Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Flu Rage and the necessary "Sickie"

Today's article about Flu Rage prompts me to recall stories of my childhood (and the present, now that I have my own child!), and gives a cautionary financial tale to those who are both employers and employees.

My mother is a singer and a singing teacher, and her voice is her life. If she can't speak or sing to teach or perform, then she has no income.

Thus it has long been a rule that if you have a cold or flu, or something communicable, you - dear student - had to stay home and not come to lessons until you were better. For me, as my mother's daughter, it meant trying not to expose myself to people who could pass such diseases on to me. After several attempts at sending uninterested me to swimming carnivals (only to have me come back with laryngitis, which Mum invariably caught), I was banned from ever attending them again whilst at school.

I didn't mind... I hated sport with a vengeance anyway.

But seriously, it's true that you are being inconsiderate when you (for fear of losing your job or not being able to keep up with the workload on your return) make the decision to come to work instead of staying at home in bed and getting well.

Look at it this way:

In my mother's case, she would lose the price of a lesson from one student for one week. If that student came along and gave her their cold though, she would be unable to teach for a week or even two weeks. That's not just one student's fee. It's twenty. Times two if it's for two weeks!

Similarly, your time off may cost your employer a day or three in sick leave. But your staying at work will cost them for far longer in lost productivity (because the length of time you are feeling under-the-weather will extend for a week or three by pushing on). Hell, it will cost even more if you push it too far. I have a friend whose client died from pushing on with the same daily regimen (including gym classes) while suffering from an influenza virus. He had a heart attack after three days from the stress on his system!

Add to that the lost productivity you create by giving your disease to everyone around you, and you well deserve to be told off for coming in to work. How many people can you infect in a fully air-conditioned building? Just about everyone, potentially. That's weeks and weeks of lost productivity and cost to your boss. I have seen fifty percent of a workforce in one of my workplaces over the years out for a total of eight weeks because it just kept going around and around and around...

My erstwhile employer is similarly strict with us staff (as am I, as office manager, in any of the positions of "command" I have held). If you're sick, you don't come in. Long as it takes. Get better and keep it to yourself.

So, employees, do the right thing and stay home if you are sick. That's why the sick leave system is there!

To the employers out there who make staff feel bad for taking time off when they are ill, back off a bit. Get a grip.

Sure, get a medical certificate from your sick staff member by all means, but you'll have a LOT more to complain about financially if 50%+ of your staff are off for weeks on end because you made one person stay share the "joy".

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