Sick Days Revisisted

Here’s a pleasantly relevant article I wrote some years back about sick days. Enjoy!

Most people in lower-wage jobs have gone to work sick. People who work in retail or customer service often have to work sick. This is usually because such jobs don’t provide sick-time for their employees, so the worker has to choose between working sick or losing out on a day’s pay. A no-brainer for most who have to live paycheck-to-paycheck.

When people come to work sick, it’s a bad thing. Not just for them, but also their coworkers and anyone else they have to deal with. People who are working when they should be taking time to recover from their illness are usually sick for longer, and less productive when working in such a state. One sick person at a job site that doesn’t allow for sick-leave can soon lead to most of the people there having to work sick.

To those of you who just don’t care, or don’t think that effects you, or have some mistaken belief that working sick “builds character”, allow me to point out that these lower-wage jobs that don’t provide sick-time include almost all resturant jobs. Yes, the person cooking for you and the person serving you your food could both be very sick and working anyhow. What this means for you should be obvious.

To make matters even worse, most of these lower-wage employers, especially ones in the food-service industry, make it very hard to call in sick, so even if you’re willing to lose a day’s wage, they often won’t allow you to. They threaten people with dismissal for refusing to come and work when ill, or, my personal favorite, make the person calling in sick find their own replacement. Imagine how much fun that is when you’re not feeling well. Needless to say, by the way, when a sick employee is calling another employee begging them to come and work on their day off, this tends to be less effective then when a manager calls that same person in to work.

The problem here is pretty obvious, but thankfully so is the solution. We need the government to pass new labor laws that force employers at all levels to grant sick-leave to their employees, especially those who work in food service. Even if it’s just a couple days every six months, that can make the difference. Most people are ethical enough that they won’t abuse the system, and those few that will are usually the sort that are likely to get fired anyhow.

I know people will scream that this is interfering with business or whatever crap they want to spew, but the fact is that companies like McDonald’s won’t do this unless they are forced to, and for the good of not just the people working, but also the customers, they need to be forced.


2 Responses to “Sick Days Revisisted”

  1. Laurie Fleming (@LaurieFleming) Says:

    What? What?! That’s crazy. In the socialist paradise* that is New Zealand, it’s compulsory for full-time employees to be provided with five days’ paid sick leave per year, and to be accumulatable up to 20 days. (That’s the minimum)

    Provision for part-time workers cuts in after 10 hours per week.

    Kia ora (literally: be well),

    *irony gland engaged

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