Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Staff Absenteeism

I often used to wonder whether my school was built over a plague pit, such was the level of illness. I don't mean the kids, I'm talking about the staff.

Whilst most teachers realise that they are actually supposed to come into work and are good attenders, there is always a hardcore group who are forever off and amazingly, nothing is ever done about them. Their reasons range from the vaguely believable to the utterly bizarre. (Strange allergies, mysterious 'viruses' and 'flu' every time the wind changes direction- a disease specialist would be fascinated.)

Short and regular absences are simply accepted without question and for longer ones, it's well known that a doctor will sign you off just to get you out of the room and even if they won't, no problem- just ask for an appointment with a different one until you find a soft touch. If I had my time again, I'm not sure that I'd ever come in at all.

What I never understand is why most of the other staff just accept this, muttering about "not giving it to the rest of us" despite it being well known that most infections have passed the contagious stage by the time you even realise that you are unwell. It's considered taboo in many staffrooms to criticise those who are 'attendance challenged' and unfortunately the vaguest mention of 'The Unions' is enough to make most Heads (who often don't know much about the law, but are very aware that they won't receive any support from the Council anyway) back down from taking any action in the face of skiving that would have you sacked in the corporate world.

Compare this laissez-faire attitude with that of our more successful companies who employ a doctor whom the staff must see as well as operating a 'managed return to work scheme' where the person who is ill is regularly monitored rather than just being allowed to fester at home. Funnily enough their absence rates are half of what ours are. Every time one of the workshy plays the system, it simply gives the Government more ammunition against us.

Until teaching gets a grip on staff absences, we will never be taken any more seriously than Council workers.


jaljen said...

Absolutely true.

The management at my place try to keep the workshy on their toes but when they are at school they're ineffective so they can stay home for my money.

Oh, stay home WITH my (taxpayer's) money.

Anonymous said...

I used to administer the 'irregular attenders procedure' in a public sector organisation. A timely and compassionate interview, explaining that the employee was on the first step of the ladder down to dismissal, usually nipped absenteeism in the bud - or encouraged people to get help with a health issue. Of course, there were a few who played the system skilfully. Does this happen in the world of education?

Sandy Mac said...

Playing the system and achieving a successful result is an art in itself, and one that is little acknowledged and appreciated.

I firmly believe that the people who are able to perceive the gaps (read: opportunities) in a company's sickness policy and take advantage of them should be rewarded with promotion.

English Pensioner said...

My daughter recently took charge of a largish office in the public sector from the previous male boss. She soon learnt who the mainly female offenders were and they had got used to putting on their sick form something like "female problems" knowing that the male boss wouldn't question.
After a few weeks they soon learnt that my daughter's response was "And which b----y female problem was it this time?"
Sick rates came down quite quickly.
PS I'm not a robot but I still need about a dozen attempts to read the words

Anonymous said...

Odd, isn't it, that the police have a terrible sickness record too, but the public don't regard them as workshy losers. Wonder why?

JoeN said...

I honestly think there is a genuine issue here. One of the common and most depressing symptoms I've seen visiting many schools at the sharp end of the scale (no pre-judgment about yours intended) is that they look like doctor's waiting rooms.

As I wrote in a TES article not that long ago, "My career has taken me into quite a range of workplaces outside schools and there is not one person I have ever met in those circumstances, who was not a teacher, who would tolerate for one moment the abuse and interactions with children that so many sincere, professional, skilled teachers in the UK endure day after day."

What intrigues me, is that the unions don't seem to think this appalling situation should concern them. Pensions are obviously more important.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 0938-you are wrong.Look it up.

Anonymous said...

Student Houses Sheffield

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

This hardcore groups of yours are probably present in every field/industry I know. This brings up two arguments on the part of the organization: is this problem the result of low employee morale, or is this a chronic symptom of difficult individual behaviors? From what I learned, one can solve the first by a quick intervention on the part off the administration. The latter is a bit trickier because it takes preventive measures in the initial step of every employement, the hiring phase. Intervention doesn't have to be in the form of corporate punishments but through positive reinforcement, which works better in most situations. As for the preventive measures, stringent assessment and hiring "filters" like exhaustive job criterion checks are the most common methods I know of. A company clinic can also help, I guess; at least as a deterrent against lying about sickness. Donna @