Your money or your life - exploiting staff with unfair practices
January 4, 2006 9:29 AM   Subscribe

If a company makes 'sickness' it's highest priority in regard to pay scales - is this fair? Legal? UK / Europe

A large company (50,000 staff globally) has decided that the 'sickness' level of it's employees is the #1 priority in theirannual assements (which directly affects pay / raises / promotions). More important than how good at your job, how much revenue you generate, how good you are at meeting targets - the biggest consideration by far is how many days did you sit at your desk.

Staff who excel at their job, whose direct management praise and value highly have received absolutely no pay raise this year (not even for inflation) due to their sickness level of having been of 22 days in 12 months. We'll call them X. Their annual assesment grade has been put down as a 7 (out of 10) by the HR Dept, while the employees manager recommended X for a 4 (Which was already taking their sickness into consideration).

Other employees who are not capable of doing their job without assistance from others have however received raises.

In summary, competent and dedicated staff who actually care about their work and their job are being penailsed and having their future prospects impaired due to their being ill - when said illness is genuine and has led to time in hospital etc which is documented and the company is aware of. Incompetant staff however who cause almost as much work as they can actually do get rewarded.

Is this even legal? (A question had to be in there somewhere!)

Is this common in corporate land?

Does anyone think this is fair?

My own advice has been to quit, but there isn't much in the way of work in the area so that has been ruled out by X.

*Disclaimer - I also work for the same company but am not in the same situation.
posted by Leud to Work & Money (14 answers total)
Do they have this in writing? Is it in an employee handbook, or is it just the unwritten rule of the managment?

This is probably legal, but really really stupid. Somebody should sue.
posted by bshort at 9:31 AM on January 4, 2006

I think its legal and for some companies, especially ones with low skills and significant attendance problems it can make huge sense. It's not the Royal Mail is it?
posted by biffa at 9:40 AM on January 4, 2006

if there's a union, take it up with them!
posted by By The Grace of God at 9:52 AM on January 4, 2006

It seems obvious to me that they prize attendance over all else. I would adjust my work ethic accordingly. To them being there is more important than the work I do. Therefore the work becomes almost completely unimportant.

Wow, that's really really horrible. My advice to you would be to come into work whenever you are horribly sick and sneeze and cough on the personal that made that policy. I imagine it will change quickly once they take a few days off.

Althought that being said, it might just be me, but it seems that 22 days a year of sick leave is crazy/insane. I don't know anyone that uses more than 1 or 2 unless there is something dishonest going on (not implying that X is dishonest, only that it is unusual).
posted by blue_beetle at 9:57 AM on January 4, 2006

It sounds silly that the company would use mathematical formulas for something like this.

There is a big difference between people who have health conditions that cause them to miss work, and people who use their sick days as vacation days. I'm not saying the latter is wrong, I'm just saying it's a different situation.
posted by elisabeth r at 10:17 AM on January 4, 2006

What is this job and where can I apply?
posted by dagnyscott at 10:28 AM on January 4, 2006

It's not fair. (Yikes, I hate people that say that!)

The reason that bad (and it is always bad in cases like this) management get away with this is a mixture of apathy and fear on the part of the victimised employee. X should get off their arse and not be afraid of starting afresh in a new place of work.

When you're in this situation, it's sometimes difficult to imagine that any other employer will want you. That's part of the management's strategy for getting away with treating people like shit. The truth is, the employee can get another job. And they should.

Bear in mind that, when 'X' goes for an interview, they should never slag off the management at their current place. They can (maybe - but gently) hint that they're not happy in their current position, but not many people want to employ somebody that's talking trash about their current employer. In this sort of interview situation, the code is to talk about, "Looking for a change."
posted by veedubya at 11:47 AM on January 4, 2006

Looking at the situation from an employer's perspective, my first thought was that X was off sick for 10% of the year.
posted by blag at 12:50 PM on January 4, 2006

If it was a matter of taking off, say 7 days instead of 4 days, then yes, this would be ridiculous. But unless X has some specific condition, verified by a doctor, causing them to take off that much time, then I can understand your employers perspective. It is understandable not wanting to keep someone like that around - they are probably trying to push him/her out of the company.

Is there a direct correlation between attendance and job performance in your job? (ie you are evaluated by how many claims are processed/widgets are greased/phone calls are made (etc) per hour? And skill level is not so relevant? Because then, yes, that would be the most relevant measure of performance.
posted by Kololo at 1:52 PM on January 4, 2006

22 days! That's more than a month of work days off!
posted by small_ruminant at 2:06 PM on January 4, 2006

Two thoughts -- firstly, it depends what kind of work you're doing. Some people's work, in a factory for instance, is done on a daily basis. They either turn up and make those widgets or those widgets don't get made. Other work is not so concrete or physical, and as long as a good year's work gets done well in a year, then the attendance shouldn't be such a problem.

Secondly, is the company doing anything to help the people who have to take all these sick days? Companies have taken very strong anti-smoking stances for instance, and even sacked people who didn't give up within a certain period, but they gave them free access to a program to help them give up. The company would look a lot better in my eyes if they said "you took 22 days off last year, can we pay for you to have treatment of some kind/join a gym/get a personal trainer" or whatever.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:15 PM on January 4, 2006

It's not necessary legal or illegal it depends on lots of things.

The company could be guilty of falling under the discrimination laws if a group of people all with a common factor i.e. parents with children under 6 who where not allowed to work flexibly were affected or an individual with a long term health problem was affected by this scheme.

If any employee has a contract which states specifically they are entitled to payrises every year covering at least inflation and there are no get out clauses then the employee could sue the company for the wages.

However if the policy was carefully checked out so not one employee could claim that they were discriminated against, and it did not breach anyones contract of employment then the new policy would be deemed legal.

Employers can encourage you to live a healthy lifestyle i.e. give up smoking or not drink so much in your free time, but they cannot force you to unless they can show that it has some direct Health and Safety implications on your work.
posted by Olly374 at 4:10 PM on January 4, 2006

I am a civil servant. And If I take 1 more day off sick I will be fired.

Is that fair? I had 2 bouts of contagous flu this winter and so took of 7 days overall. If I get ill one more time I will loose my job.

Its a farce.
posted by gergtreble at 4:26 PM on January 4, 2006

We can't really answer this question without more information. What type of work is it? Is it actually a written-down HR policy?

Bear in mind that from the company's perspective, they lost a full month of productivity from this employee. Even compared to a mouth breather who needs help with their daily tasks, that will still seem like a horribly large amount of time.

I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, X is missing a full month a year. If I was the employer, I would simply take this into account and adjust their salary to 11/12 of the salary of other employees doing the same job. Then I would allow raises and such things based on performance *while at the job*. Yet, it *does* seem like discrimination against this particular employee. I don't think you can be charged with discrimination based on illness though, can you? The illness is affecting this person's ability to do the job (or, at least do it full time). Is it possible for X to work from home when ill? It seems like there should be some solution here.
posted by antifuse at 1:24 AM on January 5, 2006

« Older Whither real Mexican food in Boston?   |   Mathematicians: Help me stick it (back) to The Man Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.