how to approach potential 9-to-5 jobs if i'll frequently be absent?
January 9, 2013 9:30 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for full-time work that's more or less within standard business hours. The problem is that I see my therapist weekly and my psychiatrist monthly. I could decrease the therapy sessions, but i'd still be missing work regularly. How do I bring this up with potential employers, and at what point in the proceedings? Or should I refrain from mentioning it? I'm in toronto if that's relevant. My doctors are only available in regular business hours.
posted by windykites to Work & Money (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Inquire as to whether your employers offer flex-time. Lots of companies do or you can ask for it during negotiations.
posted by greta simone at 9:35 PM on January 9, 2013

I just did this with my newish 9-5 for weekly therapy appointments. I sent an email similar to this to my boss:

"I have a weekly medical appointment for the foreseeable future. I can make up the hours by coming in early on Tuesdays. Let me know if this will present any problems. Thanks."

He said: "Thanks for the heads up. Hope you're okay." And that was that.
posted by saltwater at 9:41 PM on January 9, 2013 [12 favorites]

I don't think I'd bring this up prior to being hired--at least not in a way that frames your appointments as 'frequent absences'.

Instead, I'd look at how many of these appointments could be taken during a lunch hour (even a time-shifted lunch hour that's earlier or later than you'd normally take).

Flex-time is also a possibility, but you should absolutely make this as easy and invisible as possible to your employer.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:42 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

When are your appointments? I have mine in the mornings so it's least disruptive. I've made it clear
in the last few years that I have dr appts at x time y days a week and it's not negotiable. No one has questioned this.
posted by sweetkid at 9:43 PM on January 9, 2013

Are both your therapist and psychiatrist only available during business hours? I see my psychiatrist once every two months or so at 9 AM, and I'm at work by noon. When I was still seeing my therapist, I left work a half-hour early once a week. I just say "doctor" (and not "psychiatrist" or "therapist") and leave it at that and, because my work has always gotten done, my boss doesn't mind and doesn't ask questions. At first I made sure to tell him I'd make up the missed time (and did) but at this point it's just how my schedule works. One of my other coworkers leaves a half-hour early once a week for school, and the boss is fine with that too.
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 9:43 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

You're in a good position to state this ahead of time, rather than spring it on your employer after getting hired. I think most employers would be flexible with this, though I suppose it depends on the kind of work situation you're in. Namely, does your absence mean that someone else has to pick up the slack? Then it could be a problem. But if it's work you can make up another time, like coming in earlier or staying later, then it shouldn't be a problem. Just be clear about the times from the get go.
posted by zardoz at 9:51 PM on January 9, 2013

I don't think you should mention this before you're hired, and definitely don't state it as "frequent absences". A lot of people have regular appointments of one type or another, this is not unusual. I have allergy shots weekly, and it just gets worked into my schedule. Before work or during lunch if you need to, but check with your supervisor after you're hired and it might not be a big deal to flex.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:58 PM on January 9, 2013 [9 favorites]

Do not say anything about this before being hired. Working out the specifics of work schedules and medical appointments is something you do in the first weeks of a job.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:04 PM on January 9, 2013 [8 favorites]

Alison Green of Ask a Manager recommends bringing this type of thing up after you have the job offer.

I agree that you shouldn't use the words "frequent" or "absence", or identify the type of doctors you're seeing. I do think it's good to say that the appointments are regular, so the times you'll be away are predictable.
posted by neushoorn at 10:09 PM on January 9, 2013

What kind of work do you do? If it's reactive, like a shop clerk or receptionist or help desk person, you might have a problem. Otherwise you probably won't, as long as you're willing to make up the time by coming in early or staying late.

You're lucky you're in Canada. In the United States, employers would probably worry about your medical condition driving up their insurance costs. In Canada, they may worry you'll be sick a lot, but they won't worry about the financial component.

I'd do what people here are suggesting: don't frame it as "frequent absences," which to me at least would imply a longer duration of absence and maybe less predictability. I'd wait til after they offer you the job, but confirm this will be okay before you accept it. I doubt it'll be an issue, unless the position requires you to be particularly responsive to other people's time-sensitive needs.
posted by Susan PG at 10:14 PM on January 9, 2013

Oh Hell yes your employer will worry about the cost in Canada. Your therapist often comes out of supplement insurance. If your employer is small, they may know it's you in therapy. Do not discuss in interviews.

Do not mention type of doctor ever, and work the schedule after you have an offer.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:23 AM on January 10, 2013

What kind of work do you do? If it's reactive, like a shop clerk or receptionist or help desk person, you might have a problem. Otherwise you probably won't, as long as you're willing to make up the time by coming in early or staying late.

I agree. If they hire you based on the assumption that you will be covering some position like this, certain absences will be a no-go.

I would much rather over-share in the interview process and have them say "oh, that's no problem if you make up the time" than to spring it on them after being hired. If I were a boss, I'd not appreciate this being sprung on me after I'd hired someone when I knew the employee knew about it ahead of time. It would make me view the new hire with some skepticism, wondering why they thought it was a good idea not to tell a potential employer that they have minor availability issues. It seems sneaky.
posted by gjc at 5:23 AM on January 10, 2013

I'm looking at temp (few month) call centre work- inbound CSR type positions.
posted by windykites at 6:41 AM on January 10, 2013

Medical appointments, even regular ones, shouldn't be a major issue, and while hiring discrimination for health reasons is illegal, it does happen - so I wouldn't mention it until you're hired.

Saltwater has good language. Try to schedule / shift your appointments to the beginning or end of the day.

Also, I bet call centre work will have some shifts that aren't quite 9-5 (some starting earlier/later), that you could take to make up some of the time.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 7:59 AM on January 10, 2013

I bet your therapist has evening appointments.
posted by radioamy at 9:24 AM on January 10, 2013

Echoing others that you should frame this as regular medical appointments without specifying details. If you can schedule them in a way that minimizes disruption (first thing in the morning, last thing in the afternoon, on your lunch break) that will be preferable.

Try not to think of these appointments as 'frequent absences'-- it's necessary maintenance that probably helps you be more reliable, productive, and less likely to take unplanned leave for other reasons. An hour a week at the therapist in exchange for an employee that's focused for the rest of the week is a better deal for your employer than an employee who's only semi-functional but doesn't take that time (says the gal who has had actively terrible focus for a month and who should probably have made a therapy appointment earlier).
posted by Kpele at 10:03 AM on January 10, 2013

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