retail news in context, analysis with attitude

We continue to get people weighing in on the sick leave debate, and whether Walmart’s policy of not not paying people for the first sick day taken is actually creating an environment in which people go to work sick..even with the H1N1 flu.

One MNB user wrote:

I would be very curious to see what the sick leave policy is for the top retailers in America, full time and part time. I believe we would be surprised to see that one doesn’t really exist. Using vacation days to cover sick days doesn’t constitute as a sick leave policy. As a member of management when an employee calls in sick, I can tell if this is truly a sick situation or just a “mental health day”.  I also do agree with one of your other readers, many employees show up sick because they can’t afford to miss, or they know someone else is getting screwed covering them. The cost of giving sick days would add a lot of cost to doing business, and yes many employees abuse the days. When we “used” to have sick days, many employees would inquire with the secretary how many days they had left then would call in sick that week to get in their days in before the end of the year. One of the reasons they lost them I’m sure.
Another MNB user chimed in:

A couple of thoughts / points:

• I once worked for a company that had a wonderful policy on sick leave. It had no sick days at all, but it paid everyone 2% extra, which they were supposed to bank and draw on when they were sick. This encouraged everyone to work, but did allow for people to take sick time as needed.

That organizations have no sick days, or are not paying part time workers for either sick days or medical benefits, or do not have sufficient staffing to cover when employees are sick are all signs that business has cut beyond the bone. Their costs are being pushed onto society as a whole, while their profits are accruing to the company. They are out of balance and this should be corrected.

MNB user  Deborah J. Maestu wrote:

Thinking about how many people in retail might be going to work sick is enough to drive more people to do more of their shopping on line.  A nail in the retail coffin?


Still another MNB user wrote:

In my former life I was a salaried employee of a now defunct Fortune 50 company for 25 years. I won't tell you the name of the company but they had a famous "cow".  I took on average about 1 sick day a year.  Due to a surgical procedure I had to be off for 5 days - but company policy said that anything over 4 days required you to go on short term disability. The kicker was that caused your salary review to be pushed back one month which results in a lower annual salary forever going forward.  So I took 4 sick days and one day vacation. No one ever did my work while I was gone for any reason including vacation time. It was always waiting for me when I got back.  However, being able to tell this story about how my cheap former employer required me to take a vacation day to recover from surgery is, as they say, "priceless.”

One of the things that occurs to me as I read all these emails is that the problem really isn’t sick leave. The real problem is that the social contract has unraveled.

I am old enough to remember when companies would hire people, pay them a fair wage, make them feel like they had an emotional investment in the enterprise, and feel a responsibility to them. (Which included, by the way, telling them to stay home when sick and paying them for their sick time.) At the same time, people wanted to believe in the organization for which they worked, to believe in the value of work, and often worked for the same companies for their entire lives.

Now, I’m not one to yearn for the good old days. But I do believe that both sides of the equation share some fault for a situation in which people simply don’t trust each other. People in management seem to assume that employees want to take advantage, and employees assume that they are getting screwed by exploitive superiors.

Not everyone, of course, and not every company. But enough so that it is notable. And concerning.

Not sure about this, but maybe the real problem is a lack of responsibility. Just as many companies don’t feel any sort of broad responsibility for their employees, many workers don’t feel responsible to the people for whom they work (not to mention the investors who own the company, and the people who buy the products they produce).

If indeed this is the disconnect at the root of this debate, I’m not sure when it happened. But it may be the central issue that needs to be addressed and solved.

I do know this. I’ve had a bronchial infection since last week. There have been plenty of times when it would have been very easy to take a day off, but I feel responsible to you, and to the terrific sponsors who make MNB possible. So I get the work done.

If I owned a company, and had actual people working for me, it would be my primary responsibility to run it in such a way that they would feel the same way.

It is a small example, but my own.
KC's View: