Get Sick, Get Sacked?

Posted in Tubeworker's blog on Mon, 21/03/2016 - 14:52,

Two recent cases of what might well amount to disability discrimination have shed further light on how LU treats its staff.

Two workers "failed" their probations, both due to attendance issues related to serious physical conditions. (Read more here.)

Behind empty phrases about its "duty of care" and commitment to equal opportunities, the fact is that LU treats sickness punitively. It punishes us for getting ill.

It doesn't matter whether we have doctors' notes to certify that the sickness is legitimate; it doesn't matter if the sickness is directly related by the deleterious health impacts of working extreme shifts in a dirty, industrial environment. Apart from a few selectively-interpreted exemptions, LU's attitude is that if you get sick, that's a disciplinary matter. Union reps do their best to get people reduced warnings, but many managers interpret the attendance policy as basically automatic: if you "breach" the "satisfactory standard" (missing more than one shift in any six-month period), you risk a six-month warning. Two more sick days in those next six months, it could be a one-year warning. Go sick again and your job's on the line.

Think about that policy again for a minute: if you get sick for more than four days over the course of an entire year, your job could be in jeopardy. In what sense is that fair or reasonable?

Some managers presumably think they need to threat of disciplinary action to act as a deterrent. But in fact, the policy encourages absenteeism. It only takes two sick days to "trigger" the attendance policy; if we know we're likely to be disciplined anyway, why not take more time off?

Our jobs make us sick. It's undeniable. We work in dirty environments, breathing in polluted air. Many of us spend hours on our feet. Some of us work manually, with heavy equipment, risking injury. We work shifts that mess up our sleeping and eating patterns. It's inevitable that we're going to get sick. Our employer should support us, not discipline us.

No-one should be punished for being ill. No-one should feel like they have to drag themselves to work when they're unwell, possibly making themselves worse, because they're worried about being disciplined for calling in sick.

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