Twice as sick


Do we have to call it wellness-challenged?

As has been mentioned time and again by the press and the public, local government workers take a lot of time off sick.  Private sector workers do too, but not quite as much as their public sector counterparts.

This is as much news to us as it is to anyone else; i.e. it’s not news at all.  We all know that local government staff are off a fair bit and have a number of ways we are looking at reducing this.  Some well known things include offering incentives to people with 100% attendance, more flexible working (filing whilst doing the splits?!) and simply getting rid of those on long term sick leave.

I know this and many other sickness related facts because I recently attended my organisations’ sickness management training.

Twice.

The first time I attended it was back in April, when I found it interesting if a little unhelpful in its own way.  We spent the morning looking at why it’s important we focus on this, before the afternoon passed listening to people moaning about their own personal team’s examples of sickness.  Some relayed stories which sparked a sense of sympathy, others were barely restrained in their hatred of what they described as ‘work-shy slackers’.

During the session I learnt about some of the numbers involved – how we are working to reduce our average number of sick days down to less than eight per person – and how just a handful of people can cause our numbers to go out so much.  There was precious little in the way of advice however, this was more a presentation morning aimed at those who have fifteen years of management responsibility under their belts but had never wondered where some of their staff were for a few days every month.

The second time was last week, when I sat through the same course again, delivered by the same trainers, in the same room with the same handouts and the same facts.  I must have looked a little like a HR plant or prodigy to my fellow participants as I seemed to know the answer to every question and understand each activity before it had been explained.

You see, between these two wasted days of my life my team moved from one directorate to another.  This coincided with the big push from the chief exec to combat sickness, so I was told that I had to go on the course in my old directorate OR ELSE.  When I then got sent the same e-mail in my new directorate I explained that I’d recently been on it and enquired if anything had changed; apparently it hadn’t but it was mandatory that I attend OR ELSE.

I nearly bunked off sick.

I’m glad I didn’t though, as I did pick up one interesting tid-bit.  According to our policy, if you are off sick you must call in every day to check in with your manager.  This doesn’t matter if it is for a day or a week, or as I learnt even a month.  I asked if that included things such as a broken leg, where you knew how long you would be off for and that your condition wouldn’t change on a daily basis; according to HR, you still had to call in.

Can you imagine calling in every day for weeks on end, repeating the phrase “yep, it’s still broken.  Speak to you tomorrow”?!  It’s enough to make you feel sick.

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2 Comments on “Twice as sick”

  1. Sue Smith Says:

    I work for a private company with a very stingy leave allowance, 20 days (three of which have to be taken when the office is closed at Christmas. We are only allowed five paid sick days a year. This means they are all taken whether necessary or not but people drag themselves in when they obviously shouldn’t.

    • localgov Says:

      That’s similar to things I heard at both of the sessions. In the past our sick leave was seen as one of the ‘perks’ of working in the public sector. Along with the pension, the job security and relatively stress-free role, sick leave was a reason why many stayed in public service so long.

      People even discussed it in the same way as their leave: “I’ve not taken my two weeks sick leave yet, so I’ll be off towards the end of March”.

      Looks like people might not be staying in public service long term for a number of reasons in the future…


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