It’s the morning of an 8-6 shift. Ten hours sat behind your desk procrastinating, listening to angry customers, or maybe you work outdoors and its pouring it down with rain. The comfort of your warm duvet is calling and you’ve snoozed your alarm six times already. Consciously you make the decision and reach for your phone. ‘I’m sorry, I’m not coming in today, I’ve got flu/a bad cold/my cats died/my boilers broke/my other half has locked me in the house/my cars broke down.’ There’s a myriad of excuses you can use because frankly, it’s Monday and you just can’t be arsed.
There are hundreds of us that do this every day. There’s a shortfall in holiday time, prices are rising and wages aren’t going up and despite the promises of the growing economy the little man just isn’t reaping the benefits. We’re overworked and underpaid.
The thing is, work places have started to cotton on to this. New policies are put in place, most workplaces now commonly put in place an absence policy which states an employee can only have 3 occasions of absence over a year, manager’s spy on social networks to see what their employees are up to. With a rise in unemployment people are finding themselves easily sacked and easily replaced, we have become literally just a number.
How though does this affect the people with genuine illness? People who really can’t get into work and are suffering because of those of us who sometimes just like to skive?
I am one of those people. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying there’s never been a time in my life when I’ve genuinely just not wanted to get out of bed and I’ve rang in sick with some excuse when really I’m just tired or still hungover from the weekend, but in a very realistic way I have suffered because of genuine illness and health problems and found myself penalised with frankly nowhere to turn.
I have a series of health problems. I suffer with depression which at the moment and despite campaigning, isn’t always seen as a genuine reason to not be in work. People who haven’t suffered with depression have no idea how hard it can be to get out of bed and complete the simplest of tasks. There is no sympathy from your boss when you ring up and try to explain that you just can’t come in today because you felt like drowning yourself in the bath last night. I have had to leave several jobs in the past when I have just been unable to cope with the pressure they put on you to return to work when you feel like your life is falling apart.
Equally I have had to deal with managers who ask ‘why can’t you be in work though?’ when you call in with a throat infection and work in a call centre. Or can’t you try and come in for the morning and come home when you’re suffering from a heart condition and need to get to hospital. But I think the best one had to be following an ambulance visit to my home to find out I’d suffered a miscarriage being asked ‘do you really think that’s a good enough reason not to be in work?.
Another friend of mine suffers a condition which causes her to black out at random occasions. Her employers are aware of this but have put no provisions in place to look after her in the workplace and have threatened her on more than one occasion with the sack when she has been off work with this condition. On the one occasion she actually blacked out at work they wouldn’t even let her leave to go to hospital, saying instead that as she only had 2 hours left to her shift she may as well stay and then go to the hospital later.
People might think why wouldn’t you just go anyway or leave such a horrible place? But with the growing concern over actually finding another job a lot of us feel trapped and scared. We daren’t walk out because we might not find anything else and with rising debt and financial problems how can we afford to live on the dole? Most people are too scared to stand up to a manager who we know are being disrespectful and treating us badly because we are too frightened of the consequences. Extended probation periods mean that basically employees are robbed of their rights and employers can sack them with immediate effect and no following of procedure. Employees struggle into work with illness and injury and pass it on to everyone else until half the office is down with it. How are we expected to perform well, meet targets and do our jobs properly when we’re mentally and physically worn down? Not to mention the fact that not many employers pay sick pay these days meaning at least for the first 7 days of absence you’ve also got no money coming in. Something has got to give.