It’s that wonderful time of the year–flu season! And to add to it, this year adds in the lovely schweingrippe to the mix. So, I imagine that hospitals are putting together all sorts of plans for how to handle this. I like to have positive attitudes (ha!) towards those in leadership positions. Then I read this from At Your Cervix (she’s a labor and delivery nurse):
On top of all of this, our hospital has put out the following rules: anyone with confirmed H1N1 or suspected flu must NOT work for the duration of the fever. Also, you may NOT work for at least 24 hrs of being without a fever (not using tylenol or ibuprofen to reduce the fever). All time missed at work….get this……will be considered an UNEXCUSED ABSENCE and you will receive an “occurrence” for the time called off.
What dunderhead in HR thought this up? Here are medical people who will be taking care of sick people, or newborns, or pregnant/post-partum women and we want to both require them to take time off and penalize them for doing so? I presume after a certain number of “occurrences” a person gets terminated, or suspended, or something else bad.
Now, some HR defender will say, “Hey, all the employees just have to get flu shots and they won’t get sick. The punishment is because they failed to get flu shots.” I agree that they should get flu shots (in my non-medical agreement sort of way). The company I used to work for gave free flu shots to everyone (on a voluntary basis, of course) because it was cheaper than having people gone for days at a time. So flu shots, yes.
However, a flu shot is no guarantee that you won’t get the flu. Two years ago, three people that I know personally ended up in the hospital with the flu, even though they had previously had flu shots. No flu shot covers all possible mutations of the nasty little virus. So, you can’t use that against the person.
Furthermore, this is a hospital, where you are surely more likely to be exposed to germs than the normal human. (Although I ride public transportation, so I’m surprised I’m still alive, quite frankly. I will admit, though, that the Swiss are so clean, their snot is probably sterile.)
And I hear another HR defender saying, “This was probably a decision from Finance! HR had no say in it.” Hogwash I say. And even though I love to complain about finance as much as the next person, it’s not finance’s job to worry about people. That is HR’s job. (Not saying that finance should be filled with heartless people, but they have a different focus.) Our job is to lead people. Our job is to see that the business succeeds and the best way to do that is to have the best people and take care of them.
If it was the CFO who insisted on this lame-brained policy, then the head of HR should have the knowledge and skill necessary to demonstrate how this will hurt the hospital. Because he/she obviously didn’t, I’ll help out a bit. (And I believe this hospital is in PA, my former home, so when we return their in a few years, I’ll be happy to take this job, as I am now demonstrating that I can do it better than the current head of HR. Of course, a kindergartener could do this better, as a 5 year old would never think to punish someone for being sick.)
1. This is a huge morale killer. Even if a person doesn’t get sick, she now knows that the hospital doesn’t care one bit about her. People who are unhappy at work do not perform as well as happy employees.
2. There is no cost savings in this. If you end up terminating an employee due to too many “occurrences” you will need to replace her. It costs much more than one week’s salary to recruit, hire, and train a new employee. It would not be unusual for it to take 6 months for a new employee to be as competent as the one you’ve just fired.
3. It is likely to increase the percentage of people coming to work while sick. If you have bills (and everybody does), you need your job. As long as you can hobble around, you’ll be there, infecting everyone around you and lying about how great you feel. This will mean more people will get sick and your patients will suffer as well.
4. Voluntary turnover will increase as well. I know the economy is terrible. That just means that only your best employees will be able to find new jobs. Do you understand that? The BEST will be able to find new jobs. Is that what you want? To drive your best employees out? Who do you think pulls companies through recessions? It’s not the slackers. It’s the best employees.
5. Punishment should be reserved for someone who skips work to go shopping, or because they have a hangover. Punishments should not be given for involuntary illnesses. And yes, you can wash your hands all day long and use hand sanitizer and still get the flu.
This is just plain bad policy. I hope they come to their senses.