Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sick Time

This is a question to the audience: What is your employer's policy on sick time?

I only ask because I can't figure out if my company even has a policy. Any member of our regular non-pharmacist staff gets 5 paid sick days per year. However, there seems to be no limit to the number of times a person can call out sick to work without being penalized other than not getting paid.

We have 2 technicians who both have been absent for work over 15 times this year so far. It's always one thing or another with one of them. First it was a back problem, which somehow evolved into a knee problem. Then there was a bout of Raynaud's Syndrome that mysteriously vanished within a couple of weeks. Then she suddenly developed slightly elevated blood pressure which somehow forced her to miss a day. There were a number of migraines, sinus infections, cases of bronchitis, and other general illnesses. Now, it's a stomach problem that's caused her to get an endoscopy. The list of problems just never ends.

I just got done with a shitty day of work because on top of her calling out sick, we had another tech who had to have surgery and is missing 3 weeks of work. In addition, another one of our clerks was on vacation. We don't have the hours or the staff members to replace anyone, so we worked short 3 people on a busy weekday when we get our big store order.

Even if we accept the notion that all her sick days were legitimate, doesn't there come a point where we just say that she's hindering the pharmacy staff with her constant absenteeism, and we threaten to suspend her if she misses any more days? Does it work like this in other companies?

I complained about this to one of my friends who is a manager for a non-pharmacy company. He said that his employees get 5 sick days every 365 days. If they go over that, they either can take a medical leave of absence for an ongoing medical issue, or they get suspended and possibly fired.

I just don't know what can be done. If the ailments are real, then how do you tell a person to stop getting sick? However, if the ailments are real, I also wonder just how in the world does she get sick so often? Why does she get so sick she has to miss work twice a month, but I never get sick enough to call out of work?

I said it before, and I'll say it again: I don't understand being sick. I really don't. I almost never get sick. I get a headache every once in a while. Maybe twice a year I get a minor sinus cold and a sore throat, but that's it. Meanwhile, we have people who come down with one illness after another all year long. Do their immune systems suck that badly or is mine just that good?

I'm just so frustrated with never having a full staff. We can never catch a break. On a slow day, we get 2 or 3 call outs, and we end up going crazy trying to do a volume that should be easy. If we don't get any call outs, we get slammed volume-wise. I would just love for a nice smooth day every once in a while.

I guess I shouldn't expect that though. This is retail pharmacy after all.


the technician extraordinaire said...

As far as I know, my company's policy is that you have unlimited sick days but you need a doctors' note after 2 in a row, and 7+ need short term disability. At the same time, in 6 years I think I've missed maybe 10 days total which were from the flu and I was not permitted by the county I work in to go to work, nor did I want to infect everyone else. I don't get it either, I know a girl who used to work for us (I was actually her replacement then she came back for a month) that took sick days every week.

Anonymous said...

Similar rules in my office setting - after two consecutive days of unscheduled time off you need a doctor's note, after five consecutive days you apply for short-term disability through our insurance company. FMLA protects your job for twelve weeks. Miss work outside those limits and you are disciplined, up to and including firing if appropriate.

Pharmacy Mike said...

Here's the question though: Can they do this indefinitely as long as they have a doctor's note each time?

Can they call out sick 2 days a week for an entire year without any disciplinary action other than missing out on pay after their sick time is depleted?

I understand that people get sick. However, if I'm running a business, and one of my employees is constantly sick, he's obviously pulling less weight than someone who is there all the time. Can't I get rid of that person based on the idea that being constantly sick is a hindrance to the work place?

Anonymous said...

i had this problem with a tech who always had surgeries and back pain on the company's dime. you can legally get her out by cutting back her hours to almost nothing and hire someone without so much drama. worked for me. it's time to put up the for hire sign or call up the tech institutes and put the word out.

Anonymous said...

At my company, there are no set days of absences allowed. However, if a technician missed an unreasonable amount of days we could write them up under work performance since they need to be present to adequately perform their work duties. I would classify anything over 5 to 6 days a year as unreasonable. I don't think there is policy concerning pharmacists. I have missed maybe 5 days in over a decade of work.

Frantic Pharmacist said...

We have had people fired for excess absenteeism, but it takes a long time. Unfortunately some of our employees have been able to get a "disability" designation (for things like migraines, and for other things not so clear cut) and then they are allowed to take more sick time and it's even harder to terminate them. I know how you feel though about someone who is 'sick' all the time. I think they get to be professionals at it.

Anonymous said...

At my pharmacy you get 5 days per year, but for every day you call in you can take 3 days so it actually equates to 15 days per year, however if you call in even though you have sick days to use, you get a point. After 3 points you are verbally coached, 5 points written coaching and 7 points you get a day to think about if you want to keep your job and 1 more tardy or call in and you are fired. Now the points fall off after 6 months of getting a point, so in 6 months they would have 0 points. But get a point for calling in or 1/3 point for being late to work. It works good, it trims the fat.

KingPin said...

Between sick calls, car problems, showing up late, leaving early, mandatory breaks, phone calls, text messages, and "projects" that management wants done, I can't remember the last time I've had a full staff. I'm thinking about becoming a tech so I can start making my own hours and get the f@ck out of the pharmacy!

Anonymous said...

Most if not all companies have written policies regarding absence from work. As a manager, which most pharmacists are classified as (so that your company can screw you on meal breaks and maximum hours worked) you should be able to enforce these policies.

Of course most pharmacists are so worried about having a warm body to do meaningless tasks like working a drive through they are too spineless to address these issues.

I know one thing. If I observed one of my pharmacists twittering at work I would fire them.

Anonymous said...

Companies that I have worked for have required a doctor's note for anything over 2 days. They also required that people request a leave of absence before they use up their sick time. Also, when they request the leave, they must give a date when they will return for work. If they do not return on the date, they can be terminated. Another thing that I have seen when the employee has used up their sick time and is being docked pay, is for the company to send them a notice that they have not been working enough hours to maintain their status and benefits. In other words, a full time employee that does not average 35 hours per week for a specified time period, will be notified that they will have to start averaging over 35 hours or they will be changed to part-time, and the benefits will be reduced. Most companies do not guarantee any specific number of hours to part timers, so...you could cut their hours at that time to a minimum and perhaps, they will quit.

lovinmyjob said...

I have also run into this problem in the past. It's not just the employee, it's their kids and spouse as well. I have addressed this issue with upper management and all I get is document, document, document. Supposedly after so many documentations they are then concidered to be in breach of their agreement and cannot fulfill their employment requirements. But no one can tell me when this magic number of documentaions has been met. All I know is that I've never seen anyone lose their job over something like this. Good luck and keep fighting the good fight.

phamacy chick said...

I had a tech with "sick " issues over and over. when I called HR about this, this is what she told me. You cannot discipline a person or write corrective action for being sick. You can limit sick days (paid), and you can require notes from dr's but they can call in sick (unpaid). They CAN be disciplined if they call in because their babysitter didn't show up, if they missed the bus, if their car broke down. But we cannot fire a person for being sick. You can however reduce their hours to the point they quit becasue NO employee at Chick pharmacy is guaranteed hours. we technically have NO full time employees. A person can even call in "sick" if they get into a fight with their spouse (domestic violence).
Check with your own HR department. see of your company has similar policy. You can simply start giving Sick-o lesser and lesser hours.