We have this weird thing at work when you are sick. In most workplaces if you are sick you phone in and state that you are sick and how long you think you will be off. They take contact details and ask to be kept updated and that’s that. Not so for LUL.

For LUL you do all of the above but if you feel you are getting better you also have to phone in well. Yes, well. As in no longer poorly. It is unacceptable to just turn up for work at the scheduled time, you must have previously informed them that this is your intention. The first time I was ever sick I made the mistake of not phoning in well and it caused all sorts of problems and bizarre questions in my return-to-work interview. Mostly ones I couldn’t answer since I had no idea what they were talking about.

It actually makes a sort of sense once it’s explained. If they know that you are off sick that’s fine; they can sort out a spare to cover your duty. But if you just turn up for work then they’d no longer need that spare. And if they’d had to cancel another duty so that the spare could cover yours then I guess they might get a bit peeved at you swanning in looking the picture of health. So we are asked to phone in well.

I once worked for a government department which had chronic sick leave. This was partly to do with the type of office it was (call centre) but mostly to do with how appalling the job was and how badly the staff were treated. It was my great misfortune to have accepted a job where I was supposed to manage them and encourage them to turn up. This I did rather half-heartedly since I too hated the job. And to their credit my team were ok and generally turned up. Though there was that one memorable occasion where I returned from skiving sick leave and doubled the number in my team for that week. That said, nothing could beat the sick leave of two of the staff. It was actually so bad and handled so badly that I had to confess my complete admiration.

I forget their names so let’s call them Fred and Ginger. Both were in their late teens/early twenties and both, thankfully, were nothing to do with me. They were on different teams but their managers knew each other well since both were constantly off sick. And it wasn’t the case of going individually sick either – they had a union approach to sick leave. At least they did until their respective managers finally had enough and sent them letters home inviting them to come in for individual conduct & discipline meetings about their absences. Fred did not turn up. Ginger did not turn up.

What to do? asked the fairly new managers. They were advised to write again by their own slightly more senior but likewise fairly new managers, as it was possible that the letters had gone astray. So more letters were sent. Fred did not turn up. Ginger did not turn up. By this time I was taking a keen interest and getting daily updates. More letters sent. More non-appearances. Another meeting was had and the senior manager hit upon a plan. Recorded delivery – make them sign for it. Letters sent, receipts kept. Letters returned as undeliverable. General absence of F & G in the meeting room. Now, we knew they still lived at that address. It happened to be the flat over a bar/restaurant that a few managers would go to for lunch every so often. Which was convenient as Fred & Gingers’ managers tried hand delivering letters one day. They had been pushed back out onto the mat by the time we’d scoffed our sarnies. So more letters were sent of the normal, registered and recorded variety. Still, no response from Fred or Ginger and nobody turning up to the meetings.

This all went on for months. Literally months with nobody apparently having any idea how to go about sacking people who didn’t turn up and refused all contact. Apparently people have to be sacked so that they know they are sacked in case they have any feelings on the matter. My suggestion of just stopping paying them fell on deaf ears. You can’t just not pay employees. It’s not the done thing and has all sorts of legal ramifications. No, before you stop paying a person you have to sack them. And in order to sack them you have to tell them they are getting sacked and give them notice. And before you do that you have to have meetings with them warning that they are about to get sacked. It is all very complicated and one of the main reasons I will never work in such a position again. Mostly because I’d rather just slap them about a bit and tell them to act like grown ups.

I have no idea if Fred & Ginger still work for that department as I escaped left some months later. It’s entirely possible they are still being paid due to not being sacked. Who knows. It did rather open my eyes to the concept that perhaps bureaucracy can be more fun than is commonly assumed. I certainly get a kick out of phoning in well. 🙂

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