17

I recently started work for a company as a lead software developer, their main business isn't software development and most employees are either call center staff or warehouse staff. The software depart had about 30 people total working in it.

The sickness policy is that, if you are sick more than twice in a year there is an investigation and a disciplinary processes. Which is conducted in secret. Apparently this is standard HR practice for warehouse and call center environments.

As a professional I feel it is entirely inappropriate to be treated this way, I have complained about the policy but they say they cannot change it because it would be unfair to the other departments. I was not made aware of the policy until my start date and I would have 100% not have accepted the job if I had known about it.

The market is such that I wouldn't have any difficulty finding a new job, in fact the company is having serious problems recruiting developers. Vacancies are going unfilled for 6-12 months. I choose to work here due to its close proximity to my house.

The issue I have is that I have now run afoul of this sickness policy. I suffer from migraines and on two occasions in the past 9 months I had to take the day of sick, and on a third occasion I was sent home by my line manager, she actually insisted I leave, because I had a migraine and was slurring my words.

I have a meeting with HR this week, how can I make it clear to them in a professional way that I think the problem is the policy, that it is completely abnormal to treat professionals this way, that I don't think my behavior is in anyway at fault and that they will never be able to recruit and keep software developers if they treat them this way.

It's it even worth the effort to try to make them aware of how their policy is hurting their ability to attract and keep software developers or should I just get another job?

  • 13
    This policy is absolutely sickening. (No pun intended). I would just tell them the truth about what happened and state (as politely as possible) your objection to this policy. If they disagree and try to take disciplinary action against you, then quit ASAP. I have a lot less experience than you but I would never want to work for a company that refuses to acknowledge that sometimes people get sick. – AffableAmbler Oct 9 '17 at 21:17
  • 1
    This seems to be two problems in one. If they don't tell anyone about the sick-leave policy, it can't really be what's preventing them from hiring. And you running foul of it and then telling them it's a big issue will sound like whining at best, and you hiding something at worst. – Erik Oct 9 '17 at 21:17
  • 3
    @Erik they have a very poor reputation locally, their glass door rating is incredibly low and their benefits are awful. I came from outside the area to take the job after a relocation for family reasons and was unaware of their reputation. – user1450877 Oct 9 '17 at 21:25
  • 1
    Me too but maybe that's why it's a big deal to them, perhaps they've been defrauded previously and that's why the policy was put in place. Another 'red flag', that they have people who are dishonest and unloyal; and they hire and keep such people - putting in place policies which punish the honest people and hurt recruiting. That would be my 'answer', but if there's too many 'things going on' best to leave on a good note and find a better place (that's an easy commute). GL – Rob Oct 10 '17 at 0:20
  • 4
    You're on the wrong site. This isn't for The Workplace. This one is for TheDailyWTF.com – Wesley Long Oct 10 '17 at 2:47
8

I've actually seen similar situations before where companies with a large number of call centre or warehouse staff (or any other workforce where poor pay and working conditions leads to high levels of absenteeism and staff turnover) enact draconian attendance and sickness policies in order to "manage" that workfoce and apply the same policies across the board. And I've seen this done either through ignorance, mistrust or a misguided sense of "fairness" which means everyone has to suffer the same as the few "bad" employees.

Unfortunately your position to challenge this policy is massively weakened by the fact that you have fallen afoul of it and they will likely see any criticism of the policy from you at this point to be defensive behavior or sour grapes. In spite of how valid your concerns are.

In your immediate situation therefore I think the best approach would be to use the fact that the 3rd instance of illness-related abscence was actually at the insistance of your line manager, therefore the company had already "approved" of the abscence, there can be suggestion that you were flouting the policy intentionally or in an underhanded way since you had turned up and they chose to send you home. If they can't see how ridiculous it would be to discipline you for following your manager's instructions then you need to start running away very fast!

Assuming they do accept that and aren't looking to you to justify the abscence, then you bring up the insanity of the policy. If you can try and keep it away from discussions of yourself in particular, if you can think of a time when one of your colleagues came in while ill (because of the policy) and was contagious for example you could use this to point out how the policy is short-sighted and actually harms the company in the long run. It's best to keep the focus on how the policy negatively impacts the business rather than any issue of "fairness" to the employees since most companies aren't in the business of looking out for the employees, or at least not at the expense of the company's needs.

So in order to get the policy changed (and I'll admit I don't like your chances of doing this) you need to approach it the same as you would for getting any company change through and make a business case why it's in the company's best interests to do it.

  • literally happened last week, someone came in with a serious cold, now at least 4 other people have it this week, me included, one of whom has had to stay home because of it. – user1450877 Oct 10 '17 at 10:28
  • 1
    @user1450877 it seems odd to be saying this about something so patently unpleasant (being sick is never fun and I wouldn't wish it on anybody really) but this is actually ideal fodder for your conversation about the counter-productive effects of the policy. – motosubatsu Oct 10 '17 at 10:29
  • 1
    @user1450877 Document it. An if you stay longer with your current employer, document such future incidences as well. Then you have something in your hands if you dare to get sick too often. – NoBackingDown Oct 10 '17 at 12:00
13

The short answer is: unless you are willing to risk your employment there, you don't.

Unless management are complete morons they have to know this policy is abnormally strict for salaried employees. If your warehouse staff is unionized they likely have specific policies around this (which presumably you don't as a software engineer). Keep in mind that in some places random absenteeism in hourly work is often in the double digits. Whether or not this is the case for software engineers doesn't matter to that point and many of the policies are likely surrounding this.

What you can do is try to ask questions like, "why." Or questions like, "what is someone supposed to do if they get sick for 3 days?" and "what protection do other employees have against getting sick?"

Be careful asking these though because in this case, the policy is so naive that questions might come across as blatant trolling since... it's a dumb policy. Given that you previously voiced questions on the policy, it's also likely to not end well.

If you are more willing to be confrontational and end up potentially without a job, I would approach it by some of the following:

  • Invite your linemanager to the meeting and provide them the context
    • Your manager might be willing to fight for you
  • Ask what they would suggest you to do in a situation like this
  • Ask if they do any external benchmarking to determine reasonable benefits for software engineers in your area
    • Bonus points if you can talk about what nearby companies offer for sick time
  • Ask what level of "sickness" is tolerable before it is considered truancy (or whatever it's classified as)
  • Have a brief conversation with doctors or employment lawyers in your area about what is legally acceptable for sick time and spend some time researching this and ask your company to comment on the topic
    • This is a nuclear option you should only do if you care not at all about staying employed. You could talk with an employment lawyer about whether it's even legal to do this and if not, talk about ways they might be interested in supporting you and/or filing followup action

Ultimately though everything you are saying screams "just get another job and tell them their draconian sick policy absolutely will contribute to people quitting" and then make sure to write about it on glassdoor types of sites. I really don't see this ending in any other way that's to your benefit.

  • +1 for the last paragraph. Writing about such things is an important lever to change these policies. – NoBackingDown Oct 10 '17 at 11:53
  • I agree this policy is utterly stupid. Say, one of the team members has the flu or other contagious disease. This policy will force them to come to work! Then they will pass it on to everyone else and the whole staff will be zombies for a week. And since the staff aren't idiots, they will know why the sick one had to came to work, and they will resent. Unbelievably retarded. And +2 for the last paragraph, too. – peufeu Oct 10 '17 at 20:59
3

It's it even worth the effort to try to make them aware of how their policy is hurting their ability to attract and keep software developers or should I just get another job?

Unless the company only recently started hiring software developers, it's extremely unlikely that they don't understand the norms of developers versus the norms of call center and warehouse workers.

Apparently, they don't care about the differences and feel that everyone must be treated equally regarding sick time policies. For some employers, absenteeism is a huge problem. And some employers (particularly those with unions) don't distinguish between professional and non-professional workers in most of their policies.

You can try anyway, but you shouldn't get your hopes up that you can change their policies without being fairly high in the organization. You indicate that you have already complained about it and were already told that it wouldn't be changed.

If it were me, I'd be looking for a new job, even if it meant not being so close to my house. And I'd think about how I could research my next potential employer so as to avoid similar problems next time.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.