The Sick Pay Debate

by T Akery January 22nd, 2013 | Political Opinions
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restoThe flu this year has made the news. The outbreak is bad. The flu is nearly at its peak. Exposure to this virus is almost inevitable at this point. But what is really taking center stage is the question of taking time off of work to deal with this type of illness. There is a balancing act between business and employees. The food industry is certainly where the discussion should begin.

The spread of the flu viruses is through sneezing and coughing. These actions are involuntary reactions to being sick. Unfortunately, it is these very actions that spread disease. No one wants anyone sneezing or coughing onto food prepared by restaurants. There are sanitary issues and food safety violations just from that act. It also looks very bad from a customer standpoint to see a waitress, a bartender or a cook using tissue after tissue in efforts to pretend that they aren’t sick.

Yet, the employees are required to cover their shifts or find someone to cover their shifts when they are truly sick. The alternative to this is getting fired from the job. There is no middle ground on this issue. You either show up or you are fired. Thus, many times there is no choice about showing up sick.

Part of the problem is that many of these individuals in food service are part-time employees. Usually, there are no benefits attached. There is no sick pay. There are a hundred people that could replace that one individual. The industry doesn’t really care. After all financially, a new hire is typically cheaper than one who has been around for awhile. So, replacing a sick worker who needed that job isn’t that detrimental to the company’s bottom line.

Many who need the income just don’t have an option. If they want to work, they have to go in sick.

On the flip side of this, many restaurants are small businesses. This means that they rely heavily on their employees showing up for work on time. Any time they don’t, the business has to look at finding temporary replacements or replacing employees to keep the doors open to the customers. While they can replace them, it does take a little time to train employees. If a company has invested money into training, they certainly want to get it back in some form. They can’t keep hiring and training individuals just to have them disappear the next day.

It is a balancing act for the small business. Once an employee becomes sick and calls in, the productivity for that individual is lost. Small businesses can’t run a business if they have absolutely no employees to open the door. That’s the real danger this flu season. Not having enough employees to keep up with the customers costs money. If that small business is riding the line, then it could spell disaster.

They rely on their part-time employees to fill in the gaps. They need that schedule of individuals in order to keep their business afloat. They can hardly afford to foot the bill of lost productivity time due to a flu epidemic. It does hurt them in the pocketbook. Thus, those small restaurants may find themselves with locked doors and layoffs.

One thing both sides agree on is that no one can afford to get sick. Perhaps, the solution is a balancing act between the employee and the company. Finding a workable solution is going to be critical to make it through a flu season.

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