I'm sure you have never done this.
posted by Xurando (160 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Making sick people stay at work as the key to productivity. Ah US, never change. And by "never" I mean "immediately".
posted by DU at 5:59 AM on December 17, 2009 [18 favorites]


Here in Norway sick leave is easy to get, and we still have to remind people to stay at home when sick, not to go to work and infect everyone.
posted by Harald74 at 6:01 AM on December 17, 2009


Is it just me or do we Americans have some pathological fear that someone, somewhere, is cheating the system? I mean, yeah, if you mandate sick days some people will abuse them, but overall you're probably making life a little easier on the majority of people, who are good employees and act in good faith.

In my (admittedly limited) experience the people who will cheat on sick days are pretty likely to screw up otherwise and get fired.
posted by ghharr at 6:03 AM on December 17, 2009 [50 favorites]


There have been times when I've basically barricaded myself in my office here because of all the sickies lurking about. I understand the Midwestern Lutheran work ethic and think it's great but if your work ethic manifests itself as half my fellow engineers running to the bathroom because of the scoots you might want to rethink it a little bit.
posted by substrate at 6:04 AM on December 17, 2009


Theory X (a term which I learned here on MeFi, by the way) is still the norm in the US, despite wikipedia's assertion that it has been "proven counter-effective".
posted by TedW at 6:05 AM on December 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


What's with America's ability to stupid-up most everything? (I've also never had a post sick-day QA. WTF? Though, maybe i'm not taking enough sick days.)
posted by chunking express at 6:06 AM on December 17, 2009


UK info:

16 Sept 2009: Social workers take more sick leave than any other public service professional, averaging nearly 12 days a year, a survey disclosed today.

One in ten social workers in England took more than 20 days off in the last year, according to research by the Liberal Democrats. The highest sickness rate in the survey - based on responses from more than two thirds of councils in England - was recorded in Hounslow in west London, where social workers took an average of 28.3 days off.

20 July 2009: The [CIPD] found a sharp fall in private sector absence, from 7.2 days per employee last year to 6.4 days this year. Yet in the public sector it remained at 9.7 days, compared with 9.8 days the year before, widening the gap between the sectors on sick leave.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:07 AM on December 17, 2009


if you mandate sick days some people will abuse them, but overall you're probably making life a little easier on the majority of people, who are good employees and act in good faith.

Not to mention the fact that if you take a "strict constructionist" approach to the rules, your employees will do the same and try to game the system and find loopholes they wouldn't otherwise. You are, at best, coming out even with the added problem of having a terrible relationship, with all the problems that implies (high turnover, difficulty attracting new people, etc).
posted by DU at 6:09 AM on December 17, 2009 [9 favorites]


That NY Times editorial is a good example of a slippery slope argument. If we give employees 5 paid sick days a year they might take 10, 20, who knows how many. Is it unreasonable to expect employees to show up some minimal number of days a year?
I used to work at a corporate office and one day I chatted with one of the cleaning crew. She had worked there for a subcontractor for 5-10 years and had never had a vacation day or paid sick day. She hoped to get a few days off that year and take her kids to the beach. For people at the bottom of economic system life really sucks. The Times editorial makes a distinction between hourly and salaried employees. Almost all salaried people have sick leave and hourly people who hope to get some overtime pay are still going to be less likely to want to take it.
posted by Tashtego at 6:09 AM on December 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


Maybe if we emphasized that this is a HYGIENE issue? Let people know that coming to work sick is worse than failing to wash your hands after using the toilet, because it is even more likely to get people sick.
posted by idiopath at 6:10 AM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Given how little paid vacation people in the US get on average compared to Europe, I wouldn't be at all surprised if people did cheat a little. But then again, if someone hasn't had a break for six months and needs some time off for the sake of their sanity, maybe it's not really cheating.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:11 AM on December 17, 2009 [16 favorites]


This topic was discussed on Diane Rehm Monday as well (guest on the show, Jody Heymann, also has a new book out about working conditions around the world.)
posted by jbiz at 6:11 AM on December 17, 2009


In the USA it's controversial.

Isn't anything that helps workers "controversial" in this country? I swear some groups won't be happy until we're the wealthiest nation in the world with a 3rd-world labor force.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:13 AM on December 17, 2009 [39 favorites]


My American family and friends have often asked me how sick leave isn't abused in France (where I've lived for ten years now, I'm American). I anticipate others will wonder how it can work too, so here's an explanation, organized by "step":
1. Get sick. Fever, can't move, accidentally step on cat's tail while creaking your aching bones out of bed, bonk your head on something while apologizing to cat, realize there's no point in going to work if you can't even manage something as simple as waking up.
2. Call your general practitioner. In France, I've always — always — been able to get an appointment the same day. Sometimes within a half an hour of calling.
3. Cough, say "aah", choke on phlegm while breathing deeply so the doctor can check your lungs, whimper silently at your aching arm while she takes your blood pressure, get a diagnosis.
4. Tell doctor "I didn'd go do work doday *sniff* could you pwease wride me an arrêt maladie?" (permission for work absence due to illness)
5. Doctor evaluates how much time you'll need to recover properly. 2-3 days for a cold, sometimes 5 days for a bad flu. You are paid your salary during the time authorized. (OK, it's a bit more complicated than that: your employer is reimbursed by national health care for your salary, but you're paid your salary normally by your employer.)

If you don't actually have a fever or any other symptoms, chances are good you will not be given an arrêt maladie. Furthermore, even when you have an authorization, national health care has the right to check that you are in fact in your home at all times except between 10am-12pm and between 2pm-4pm. Those two-hour blocks are generally authorized as times you can go out, presumably to buy your prescription medication and/or groceries, for instance. In any case, you can not leave your département (somewhat equivalent to a US "county"). There are indeed people who have been fined for flouting these rules. I don't know anyone personally who's ever faked an illness; doctors don't stand for it. And as Harald74 says, people still go to work when ill rather than go to the "trouble" of seeing a doctor to get an authorized, paid sick leave!
posted by fraula at 6:16 AM on December 17, 2009 [34 favorites]


I swear some groups won't be happy until we're the wealthiest nation in the world with a 3rd-world labor force.

You say that like it's sarcasm.
posted by DU at 6:16 AM on December 17, 2009 [29 favorites]




Is it just me or do we Americans have some pathological fear that someone, somewhere, is cheating the system? I mean, yeah, if you mandate sick days some people will abuse them, but overall you're probably making life a little easier on the majority of people, who are good employees and act in good faith.


Well, you could take the classic Metafilterian argument (which I cannot find) that the reason so many prominent anti-gay figures end up involved in some crazy kinky gay-sex scandal is because their own desire for hot hot gay sex is so strong that they feel everyone must feel this way, so they must suppress it in order to continue the human race. Therefore, people who oppose basic productivity and quality of life improvements like Sick Days and the like is because they want to cheat the system. They want to cheat it SO BAD. They wanna act in SUCH BAD FAITH that they assume everyone is as squicky and small as them, so you can't allow anyone any leeway or they'll take it and run.
posted by The Whelk at 6:17 AM on December 17, 2009 [24 favorites]


Do germs ever call in sick?
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:17 AM on December 17, 2009


I just lost three days of pay because I had what was either a bad cold or a mild flu. I could've gone to work, been totally miserable and been almost completely ineffectual, and probably gotten others sick, but I chose to call off instead.

Mind you, I almost certainly got sick because [i]somebody else[/i] under the same circumstances decided to go to work because they couldn't afford to take a loss on their paycheck.

For that matter, when my gall bladder went bad earlier this year, I waited until my vacation time accrued so I could use it to recover from the surgery. I only get five days of vacation pay, so for all intents and purposes I didn't really have a vacation this year.

Having five sick days a year would be a godsend.
posted by Target Practice at 6:17 AM on December 17, 2009


They wanna act in SUCH BAD FAITH that they assume everyone is as squicky and small as them, so you can't allow anyone any leeway or they'll take it and run.

I have absolutely worked for some small business owners who act this way exactly.
posted by josher71 at 6:18 AM on December 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


A historical irony is that paid sick leave was first introduced in several Western European countries, when the Nazi's occupied them. No country abolished it though, after they were liberated.
posted by ijsbrand at 6:19 AM on December 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I get paid sick time but it comes out of the same pool of days as my vacation time so if I get sick for a week, I lose a weeks vacation. Thus, I have (and everyone else has) motivation to drag my butt into work even if I infect the rest of the company.
posted by octothorpe at 6:23 AM on December 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


In my limited experience, there is a direct relationship between an organisation's culture and sick leave. Put simply, if sick days are seen as something that everyone takes when they want to, then the number of sick days will go up. If employees think there is no penalty in taking discretionary days as sick days, or that there is a penalty (namely having to pick up someone else's work) in not playing the system like your colleagues it embeds itself in the culture.

I have no problem with people taking time off to be sick, but when you see *averages* coming out at almost a day a month, it's an issue.

And I fail to buy the line about stress in "front line" public sector jobs. I would bet that absenteeism in the military is below that of the police. There are lots of examples of high stress corporate jobs where absenteeism is below that of front line council workers, for example.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:24 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I used to work in HR, and part of my job was to run reports on the sickness absence data. Every school would send a monthly return, detailing who had been off sick, for how long, and the cause. Usually we would only use it to check if anybody raised a concern, like a head teacher who didn't have good records at the school. However, one time my manager asked me to build a report which basically did a full sweep of all current employees, counting the length and recurrence of sickness. Given the way sickness policies work, it was pretty easy to see who was gaming it by pushing them to the limits. We also found a couple of dead people, who were most definitely pushing their luck, and one woman who had been in a standoff with her employer for 2.5 years, who said she was too sick to work and never coming back, but refused to quit or agree to terminate her employment (we fired her!).
posted by Sova at 6:25 AM on December 17, 2009


How is that ironic?
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:26 AM on December 17, 2009


How is that ironic?

You see, the Nazis are pure evil, and came to power in Germany by way of being in league with Satan themselves. It's pure blasphemy to ever imply that they were even marginally incompetent, much less that they were well-organized and did a lot of good for Germany, even if they did hold some absolutely abhorrent ideologies and actually take them to their conclusion.

No, no, the world is, in fact, black and white, and shades of grey are to be abolished.
posted by explosion at 6:31 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Given the way sickness policies work, it was pretty easy to see who was gaming it by pushing them to the limits.

How did your statistics show that these people were "gaming" as opposed to having a compromised immune system or chronic disease?
posted by leftcoastbob at 6:31 AM on December 17, 2009 [10 favorites]


Yeah I detested that "pool the sick days with vacation time" approach when I was stuck with it octothorpe, it's almost worse than having no sick days at all.
posted by jamesonandwater at 6:32 AM on December 17, 2009


There have been times when I've basically barricaded myself in my office here because of all the sickies lurking about.

I think your office has been invaded by zombies. "Sickies" might cough, complain and shuffle about their work, but they do not "lurk." That is the realm of zombies. Assuming your work has no proper zombie defense system set up (fewer hidey-spots, mirrors installed to prevent getting attacked around, a shotgun or at least a baseball bat in every cubicle), barricading yourself in your office is generally not a good idea. Given the slightest whiff of blood (or spicy, spicy brains), your door will be overwhelmed, and your death (or undeath) imminent.

The best thing to do is head make a dash for an open area, then work on your Plan B (rely on no one, arm yourself, and drink plenty of fluids - dehydration is the 2nd most fatal thing when it comes to zombie infestations). Good luck!
posted by filthy light thief at 6:33 AM on December 17, 2009 [10 favorites]


I imagine that the amount people might feel like "gaming" the system is probably tied heavily to job satisfaction and independence. If people feel a sense of "ownership" over their duties, then they're unlikely to take sick days unless actually sick. On the other hand, if they're treated as interchangeable cogs, and rarely allowed to take pride in their work, they have less incentive to come in every day.

Every time someone complains about how employees might abuse any privilege potentially offered to employees, I wonder just how much they're abusing their employees such that they have no faith in said employees' devotion to the company or their work.
posted by explosion at 6:35 AM on December 17, 2009 [19 favorites]


Paid sick days brought to you by the people who also came up with Arbeit macht frei could be considered ironic, I think.
posted by cardboard at 6:37 AM on December 17, 2009


Given the way sickness policies work, it was pretty easy to see who was gaming it by pushing them to the limits.

How did your statistics show that these people were "gaming" as opposed to having a compromised immune system or chronic disease?


Um, because of the way the sickness policies work?

If you want to know, our policy allowed employees to take up to 3 days sickness without having to submit a doctor's note. A big part of identifying these people was checking how many 3 day absences they had taken, especially in proportion to 3+ day absences. When they're racking up 3 day absences month after month for several years, it's a pretty clear sign as to what they're doing.
posted by Sova at 6:38 AM on December 17, 2009


I have paid sick leave available, lots of it and I don't use it unless I'm falling-over sick.

Why? Because if I don't go to work my work won't get done, and I will be further behind than I already am.

Hell, I feel bad taking vacation, because there is work to be done, and I know when I get back from my time off it will have accumulated, waiting for me. That being said, management here is good and they don't hassle you over taking your legally available holidays and sick time (unlike my last place of employment, where I was chewed out for having bronchitis and taking time off to recover, even though I had a doctor's note). Its more my own brain insisting that I'm a BAD PERSON if I'm sick, that by staying home I'm failing in doing my job.

That being said, sick days are great. Its nice to be able to stay home if you have to, and not worry about losing pay. What I would like is the ability to work from home if sick, so I can get my work done and feel productive, while not in danger of infecting my co-workers. Not happening yet.
posted by sandraregina at 6:39 AM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is it just me or do we Americans have some pathological fear that someone, somewhere, is cheating the system?

Speaking as an outside observer, fear and mistrust seem to be endemic to a lot of aspects of US society. Not sure why that is.
posted by Zinger at 6:40 AM on December 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


fraulia, what if you don't have something for which you need to see a doctor? Like a migraine or bad menstrual cramps?
posted by amro at 6:40 AM on December 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


It seems to me (based personal experience only) that the productivity gained by not having your whole floor get the same flu from each other more the offsets productivity lost by people taking 'sickies' to head to the beach. But this must be a hard issue to study due to the lack of apples to apples comparisons. The gain is probably pretty constant since it's based on actual illnesses, but the loss to cheating would seem to depend on many different variables. For a team I worked with a few years ago abseneetism went up dramatically when overtime payments were summarily abolished.
posted by adamt at 6:40 AM on December 17, 2009


we have to stop portraying employees as victims and businesses as the bad guys. It’s not as simple as, say, staying home when you are sick.

Jay Goltz owns five small businesses in Chicago.


Yawn. What a fucking surprise. Wealthy business owner arguing that his employees shouldn't get sick days, they should just take their vacation leave for them (thus actually negating the purpose of vacation leave).

I get the feeling that when this guy's sick, taking a day off is no big deal. His employees? Uh, fuck them, there's always more where they came from, right?
posted by splice at 6:41 AM on December 17, 2009 [18 favorites]


Is it just me or do we Americans have some pathological fear that someone, somewhere, is cheating the system?

No. Americans have a pathological fear of what they perceive as someone having it off better than you. This is why we hate unions, health care, and illegal immigrants, and blindly support regressive taxes because we dream of ourselves magically becoming multi-millionaires someday. The entire history of opposition to progressive change in America is based on thinking that someone who isn't you is having their life improved, and that is infuriating for some reason.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:41 AM on December 17, 2009 [100 favorites]


I was once reprimanded for excusing myself from a meeting and leaving. A co-worker at the conference table was sneezing and coughing in the enclosed room, and I just didn't want to catch anything. It was probably too late at that point...

I don't think she got a talking to, but I sure did.
posted by paddbear at 6:47 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Of course, paddbear. She stayed and did the work expected, you did not. You put your health & well being above the company. She put the company ahead of everyone's health and well being. She wins.
posted by sandraregina at 6:49 AM on December 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


Wow. I really have taken my job for granted. I get something like a week or two of sick leave per year, and they build up if you don't use them. Just call in and tell someone you're not feeling well, and you're off for the day (or two). We start off with two weeks of vacation a year, accrued incrementally, so you don't have a whole year to use another vacation day once you use it up. I think two weeks of vacation is a pittance, and I've always seen the fact that I'm getting less than average for even the US was bad. But 5 days of vacation per year? No sick leave? Fuck man, I've got nothing to gripe about, except the fucked up state of the nation.

Really, making someone lose pay because they stay home and get better and don't infect someone else? Get better more quickly so you can come back and be productive, instead of staying sicker longer at work? Sure, some people may want to use their days off (I personally like systems where sick leave and vacation come from the same pool of time, so those who don't get sick much can still use their time off).

As for the Social workers who take more sick leave than any other public service professional, I don't fault them. Some jobs are grind on you, and I imagine social works are one of them. I was talking with a fellow who is a social worker in town, and he was telling me about the scammers from one side, and the cutbacks from the other, high turn-over in co-workers, and he still wants to help those who really need help. He's been working there for 20 years, which I can't imagine. Taking "mental health" days seems like a good idea to me.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:51 AM on December 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


How is that ironic?

You see, the Nazis are pure evil, and came to power in Germany by way of being in league with Satan themselves. It's pure blasphemy to ever imply that they were even marginally incompetent, much less that they were well-organized and did a lot of good for Germany, even if they did hold some absolutely abhorrent ideologies and actually take them to their conclusion.


Oh, I thought it was because Nazis never got sick. Of course I've never heard this before, but I've also never heard about a Nazi with a cold before, so on balance, it must be true.
posted by ob at 6:55 AM on December 17, 2009


Where I work, we are given roughly 40% of one day's pay for every sick day we do not use when we leave. The theory is that you won't game the system because that would be money you lose, but not an entire day's pay. Nobody I know uses all sick days offered in a year. And, they often talk of that $4-5k check they get when they retire or leave. The bosses appreciate it too because it costs more for one of us to use all sick time given in a year than pay the 40% down the road.
posted by Captain Sunshine at 6:56 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


(OK, it's a bit more complicated than that: your employer is reimbursed by national health care for your salary, but you're paid your salary normally by your employer.)

That is frankly awesome... er, I mean unAmerican and communist and liberal and French! Obviously France must be falling apart, and... what's that? The US poverty rate is 50% worse than France's?
posted by Foosnark at 6:58 AM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


In the first phase of Nazi Germany's "final solution", abusers of sick time were the first to be rounded up. Most were sent to the Faken-Coughin concentration camp.
posted by dr_dank at 6:59 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I'm on vacation and I get sick I can call in to the office and they'll change my vacation day to a sick day.
posted by ODiV at 7:01 AM on December 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


ODiV you should have heard the uproar in management when someone tried that at my work.
posted by ghharr at 7:06 AM on December 17, 2009


I've got a hidden disability and - though my manager knows and is sympathetic - sometimes I'd rather take holiday than sick time. And if you have a mental health condition, you end up coming to work 'sick' rather a lot.
posted by mippy at 7:08 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm always amazed at the "note from your doctor" thing. First, it usually takes two or three days to get a doctor's appointment; second, usually you're wasting the doctor's time going with a cold or flu when they'll just tell you to drink fluids and get rest; third, if I'm too sick to get to work, I'm probably too sick to drive to the doctor's office and too infectious to take the bus.
posted by octothorpe at 7:11 AM on December 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


I once had to defend an employee of mine from a HR Drone who was going after him for the fact that "40% of his sick days are on Mondays and Fridays!"
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:12 AM on December 17, 2009 [37 favorites]


My fiance (a junior-high school teacher) gets 20 days sick-leave per year plus personal days.

And she feels horrible if she takes even 1.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:26 AM on December 17, 2009


I try to stay home if I have something that might be communicable. I now get 5 sick days a year. Others I work with apparently feel they are too important to take time off when they are sick. Maybe they are. At any rate, here they are coughing and sneezing all day.

What worries me more is eating in restaurants. Essentially none of the workers in restaurant I eat at gets any sick time, and they don't get paid enough that they can afford to miss a day. So if they can physically get to work and not collapse before the end of their shift, they are going to be there, handling my food, no matter how sick they are. I try not to eat out during flu season.

I can cook at home, so not eating out is not a hardship. If I could work at home, staying out sick wouldn't be, either.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:27 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


The whole workplace obsession with schedules and attendance, except in workplace situations where adherence to strict schedule is part of the job responsibility itself, has always seemed childish and bizarre to me. It's kind of the adult-world counterpart to the humiliation of having to ask permission to use the bathroom back in grade school.

If you're able to get your work done in a way that doesn't prevent others from getting their work done, who cares if it takes you two hours instead of the eight hours it might take another schmo to finish the same work? As long as the quality of work doesn't suffer, why should you be penalized by having to sit around pretending to work or by having to take on additional responsibilities just to keep you working?

If I'm ever in the privileged position of being an employer, I'm going to have a simple policy regarding attendance, work schedules, etc.: I'll pay you a professional salary, and whatever tasks or responsibilities you're committed to fulfilling in your position, meet them in a way that satisfies or exceeds expectations and we're good.

I don't care if you come in every morning at 6:00 AM and stay until midnight, or if you come in only one day a week late in the afternoon. An individual employee's actual, measurable productivity should be all that counts, and individual workers should be treated like adults, like responsible members of society capable of budgeting their time and managing their own responsibilities, not like flighty teenagers just itching to sneak some booze from their daddy's liquor cabinet.

If a worker can't satisfy his responsibilities, then there's a problem. If on the other hand, a worker is so productive he or she gets his work done weeks ahead of time, great! The other lazy bums in the office could learn a thing or two from Mr. Slacker's fine example!

Most of the time, we don't work just to work, we work to accomplish specific goals. Workers should be rewarded with the natural slack they've earned through their labors, not forced to take on additional responsibilities as make-work when they excel. Shifting workload from less productive employees to more productive ones only discourages individual productivity and saps natural motivation. And rigid work schedules in general do nothing but reinforce existing social norms that divide Americans into a de facto class system of Employers/Landlords on the one side and Employees/Consumers on the other.

But it's about damn time for mandatory sick leave. So this is at least a tiny step in the right direction.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:27 AM on December 17, 2009 [18 favorites]


Octothorpe

Not to mention the co-pay; assuming you even have medical insurance.
posted by Target Practice at 7:28 AM on December 17, 2009


That is frankly awesome... er, I mean unAmerican and communist and liberal and French!

It's also very much how sickness is treated in the US Army. Except that the Army doctors are probably much less sympathetic than the French ones, which is why, MuffinMan, absenteeism in the military is less than in the police.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:34 AM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Considering that lots of desk jobs could be done in 20 hours a week--or at home, at least part of the time--I think the whole approach of grudgingly doling out "days", is bass-ackward. If Employee X comes to necessary meetings and meets their deadlines, should it matter if their butts are in a cubicle x number of hours a week? No.

If your job involves meeting clients and the public, or working an assembly line, it's more complicated, and you have to count hours to be fair, but I think a lot of companies could abolish the hourly approach altogether and let their employees structure their own time, if they weren't so afraid that:

..someone, somewhere, is cheating the system.

Employee X doesn't meet project goals/deadlines, fire them. Not because of hours but because of performance.

I don't care if someone is not actually "sick" on a sick day, if their work gets done. I don't care if they go to Disneyland, or work from home in the buff. Why should anyone?

And yeah, social workers are a) massively underpaid and b) massively overworked, here in the US; they tend to burn out within a few years of fighting hopelessness. They deserve every single sick day they take, and more.
posted by emjaybee at 7:37 AM on December 17, 2009 [14 favorites]


I once had to defend an employee of mine from a HR Drone who was going after him for the fact that "40% of his sick days are on Mondays and Fridays!"

Well of course they are. On Mondays he's still hungover from Saturday night, and on Fridays he's worn down by having to do bullshit like work for the whole week, or most of it anyway. When else would you take them?
posted by adamdschneider at 7:39 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am at work, sick, right now. I hate it when people do this, but I really have no choice today. I get three sick days a year, and I actually used all of mine when I displaced my kneecap at the end of 2008, so I went into 2009 with no sick days. I've got no vaca time left either, and I can't afford to take an unpaid day off right now.

The thing is, my employer is pretty cool about most things. I think that there's a startup mentality here, that back when there were 5 or 10 people losing any of them for any length of time would've been catastrophic. I don't know why they continue it though...
posted by rollbiz at 7:39 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


In America, you only serve to work for wages. Any point in which you are not working needs to be explained.
posted by Legomancer at 7:40 AM on December 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


Oh, and everyone in this thread needs to go read The Seven-Day Weekend right now. Probably wouldn't be a bad idea to follow it up with One From Many, either.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:40 AM on December 17, 2009


You see, the Nazis are pure evil, and came to power in Germany by way of being in league with Satan themselves.

There is a great history of the Nazi's called Hellboy that really explains this stuff well.
posted by chunking express at 7:42 AM on December 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


If you're able to get your work done in a way that doesn't prevent others from getting their work done, who cares if it takes you two hours instead of the eight hours it might take another schmo to finish the same work? As long as the quality of work doesn't suffer, why should you be penalized by having to sit around pretending to work or by having to take on additional responsibilities just to keep you working?

I think this drives at the heart of the matter, that most jobs are time-based and not goal-based.

When I worked at Boeing we called this "meat in the seat". Management doesn't care how much you're doing as long as they see bodies occupying chairs.
posted by Fleebnork at 7:42 AM on December 17, 2009


Data point: salaried workers in Quebec get no paid sick days per year (see bottom of page). Companies might offer paid sick days on an individual basis but the government doesn't enforce any paid sick days at all.
posted by Shepherd at 7:45 AM on December 17, 2009


saulgoodman, emjaybee - Best Buy does (did?) that.
posted by djb at 7:45 AM on December 17, 2009


Kirth Gerson: "It's also very much how sickness is treated in the US Army"

I was largely referring to the British Army, where US tropes about commie Europeans have no currency. The point, at least over here, is that if you go sick in the Army your mates pick up your workload. If you go sick in the police, if your colleagues have to pick up the work overtime is paid.

Culturally, the two organisations are miles apart.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:46 AM on December 17, 2009


As with ODiV, sick on annual leave gets my leave time restored.

I can also be off for 7 days before a sick note from the Doc is necessary. If it's a long term absence I'd get full pay for 6 months, it would then drop to half-pay for 6 months.

I don't know where I'm going with this...

Guess I got a pretty good deal going on.
posted by She Kisses Wyverns at 7:46 AM on December 17, 2009


Maybe if we emphasized that this is a HYGIENE issue? Let people know that coming to work sick is worse than failing to wash your hands after using the toilet, because it is even more likely to get people sick.

This presumes that all people are of the mind that not washing up after going to the terlet is poor hygiene. And for many folks that I have worked with, this is simply not the case.

I also think many people get some kind of... uh, sick sense of pride in toughing it out and going in to work. Like: "I got this viral thing ravaging my body and I'm losing my voice and I can't actually keep my balance very well at this point and did you just see that lung tissue come out of me? Yeah, it's pretty bad and if I weren't such a strong person with too much integrity to miss coming into work at my extremely important job where I'm practically indispensable, I'd probably be staying home. But I wouldn't blame you if later this week you happened to get sick somehow and decided stay home, because not everyone has as much inner strength as me."

I have known this person. They think it is a positive character trait to be a vector. And had I thought I could get enough people to agree to not tell the boss if I knocked them out and threw them in the supply closet for the day to isolate them, I would have done so.
posted by hegemone at 7:53 AM on December 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Part of the problem for a lot of office work is that contracts are doled out in terms of staff-hours or staff-years. Especially when you're working for a government agency (like my company does) - the contracts don't say "you will complete X for $Y", they say "you will supply us with X staff-years per calendar year for $Y". For that reason, I need to record forty hours per week. The company (and by extension, I) get paid by the hour.

We also have the vacation time comingled with sick time, but there are some restrictions. 3 days off at a stretch; after that you need a doctor's note and you can start using time from the "extended sick leave" bank. I'm not entirely sure how it works as I've not had to use it yet, but you stop spending vacation at that point and you still receive a fraction of your salary.

There's also an excellent telecommuting environment here - everyone gets laptops instead of desktops, and the remote work infrastructure is very good. It's very easy to work from home if you want to stay home and not infect other people.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:00 AM on December 17, 2009


I am currently at work, sick, because I don't have any leave left this year (I took my last four hours of sick leave on Monday, swapped my Christmas Eve day off for Tuesday, and came in sick yesterday too). If I take off any more time this year it will be without pay, which isn't really an option. So I am huddled in my office with the door closed, and have let everyone know they should only come in if they're prepared to be infected.

It's a great system.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 8:00 AM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Considering that lots of desk jobs could be done in 20 hours a week--or at home, at least part of the time--I think the whole approach of grudgingly doling out "days", is bass-ackward. If Employee X comes to necessary meetings and meets their deadlines, should it matter if their butts are in a cubicle x number of hours a week? No.

And of course, because many cubicle jobs consist of work that could be done in 20 hours a week, and because at many of these jobs you're still required to be there "full time" and look busy, it actually makes sense to take more time to complete the work than is really necessary. The current model pretty easily can cause workers to be less efficient than they would otherwise. I mean, what else are they going to do all day? Particularly in places where the fast workers are then rewarded with "busy work"?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:02 AM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I find there is a double standard: on one hand, officially: yes, you're sick, absolutely "do the right thing and stay home". On the other, unofficially: OMG, self-medicate, shut up and get your ass in here, because there's no mechanism for covering your workload and the clients matter more than you do (even if you make them sick, so shut up).

This is the protestant work ethic dark side of a fantastic sick leave policy.
posted by kch at 8:06 AM on December 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I kant genocide today, I haff ze schnifflez.

"if I knocked them out and threw them in the supply closet for the day to isolate them"

Oh please tell me you would have quoted Dustin Hoffman in Outbreak where he goes "Isolate him! Isolate him!" about Cuba Gooding Jr.
posted by Eideteker at 8:11 AM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Am I the only one who loves that line?
posted by Eideteker at 8:13 AM on December 17, 2009


I think a lot of white-collar types in the US truly don't realize/remember how bad it is on the front lines of the service and blue-collar industries. As a white-collar professional I can take days off pretty much willy-nilly, and sometimes my boss doesn't bother to note it, so I end up with extra days off, too. Yet I still remember working the kind of job where coming in two minutes late meant getting fired, where a person could get written up for tripping and falling (this happened to me personally), and where sick days were unpaid and fodder for firing.
posted by davejay at 8:13 AM on December 17, 2009 [7 favorites]


Back when I was working at Comcast, I started having really severe stomach pains. The kind where all you can do is curl up in a ball and cry. Just... agony. I went to my doctor, and due to the severity, he sent me to a specialist. Thus began a few months' long endeavor of every kind of test imaginable to try to figure out what was wrong with me.

I had already used up my vacation time for an actual vacation, because... well, I'm not psychic. I had no idea I'd get sick. And it's rather sad to have to hold on to vacation days just in case. That's not vacation days, at that point it's "get out of hr trouble free" cards.

I faithfully brought in excuses for every single day I missed. My specialist even wrote a letter to Comcast's HR saying that she knew I was missing a higher than average amount of days, but that she could verify that every day of work I missed, I was in her office, either for testing or medication adjustment, or some other health reason. I think she may have asked that they give me a little bit of leeway since a) she could verify everything, and b) the stress of worrying about whether or not I'd lose my job before we got a diagnosis was NOT helping my stomach problems at all.

HR crumpled up the letter, threw it away, and told me that this wasn't high school, and nothing the doctor could do or say would make them count my missed days as excused. I was fired shortly after that.

Even now, at other jobs, I don't take time off to go to the doctor when I'm sick, because really, what good would it do me? And I'd be losing pay on top of that. Just not worth it.
posted by Zarya at 8:15 AM on December 17, 2009 [12 favorites]


I don't come in when I'm sick because I feel 'indispensible' or 'better than' other employees who do take their sick days. I come in because I know I'm expendable, and there is this pervasive fear that if I don't come in and do my work, not only does it not get done, management will then replace me with someone who can and will get it done.
This is a fear which doesn't seem to be supported by my current job's managers, but this attitude was definately fostered in my last job. Oh sure, we have sick days for you to take, but don't you dare take them, or we will mark you as unproductive and anti-team spirit and bad on absenteeism, and get you replaced. You get used to sucking it up if you want to keep your job. You're a cog, and cogs don't matter.

I don't begrudge anyone a sick day, even if its 'mental health' from stress. You won't be productive at work, you're sick, you need the time off, take it. I wish I could give myself the same permission to be 'off sick', especially when I need it, but I really am frightened of losing my job for being a slacker if I do.
posted by sandraregina at 8:16 AM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


And we haven't even touched on taking a sick day to actually care for a sick child. Most places I've worked require you to burn a vacation day to care for your kid.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:20 AM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


What I would like is the ability to work from home if sick, so I can get my work done and feel productive, while not in danger of infecting my co-workers. Not happening yet.

"Someone cheating the system" is also the concern behind the resistance to implementing work-at-home policies for many, many employers. It's why it may never be implemented seriously by my employer in my lifetime.

However, I never realized so many people in supposedly advanced countries had little/nonexistent sick leave. WTF?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:26 AM on December 17, 2009


When I was 16, I worked at a Starbucks. The manager had a horrible sick policy: If you were calling in sick, you had to find a replacement worker for your shift. Each of us had a list of the other employees and their phone numbers. If you couldn't find a replacement, you had to come in. (well, they couldn't force you, but they'd put a lot of guilt & pressure on you and at 16 I was still in that "listen to the adults" mindset).

Playing phone tag with a fever of 102 was torture, and it never worked. Everyone screened their calls from the other employees and just wouldn't answer, or they were already busy. I had the flu (fever, puking, the whole deal), couldn't track down a replacement, and the assistant manager told me I needed to "power through it, take a Dayquil, and come in." My mom took the phone from me and basically told her to go to hell, and that I would not be coming in to work today.

This same assistant manager once came into work with that extremely contagious Norwalk cruise ship virus that causes puking and the runs. She had been hooked up to an IV at the ER the night before. "But it's OK, I'll just do paperwork in the back room, I won't serve coffee." Great.

After I quit, both managers were put under investigation by Starbucks HQ. Just to be clear, that sick policy was their own invention, not the company's.

Now I work at a nice office. I was thrilled to discover some places actually PAY you for a holiday. I get paid sick leave too. It's a shame this is a luxury.
posted by castlebravo at 8:28 AM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


However, also, this:

I find there is a double standard: on one hand, officially: yes, you're sick, absolutely "do the right thing and stay home". On the other, unofficially: OMG, self-medicate, shut up and get your ass in here, because there's no mechanism for covering your workload and the clients matter more than you do (even if you make them sick, so shut up).

This is the protestant work ethic dark side of a fantastic sick leave policy.

posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:28 AM on December 17, 2009


I once had to defend an employee of mine from a HR Drone who was going after him for the fact that "40% of his sick days are on Mondays and Fridays!"

Are you Dilbert?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:28 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I was 16, I worked at a Starbucks. The manager had a horrible sick policy: If you were calling in sick, you had to find a replacement worker for your shift. Each of us had a list of the other employees and their phone numbers.

This was the policy of every food service place and restaurant I ever worked in. In these situations, I almost never called out. But in light of that, I pretty much never covered anyone else's shift, either. Well, I did call out once. When I got food poisoning from the restaurant where I worked. I'd had to go to the emergency room and get a shot to keep me from vomiting. My boss was very, very upset with me that I couldn't find anyone to cover. Whatever.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:34 AM on December 17, 2009


I think a lot of white-collar types in the US truly don't realize/remember how bad it is on the front lines of the service and blue-collar industries.

I used to wait tables at an expensive restaurant in Harlem. Sick day? No way. So one evening I worked while I was sick because there was no getting out without quitting the job (which I eventually did).

I picked up a pricey entrée from the kitchen, dropped it off at a table, went to the bathroom and vomited my shift meal and all the water I had been drinking, washed my hands, took another tables order, talked to the chef, went to the bathroom, vomited bile and mucus because my stomach was already empty, then washed my hands. I was coughing too, but some of my coughs were dry heaves.

Mandatory sick leave for all workers!
posted by fuq at 8:43 AM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


One of the few benefits to working for nonprofits is that they're usually a little saner about sick time. I've never had a job where there was really a limit - if you're sick, you just don't come in to work. Of course, the culture of the nonprofit is such that nobody ever stays home and you feel hideously guilty if you do, because then the work doesn't get done. Still, I've found that people don't tend to abuse their benefits so much if they are treated like adults.

It's awful that there is no national standard for time off. My daughter gets 10 paid days off a year. That includes holidays, so if, for example, Christmas falls on a weekday and she doesn't work (never mind that the office is closed) then it's considered a day off. This is so evil it makes me crazy, particularly since she works one on one with kids with mental health issues in a therapeutic setting and it seems that if your workday regularly involves being spat on, bitten, kicked and tackled, then perhaps you might need a little more time off, not less.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:44 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Today, one of the most underpaid, overworked people at my job is at work, despite that he's painfully sick. He's been out all this week with what appear to be flu-like symptoms. He is a state temp employee, who has no benefits, and a paycheck below the poverty line --- and he is widely suspected to be the reason his section doesn't fall to pieces.

Yesterday, he received a phone call from his overlords, telling him to either come into work, or lose his job. Some variation of kch's Law applies here.
posted by Coatlicue at 8:49 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you were calling in sick, you had to find a replacement worker for your shift. Each of us had a list of the other employees and their phone numbers.

No Starbucks for me, but I remember this from shit work (no, not "shift") of my youth, calling around while hacking up a lung. We generally took pity on each other, but try finding someone for a Friday night shift. Not gonna happen.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:50 AM on December 17, 2009


Are you Dilbert?

That's the comic I used when meeting with the HR drone. I said something to the effect about how it would be a shame if word got around that HR was taking its cues from the Pointy Haired Boss.

Problem solved.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:51 AM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I once had to defend an employee of mine from a HR Drone who was going after him for the fact that "40% of his sick days are on Mondays and Fridays!"

It bugs me to read so many derisive comments about "gaming the system." Sick days are a benefit of employment (if you are lucky) - stated clearly in your employee documents along with your vacation time. Vacation time often rolls over (with a capped total), and it is mandated by law that any remaining vacation time due to you must be paid out when you leave your job. It makes zero sense to maintain your sick time and use your vacation time. Employment works both ways - I agree to show up at a specified time, to do specified work, for specified pay - in return, I receive certain benefits. It's no-one's business what days I take my sick time on, or why (if they care that much, let them demand a doctor's note - but let them demand a doctor's note for ALL sick time, not arbitrarily) - no more than it's any of their business where I go on vacation.

All of this talk about "cheating" is just a symptom of how programmed so many of us are. Who's system are we cheating? It's in your employers benefit to create a culture in which sick time is restricted - but sometimes they can't find employees willing to work for them if they don't offer sick time - so they offer it and then put the pressure on (through shaming and scrutiny) to create a disincentive to use it. When an employee agrees to the terms of employment - the employer also agrees to those terms. I use every day of sick time every year - to the hour available to me and feel absolutely no remorse. I feel very sorry for those who feel this has a moral implication.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 8:56 AM on December 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


All this makes me less likely to leave my government job that gives me 12 sick days a year.

Says the guy who's going back to work despite not being fully over the aftereffects of a brutal bout of viral gastroenteritis. But I only have two work days left in the year....
posted by dw at 8:59 AM on December 17, 2009


I use every day of sick time every year - to the hour available to me and feel absolutely no remorse.

There's a side benefit to this strategy, it indicates to your management that you can't be bullied or threatened.
posted by device55 at 9:02 AM on December 17, 2009


our vacation time, sick day, personal leave time is all rolled into one...called pto. paid time off. works well enough i think.
posted by billybobtoo at 9:04 AM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sick days are tricky for me (as a nanny), and yet, total no-brainers. There's a flowchart of decision making:

Is blood coming out of my eyes? Yes --> Don't go to work.
No ---> Can I stand up? No ---> Don't go to work.
Yes ---> Can I speak in an audible voice?* No ---> Don't go to work.
Yes ---> Will I at any point have to RUSH to the bathroom for any reason, as in, if I do not, dire consequences will ensue? Yes ---> Don't go to work.
No ---> Is this worth making my boss stay home?

I took three sick days last year - two fell into the "can not stand up" category, one in the "glued to the bathroom" column. I think I've only had one at this current job, two tops. Currently, the youngest of my charges has a bilateral ear infection. I have both an immune system of steel and an amazing ability to somehow do my job in a DayQuil haze when I have to, but yeah, it would be a totally different dynamic for a desk-job. I would also be exposed to fewer viruses and spend less of my time wiping someone else's nose (I hope). I actually get sick way less often than most people, especially considering how often I'm dealing with illness.

But hey, I work under the table, so there really aren't mandates or policies other than "Don't call out sick to spend the day knee-deep in hookers."

*I found out THE HARD WAY that my job can not be done with laryngitis.

I picked up a pricey entrée from the kitchen, dropped it off at a table, went to the bathroom and vomited my shift meal and all the water I had been drinking, washed my hands, took another tables order, talked to the chef, went to the bathroom, vomited bile and mucus because my stomach was already empty, then washed my hands. I was coughing too, but some of my coughs were dry heaves.

One better, or worse, I worked in a restaurant where a cook had the stomach flu and they just put a trashcan next to her so she could keep working while she occasionally hunched over to puke. NO. LIE. I SWEAR TO DOG AND ALL THAT IS HOLY.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:15 AM on December 17, 2009


our vacation time, sick day, personal leave time is all rolled into one...called pto. paid time off. works well enough i think.

That doesn't work well at all. The point of sick-leave time separate from vacation or personal days is to prevent any incentive for a sick employee to come to work and infect others. If you know you're giving up a vacation day to stay home, you might not stay home.

It's important to note that visibly sick employees in the workplace can also erode morale, even if they're not contagious. No one wants to think of their workplace as a 19th century factory.

Separate banks of days gives every single employee 2 (3/4/5) weeks of days off to enjoy, whether perfectly healthy or chronically ill. It's not fair that those who already have to suffer illnesses also would miss out on psychologically essential vacation time. Taking a day off when you're sick is not really vacation of any sort.
posted by explosion at 9:16 AM on December 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


16 Sept 2009: Social workers take more sick leave than any other public service professional, averaging nearly 12 days a year, a survey disclosed today.

This actually makes a lot of sense: social workers deal with the public on a day-to-day basis, making them more vulnerable than your average white-collar worker to get sick. At the same time, they have a stable public-sector job in which they are allowed to take sick days without fear of repercussions.

I've had jobs with three separate sick leave policies: one, a small-to-medium-sized IT consulting firm, had "sick leave as needed." If you were sick, you were sick. Another, a federal agency, had rolled-over, accumulated sick leave of about 13 days per year. The idea being that if you stayed there long enough, if you got cancer or some other serious medical condition, you could burn all of your months of accumulated sick leave to deal with your hospital visits and recuperation time. My current job gives me 7 days of sick leave, of which 7 more can be rolled over year-to-year, and serious illnesses and injuries are handled via short-term-disability insurance. All of these are sane, reasonable approaches to sick leave policies. Anything else is absolutely crazy: I have about a 20% chance in any given year of getting the flu which knocks me out for a whole week. So in those bad years, odds are I'll get sick at least one more time, and if I do, and I hardly have any sick days, I'm screwed.

The thing to remember is that sick leave is my benefit that I'm given as part of my compensation. I'm competent enough to decide when it needs to be used.
posted by deanc at 9:22 AM on December 17, 2009


I feel very sorry for those who feel this has a moral implication.

I don't think it's so much that they feel there is a moral implication. Rather, I think they feel/know there is a continued-employment implication.

our vacation time, sick day, personal leave time is all rolled into one...called pto. paid time off. works well enough i think.

In my experience, PTO doesn't work at all, since, in the implementations I've worked under, they merely took the dedicated 2-weeks of vacation time you got and declared them all PTO days. The upshot being, of course, that any sick time you took subtracted from vacation time.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:30 AM on December 17, 2009


All this makes me less likely to leave my government job that gives me 12 sick days a year.


I live in the Michigan state capitol, and have known a lot of people in state government. A common refrain from state employees is that they hate their jobs but are stuck because of the good benefits, including getting every state holiday off. Golden handcuffs.
posted by not that girl at 9:38 AM on December 17, 2009


I wonder if any studies have been done on numbered vs. un-numbered vacation allowances. It seems to me that "you can have up to 10 days (if you're sick)" is taken, at least by some people in this thread, as "you get an extra 10 days' vacation!". Whereas an "as needed" policy might have people, on average, taking, well... what they need.

I use every day of sick time every year - to the hour available to me and feel absolutely no remorse.

So if confronted with an "as needed" policy, would you ever show up again?

I don't have any problem with restrictions on benefits if the restrictions relate to the purpose of the benefit. Paid sick leave should be a right, because forcing people to work when they are seriously ill is barbaric. Exploiting sick leave as a "contractual benefit" for any purpose, however, argues against recognition of that right.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:45 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Welcome to America.

Don't Ever. Get. Sick.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:45 AM on December 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


HR crumpled up the letter, threw it away, and told me that this wasn't high school, and nothing the doctor could do or say would make them count my missed days as excused. I was fired shortly after that.

Sue them. Was this after 1993? If so, sounds like a violation of the Family Medical Leave Act. They should have offered you the option to take 12-weeks unpaid medical leave.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:46 AM on December 17, 2009


I blame that Ferris Bueller movie; no boss wants to risk being the principal, regardless of whether or not they think you're out flauting your cleverness.
posted by davejay at 9:49 AM on December 17, 2009


And this thing we've got going on here, it's called "civilization", right?

Doesn't seem very civilized to me sometimes.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:53 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I live in the Michigan state capitol"

In the actual building? They must be hard up for money.

What's the rent like?
posted by Eideteker at 9:54 AM on December 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you were calling in sick, you had to find a replacement worker for your shift. Each of us had a list of the other employees and their phone numbers.

I once spent a summer working at a seafood restaurant and market owned by my then roommate's grandparents. That summer, they couldn't keep staff (because my roommate's grandpa, who owned the place, was a cantankerous old cuss and the pay and everything else about the job was shitty), so before long, it was basically down to the two of us and two waitresses (working different shifts) to do everything for about a month. We were literally the only staff over that time period--so no sick time, no down time, no anything. We worked from opening to close every night the place was open (and sometimes, we even came in during off-hours to do prep work). Service sector jobs are the worst, no doubt about it.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:55 AM on December 17, 2009


'And this thing we've got going on here, it's called "civilization", right?

Doesn't seem very civilized to me sometimes.'


Yes or no? Who are we to judge? When thousands of men could be brutally enslaved and killed over a racist grudge.

"This will wendell" maps well onto "Mr. Wendal." There's a parody in there somewhere.
posted by Eideteker at 9:56 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Welcome to America.

Don't Ever. Get. Sick.


And if you do get sick, at least have the decency to die quickly.
posted by ODiV at 9:58 AM on December 17, 2009


I'll defend the 'people gaming the system are assholes' side of the fence.

At my job there aren't many of us left what with the fabulous economy and all. And the amount of work we have has gone up sharply. So we struggle even when everyone shows up. So yes, I get pissed off when I hear people making stupid comments about 'mental health days', because their fun day to loll around on the couch eating bon-bons is a day I spend busting my ass to do all their work and mine too.

Being sick is one thing, and if someone is sick then it can't be helped. But to take an unscheduled vacation day knowing it's going to screw everyone else over? That's being an asshole. It is not like we don't get about a month of vacation a year.
posted by winna at 10:04 AM on December 17, 2009


That's the comic I used when meeting with the HR drone. I said something to the effect about how it would be a shame if word got around that HR was taking its cues from the Pointy Haired Boss.

Problem solved.


Wow. That's pretty sick, actually. I would have simply asked them what 100% divided by 5 is, and what number you get when you put 1 and 1 together. Oh, so Monday and Friday actually make up 40% of the work week? No wonder that sick days on those days have the same proportion, YOU DUMB FUCKING HR DRONE.

Yeah, I don't get along well with others.
posted by splice at 10:06 AM on December 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Whenever talk of vacation and sick time come up, I become ever more grateful and thankful for how good those particular benefits of mine are and outraged that what I get isn't the standard.
posted by zizzle at 10:07 AM on December 17, 2009


mr_crash_davis, rollbiz: I feel your pain as I am currently at work, sick, as well. Blech. :(
posted by symbollocks at 10:11 AM on December 17, 2009


You know, if you honestly need to take a day off, for whatever reason, you are actually "sick," i.e. not in a condition to work, and you should take a sick day.

You just say "I'm not feeling well" and you don't come in. I realize that employers vary, but I keep details to an absolute minimum, and I've always been OK at the variety of the places I've worked (the ones that allowed sick days at all).
posted by mrgrimm at 10:23 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


"This will wendell" maps well onto "Mr. Wendal." There's a parody in there somewhere.

Here, have a post.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:27 AM on December 17, 2009


In fact, no. Brotherman, here, have two.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:27 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am just getting over being sick today. I was sent home Tuesday after throwing up first thing in the morning, and nearly fainting in the afternoon.

Here I am on Thursday, out of sick days, and back at work. I could have used another day off for recuperative purposes, but too many others are out, and I can sit up without falling over, so here I am.
posted by cereselle at 10:30 AM on December 17, 2009


Another thing to keep in mind is that there is only one type of business in America: that of pulling babies out of buildings that are on fire. If you're not there to work, some babies are going to burn. Everything any business does is of the utmost, life-saving importance and Terrible Things will happen if your work doesn't get done because you were sick.
posted by Legomancer at 10:34 AM on December 17, 2009 [10 favorites]


I spend busting my ass to do all their work and mine too.

Then don't do their work for them and make them take responsibility for how they spent their time, like adults. If they showed up every day and still didn't deliver, what would you do as their boss? Fire them, right? So that's the basic idea. If someone doesn't pull their weight, that should have consequences. Otherwise, you worry about how you spend your own time.

Some of the most incompetent and do-nothing coworkers I've ever had have been obsessive clock-watchers--always showing up early and staying late, doing nothing but creating extra work for others by their own administrative incompetence--all while watching their schedules (and everyone elses, for that matter) like hawks.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:35 AM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've been very fortunate for most of my working life to have employers who were cool and reasonable about sick days.

But the general, anecdotal impression that I get of the situation in this country is that the spectre of not getting paid for taking a day off is only half of the reason people go to work sick. The other half is employers who keep score, and use absences as a stick to threaten workers with... so even if you're technically entitled to a certain number of paid sick or vacation days off, darned if you're going to be allowed to use them without worrying that you're going to wind up on somebody's shitlist for not being a team player.

There was definitely that kind of vibe at the part-time movie theater usher job I had in college; "Ok, I guess if you've got a fever of 103 you shouldn't come in, it'll be a bitch to find someone to cover for you, but OH WELL. By the way, you're closing every Friday and Saturday for the next month."

Ultimately it seems like yet another deeply-ingrained and dysfunctional social attitude of the U.S. that can be traced back to our puritan roots.
posted by usonian at 10:47 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


This reminds me. I just want to say to my friend who wouldn't take my shift that one Saturday when we were eighteen and my sister was throwing a party at MY HOUSE, because he wanted to go to the party: FUCK YOU BUDDY.
posted by autodidact at 11:16 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


In the United States, illness of any kind is considered to be a moral failing rather than a physical ailment.
posted by Avenger at 11:21 AM on December 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


Most of the time, we don't work just to work, we work to accomplish specific goals.
VS. "meat in the seat" ??

Will anything the government says about rights to sick leave do any good so long as there are systems that kill the human spirit? Who are these employers who view their employees as dangerous scammers to be punished into compliance?

Some questions ...

- Has anyone ever done a study of the correlation of employee massacres of co-workers and corporate culture (esp., enforcement of sick leave/medical care policies)?

- Why don't people sue employers more? Some of the stories above are beyond belief. Why wouldn't someone pursue a case against an employer who fired/harassed in retaliation for illness?
posted by Surfurrus at 11:31 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


My Dad was self-employed for 36 years, and eventually did away with sick leave. He has a definite Midwestern, Protestant work ethic and his view was that if you give 'em sick leave, they use it. If you called in sick, you could take the day without pay, or take a vaction day. Right or wrong, it worked for his business, but he only had a few employees. I don't remember him ever taking a sick day.

I'm salaried and get 10 days of sick leave per year. If we don't use them during the year, they are rolled over into an extended sick leave bank, and matched by the employer at a 2:1 ratio. We can accumulate up to 540 hours of banked sick leave which can be used for time off for long term illness, health issues, pregnancy, etc.

We get our yearly allotment of sick days Jan 1, but if our employment terminates before we have accrued all the sick leave we have used, they can deduct from our final paycheck an amount up to, and including the cash equivalent of the advanced paid sick leave that we've used up to that time. It's a sweet deal, and we are encouraged to stay home if we are sick.

However, if our billability falls below our monthly goals, we get a stern lecture. We work on tight schedules that are often driven by funding deadlines. So, we may be sick, but if we have a deliverable, we better meet it. I recently requested to tele-commute, one day per week, since 85 percent of my work is done independently, just me and a computer. I was turned down. Go figure.
posted by socrateaser at 11:39 AM on December 17, 2009



Why don't people sue employers more? Some of the stories above are beyond belief. Why wouldn't someone pursue a case against an employer who fired/harassed in retaliation for illness?

A lot of employers have policies where stuff like that goes to "arbitration," which is basically impossible for an employer to lose.
posted by hamida2242 at 12:00 PM on December 17, 2009


Right or wrong, it worked for his business

This one is easy.

Wrong.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:01 PM on December 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


Well, at the rate this congress and Obama is going, I'd soon expect to be forced to go to work for an extra 5 days a year without pay, and take a 50% hit on my payrate if I'm over 65.
posted by symbioid at 12:08 PM on December 17, 2009


Being sick is one thing, and if someone is sick then it can't be helped. But to take an unscheduled vacation day knowing it's going to screw everyone else over? That's being an asshole.

No; your bosses are being assholes, because you're understaffed. It is not the responsibility of your fellow workers to make sure your job has enough people to handle the work when some of them are taking their time off. It's your company's.

Your company, of course, LOVES that you blame your fellow workers for this situation, instead of them. But you are being played if you go along with that attitude.
posted by emjaybee at 12:09 PM on December 17, 2009 [23 favorites]


Why don't people sue employers more? Some of the stories above are beyond belief. Why wouldn't someone pursue a case against an employer who fired/harassed in retaliation for illness?

The worst-treated are usually the poorest, and lawyers cost money. And the company's lawyers are going to be both more numerous and probably better, because of...money.
posted by emjaybee at 12:11 PM on December 17, 2009


Well, at the rate this congress and Obama is going, I'd soon expect to be forced to go to work for an extra 5 days a year without pay, and take a 50% hit on my payrate if I'm over 65.

Say what now?
posted by rollbiz at 12:17 PM on December 17, 2009


Reading all these comments from Americans is amazing. The employer-employee relationship there sounds Dickensian. When are you re-introducing debtor's prisons?
posted by binturong at 12:17 PM on December 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


At my job there aren't many of us left what with the fabulous economy and all. And the amount of work we have has gone up sharply. So we struggle even when everyone shows up. So yes, I get pissed off when I hear people making stupid comments about 'mental health days', because their fun day to loll around on the couch eating bon-bons is a day I spend busting my ass to do all their work and mine too.

1. What saulgoodman said above. You yourself mentioned the economy, and I know there are other people out there who would love a chance to pull their weight where your co-workers aren't.

2. I don't know where you work or what you do, so I'm making a pretty big assumption here, but odds are at least even that your bosses and your bosses' bosses are going to be pulling in some pretty awesome bonuses this year, while you and your coworkers are overworked to pay for those. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe you're at some great start-up or non-profit where all layoffs were made to keep the organization from going under and no one is getting more money than is reasonable for the work their doing, in which case your anger is entirely reasonable. But "At my job there aren't many of us left what with the fabulous economy and all" sounds to me like "there were a couple of rounds of layoffs," and in most American companies, layoffs are made to keep profitability up, where "profitability" is code for "allowing upper management to continue to pull in extravagant bonuses and still send the stockholders enough to keep them happy, while the workers suffer." If that's the case for you, maybe you should be more sympathetic toward your coworkers and aim your anger where it belongs.
posted by Caduceus at 12:20 PM on December 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


Or what emjaybee said in a quarter of the words. I'm not sure why I bother to comment, sometimes.
posted by Caduceus at 12:26 PM on December 17, 2009


After reading these comments I may never eat in a restaurant again.

When are you re-introducing debtor's prisons?
Glad you asked.
posted by smartyboots at 12:26 PM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you'd like to chat directly with #1 Boss, Jay Goltz (the header bar has a #1 Boss mug, see?), you can contact him through work. He's an entrepreneur, author and speaker, and I'm sure he'd value your input as part of his next column or motivational speech. Maybe you'd like to ask him what he used his last vacation for.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:31 PM on December 17, 2009


After reading these comments I may never eat in a restaurant again.

And those are people you'd call a friend. Just think of all the waitstaff and kitchen staff who have been having shitty days, or who you inadvertently pissed off. But then you wouldn't want to hear about the lives of migrant farm workers and butchers.

The good news is you're still alive, so you've survived all those meals handled in one way or another by someone who was less than perfectly well.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:33 PM on December 17, 2009


Two points:

1) Sick days are not for the employee, they are for the employer. Most employers don't understand that. When an employee shows up sick, they get very little done except infect other people.

2) I eventually am going to start my own business. One of my policies is going to be that employees MUST take at least 5 sick days a year, mandatory. Showing up sick will not be tolerated.

These two comments come from getting pneumonia at one point from an ex-boss who came to work sick. I was deathly sick for about two months, all because of the macho need to come in no matter what the consequences. Incidentally, about 1/3 of the people in my office at the time got sick, so his bad judgment essentially crippled the company for about a month.
posted by imneuromancer at 12:34 PM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Obviously, the government should not be focusing on the micromanaging of the number of sick days for employers. The government should be protecting employees against dangerous working conditions -- and legal recourse for loss of rights when they are ill (discrimination and harassment). There should simply be better laws AND better federal oversight and enforcement of existing laws.

Examples:

- 'Forced arbitration' of employees' basic rights (health and welfare) should be illegal. (And, it is - in theory - but the 'force' part is subtle and effective in that it requires an employee to defy a supervisor and/or risk retribution for not signing.)

- All states should be required to provide legal recourse for any employee-employer dispute regarding working conditions and or health and welfare of employees. (And, there are EEOC and Civil Rights processes, but, again, the power of retribution and coercion - not to mention the lack of legal representation - subverts the process.)

People wonder why unions were so popular the last time people suffered under the 'robber baron economy'. Employers who treat their employees fairly don't fear unions - or government intervention. (And this says everything about the present climate of anti-union/anti-government intervention rhetoric.)

People who side with bad employers - and the anti-employee hysteria - deserve what they get.
posted by Surfurrus at 12:38 PM on December 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Seeing a lot of familiar things here.

Come to think of it, I'm not sure this bill would help me any.

Based on previous experience, my employer would probably give us our five federally-mandated sick days... and then turn around and get rid of our five days of vacation pay.
posted by Target Practice at 12:44 PM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why wouldn't someone pursue a case against an employer who fired/harassed in retaliation for illness?

One more reason in addition to those stated above: Before starting most jobs in the US, a background check is performed on the potential employee. This background check will normally include a court records check - to see if you've been arrested, or sued, or have filed any lawsuits. A lawsuit with a previous employer is a gigantic strobing red flag for employers, because if someone has demonstrated that they'll sue one employer (or fuck up badly enough to warrant being sued), they'll have no problem with suing the next one. Having a record like that is enough to make one unemployable for life, and I've seen this happen before.

And, the really jacked up thing about this is, there's no protection whatsoever for employees in this regard. This is just another part of the "suck it up and deal" culture that we Americans are expected to accept.
posted by deadmessenger at 1:10 PM on December 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


it is mandated by law that any remaining vacation time due to you must be paid out when you leave your job.

This actually varies by state in the US.
posted by Pax at 1:19 PM on December 17, 2009


Having a record like that is enough to make one unemployable for life, and I've seen this happen before.

So basically if you're going to sue you better be damn sure you're going to not only win, but win enough to allow you to survive the rest of your life. Lovely.
posted by Caduceus at 1:20 PM on December 17, 2009


So basically if you're going to sue you better be damn sure you're going to not only win, but win enough to allow you to survive the rest of your life. Lovely.

Yeah, that sounds about right. Derail- I once worked for a dot com that underpaid overtime in an illegal fashion, it's a long story but the gist is that they divided your real salary into two pieces: One piece was "salary" in the proper sense, and the other was "commission", which was paid to everyone equally as half of their real salary and only varied based on how many hours you worked as opposed to how much you sold. There was lots of mandatory overtime, but they'd only pay time and a half on "salary" as opposed to real salary, which included the bullshit "commission" number. This was an open secret, no one was unaware of it.

I never even sued in the traditional sense, but I did file a complaint with the labor department in CT along with a bunch of other people. When it finally came to settling time, the decision was in our favor and we were paid what we were owed plus interest (which in my case amounted to almost the same as what I was originally owed).

I've had two subsequent employers ask me already to explain why I have a favorable judgement against a previous employer. One wasn't even in the same state. Both accepted my explanation and hired me, but the information was there and if I needed a job badly enough in the future to accept some exploitation, I sincerely doubt I'd get it.
posted by rollbiz at 1:40 PM on December 17, 2009


whoops, "almost double the amount I was originally owed"...Three minute edit window, anyone?
posted by rollbiz at 1:42 PM on December 17, 2009


One of the nice thigs about being the boss is that you get to set the standards for calling out. (A more hands-off HR department helps too, so you don't have drones pouring over people's timesheets looking for Rulez Breakerz) Like someone said above, bosses need to plan some redundancy into their schedules for mission critical tasks. I understand that Life Happens and sometimes someone will get sick, their car will die, or they have a Very Important Clan Deathmatch (can you tell I supervise college students?) to attend and they will have to call out of work. Fine. I try to build redundancy into the schedule to adjust for that depending on the level of flake out, so I try to schedule 2 fulltime and 3 student employees most times when the library is open.

What gets me, and I think this might be a side-effect of that work ethic thing, is when people avoid calling out because they think they're doing something wrong. They put off the Bad News as long as possible and then try to sneak it in when I'm not around. Just today I had someone email out because of frozen pipes. It's finals season, so of course I'd rather they come in, but I know it I had to choose between an angry boss and thousands of dollars of plumbing damage, I'd choose the non-wet one. Problem is, this person knew I would be unhappy that they were not coming in (it's true, I am unhappy - it's the end of finals season, which means students are unreliable at best, so they just damned someone to close the library by themselves) and so instead of telling me long ahead of their expected arrival, they chose to email a coworker who works the same shift 30 minutes before the start of said shift to say they were not coming in. I didn't find out about it until 5 minutes beforehand when the coworker mentioned it to me. I expect that from my students, but from my fulltimers? Argh!

That's what pisses me off about this 'sick day is shame day' thing: the sulking around about not coming in. Given enough notice, I could have cajoled someone to cover that shift. All they need to do is tell me! The sooner I know, the sooner I can make sure that the impact of the absence is minimized. Not showing up for work isn't the failing. The failing is not telling anyone about it until it is too late, not owning up to the fact that you shouldn't come to work that day.

Gah. Sorry about that. You'll never call in sick on me, will you, Captain Morgan?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:48 PM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


This reminds me. I just want to say to my friend who wouldn't take my shift that one Saturday when we were eighteen and my sister was throwing a party at MY HOUSE, because he wanted to go to the party: FUCK YOU BUDDY.

You were 18 and you didn't walk? Man, life is too short ...
posted by krinklyfig at 2:34 PM on December 17, 2009


I once had a HR guy in a "Theory X" company write out a formula which was the reason they extended my probation period. It was a coefficient of the length of sick leave taken VS the number of incidents you took sick leave. If you took lots of individual days off sick rather than one or two times when you were sick for several days, it would make you look bad.
posted by yoHighness at 3:19 PM on December 17, 2009


My last job in America gave "paid time off". Sick time, personal days and vacation days all rolled into one minimal lump. God help those who got sick at the beginning or end of the year - no vacation time for you, or your pay is docked because you got sick after you went on vacation.

One of the many reasons I'd not choose to live there again.
posted by evilshell at 3:30 PM on December 17, 2009


Sue them. Was this after 1993? If so, sounds like a violation of the Family Medical Leave Act. They should have offered you the option to take 12-weeks unpaid medical leave.

It was 2007 actually. FMLA was not an option because I had not been there a full year yet.

Honestly, the day they fired me all I could think was "Thank god this ordeal is over."

(One time I was nearly written up for typing "ffs" in an IM to a co-worker who was threatening to come over and rip my jewelry right off my wrist! She didn't get in any trouble at all. Not exactly a place I was willing to fight to stay at, you know?)

Luckily for me, we had finally discovered the root of my health issues (gluten and lactose intolerance), and if I'm very very diligent about my diet, I don't even need medication for it, so the loss of my health insurance was not as much of a hardship as it would have been if I had been fired before we got a diagnosis.
posted by Zarya at 4:00 PM on December 17, 2009


Man With Hodgkin's Disease Way Over Sick-Day Limit

There's No 'My Kid Has Cancer' In Team
posted by Rhaomi at 6:58 PM on December 17, 2009


I'm sort of a sociopath who enjoys making other people sick, so whenever I feel a real bad cold coming on, I just smile and get dressed for work. Of course, since I get so little vacation time off from my corporate drone job here in the US, I get sick a lot. Life is good!
posted by telstar at 8:11 PM on December 17, 2009


Yawn. Call me when you've worked a year in South Korea.
posted by bardic at 9:31 PM on December 17, 2009


A few years ago I had a government job I really hated. The only good thing about it was that it was a union gig, with the best benefits I've ever had. When I started I had a meeting with someone in HR who went over said benefits with me, and when we got to the part about sick days she said something about 45 days a year or something. One of my many faults is that when I hear what I think I want to hear I don't bother asking many questions, so I immediately started in calling sick all the time. I called these little breaks "mental health days." I called in sick if it was an unusually nice day out. I called in sick if I was hung over. I called in sick every third Thursday of the month for several months (because I had a monthly poker game on Wednesday nights). A couple of times I even called in sick because I got up in the morning, flipped a coin and the coin told me I didn't feel like going in that day. This went on for about six months before I got called into my boss's office and was told that I'd already used up my allotment of paid sick days for the year and then some. Turned out the 45 days thing was only in the event of a serious (i.e. something where you're in the hospital) illness. It was fun while it lasted, though.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:48 PM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have four weeks leave, a minimum of two weeks paid sick leave (more by negotiation; when a colleague had a heart attack he got 3 months off on full pay), 3 days bereavement, and a week of dependant leave if my wife/partner/kids are sick. My employer is the mst profitable (per-capita) member of a multinational, and said conglomerate is one of the few banking outfits to not be in an orgy of bailouts, because they're making money. So they must be doing something right.

Am I allowed to mention we're hiring?
posted by rodgerd at 10:31 PM on December 17, 2009


And then there are the Australian government workers. Or maybe all of them. I'm not sure.

They get something like eleventy one days a year off, and get a pay hike during vacation because, hey, everyone needs a little extra dosh for a good time. Or so I am told by an Australian. So, you know, it's probably all a lie.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:10 AM on December 18, 2009


Interesting footnote to the "Arbeit macht frei" derail above:

The sign was stolen yesterday.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:39 AM on December 18, 2009


I'd say about half of people are exactly as devious, conniving, and ready to exploit the system as people seem to think they are, but it's definitely worth letting those people exploit it to benefit the people who are legitimately sick.
posted by tehloki at 1:37 AM on December 18, 2009


I'd say about half of people are exactly as devious, conniving, and ready to exploit the system as people seem to think they are, but it's definitely worth letting those people exploit it to benefit the people who are legitimately sick.

My wife's former workplace went to "unlimited" sick leave and had a net decrease in the amount of sick leave a year. I believe the decision was based on studies showing the same in other workplaces. If people stay home, or are orderd to stay home, when they're a little bit sick, they get better faster and don't infect others.
posted by rodgerd at 10:40 AM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


It was 2007 actually. FMLA was not an option because I had not been there a full year yet.

Honestly, the day they fired me all I could think was "Thank god this ordeal is over."


I see. Sounds like you were actually better off for the change. And in a lot of cases, it probably just isn't worth the trouble to pursue litigation.

I guess I'm a little trigger-happy about Family Medical Leave Act issues. About 5--6 years ago, my wife was fired for absenteeism from a position she'd held for over five years because we had to spend three weeks in Germany at my mother's bedside, while she was dying of liver cancer. What's worse, my wife had had an incredibly devastating miscarriage literally the day before our flight out of the states (we had already told my mom about the pregnancy, which was right around the 12th week mark at that point, so as you can imagine, keeping the bad news secret didn't exactly make for a good time either).

And the ultimate insult? My wife's employers didn't even have the decency or courage to break the news in person. The day we arrived back from the states, along with all the overdue bills and condolence cards from well-wishers, there was a dismissal letter waiting for my wife in the mail box.

I won't even get into how they screwed us on our own medical bills, with my wife's insurance provider (a work benefit, naturally) dropping her just when we needed it most, except to say that I literally almost assaulted the billing clerk at the hospital when she clucked her tongue at my wife and said words to the effect of "Sorry, but that's what happens when you drop your insurance!"
posted by saulgoodman at 11:31 AM on December 18, 2009


My wife didn't want to sue, BTW, because she felt we had enough problems already. So it goes.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:03 PM on December 18, 2009


Yeah, service workers, factory workers and the like are fucked in this deal. In a small retail shop, there aren't enough workers to pick up the slack. In a low skill factory job, the workers are kept terrified to losing their jobs. I worked in a fish processor once where if you had a sick day, they wouldn't let you come in the next day both no pay. We averaged $7 dollars an hour so two days off was a severe pay cut.

That's the segment of society that could use the French plan for sure.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 12:13 PM on December 18, 2009


Or so I am told by an Australian

I'm an Australian, and a federal public servant.

We tend to get 20 (some agencies have 25) days of paid recreation leave per year, plus ten public holidays, plus a free Christmas closedown (the days between Christmas and New Years Day - don't come in, but don't dip into your precious leave, we'll just pay you anyway), plus between 14 and 20 days of 'personal' leave to cover illness, caring for sick kids/spouses etc. Then there's other miscellaneous leave like bereavement leave, home emergency leave, study leave and so on. And then there's flextime...

When you get sick, you usually just call in and say 'sick - won't be in today'. Pretty much nobody will bat an eyelid. If you're taking more than a few days off you need a medical certificate - call GP, wander in, say 'ah', get a certificate. I think even pharmacists can write them these days. Any sick leave you don't use rolls over to the next year (though it's not paid out when you retire). I think I have about 225 days of unused sick leave after 13 years of service.

Ooh, that reminds me - after ten years of service, you get three months of long service leave. If all that leave isn't enough, many employers allow you to buy additional leave by taking a pay cut.

The 'little bit extra' on your vacation pay is called leave loading. It's a rarity in the federal service (it's just rolled into your base salary), but more common in the private sector and state governments.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:22 PM on December 18, 2009


Zarya, that account made me feel sick! Ugh.
posted by agregoli at 3:54 PM on December 19, 2009


(And saulgoodman too - I'm so sorry.)
posted by agregoli at 3:55 PM on December 19, 2009


Hey I'm in Canada and I am so grateful for my sick leave. On top of the five weeks paid vacation and twelve (I think around that number) paid stat holidays, I get fifteen days of paid personal leave (no dr note required and dependant care is covered - pets included as dependants). Best yet, if I work half my shift I can take the rest of the shift off with full pay and no loss of personal leave time either. This encourages people to come in, get the priority work done while avoiding everyone else, and then go home to recuperate. My husband doesn't get paid sick leave, one day he was working beside the CEO working the reference desk at the public library while incredibly sick and she kept telling him to go home because she didn't want to get sick and he said he couldn't afford it. So she left him to deal with the public, alone and sick. Classy. Oh, by the way, his work doesn't have a union, mine does.

Probably there is abuse of sick leave at my library, but we are happy staff that provide excellent service and don't infect the public or co-workers.
posted by saucysault at 4:14 PM on December 19, 2009


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