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Attendance management when Chronically Ill

My regular readers will be aware it has been a few weeks since my last new post and one of the main reasons for that was my health. I have been dealing with a flare-up of the Fibromyalgia followed by a cold/flu bug, which is no laughing matter when you have a chronic health condition. To top these off my Mum has also been hospitalised for nearly a week too. In other words life has been tricky for a while. The one thing that has been a massive help throughout it all is that I have not had to sit in a meeting room and justify myself at an attendance management meeting.

Self Employed or Sick

The reason I don’t have to worry about attendance management anymore is that I no longer have an employer, you can read more about that in my post “So I asked to be dismissed“. Depending on how you look at it I am now either Self Employed or Sick. For the benefit of my morale and mental health I consider myself self-employed, I hope I can make an income at some point from my various plans. Financially, because I have a husband in employment meaning after a year I am not entitled to sickness benefits,  I don’t technically count as anything. That is a cheerful thought! Before my Fibromyalgia went through a rough patch and my “normal” health declined I used to work for a large-scale employer. Michael, who has Diabetes and has been through periods of Depression as well as the Anxiety we have mentioned in the past, still works for a large organisation. Sickness Monitoring is, therefore, something we are both familiar with that has also affected us.

Why Attendance Management?

Let me lay my cards on the table.  I am not stupid. Moreover, I am reasonably intelligent. I understand that organisations and companies need to have some system in place to ensure their employees are not taking liberties and feigning illness to get extra time off work. The larger the organisation arguably, the more important this is, because it is not unreasonable to believe that the more members of staff there are, the easier it is for an individual to feel lost in a system and not as essential as they may do if they work in a company that can count its employees on their hands.

Living Creatively with Fibro | An image of a repeating pattern with the words Just because a system is well established doesn’t mean it can’t be improved!

Problems with the system

Although I acknowledge, there needs to be some method of validating sickness absence I can’t help feeling the one used by many employers is flawed when it comes to dealing with the chronically ill. Here are some of my thoughts as to why:

  • When you have an unpredictable health condition how can you guarantee that you will not be sick more days than you are allowed in a year?
  • Something as out of your control as a change in the weather can cause your symptoms to become worse (as I discuss in this post).
  • If you breach your allowance, it is common that you will need to attend a meeting to address this.
  • Many chronic health conditions are made worse by stress.
  • An employee who gets sick and knows they are likely to breach their sickness allowance may end up getting sicker for longer due to the stress this knowledge causes.
  • Going to an attendance management meeting upon returning to work may cause enough stress to make you sick again.
  • It is easy to become trapped in a vicious circle.

As you can see, the system itself can make life difficult for an individual with a chronic health condition. We have not even looked at the broader picture of office dynamics.

Teamworking and sickness

The next thing I want to consider is the effect it has on a team when staff get ill. Here are a couple of  problems that come to mind:

The Martyr

The martyr is the individual who has an impeccable sick record, not because they never get ill but because they struggle in and work through it. Should employers praise people in these circumstances? Having a full year of attendance because you have not been ill is one thing that can be applauded. Is it really in the best interest of the organisation to have somebody attend who is sick and can pass it around their colleagues, people with chronic health conditions often have a low immune system too.

Judgemental Colleagues

Sickness comes in many forms as does the recommended treatment. When someone is suffering from Depression, for example, they are often adviced by the Doctor to go out, whether this is to the shops, to a social gathering or for a walk in the park. These activities may not be easy at all for the individual but may help them recover. I am pretty sure many people will have heard or maybe even said at some point “well if they are well enough to…” type comments. Until you have walked in an individuals shoes, you do not know what they are experiencing! Are any of these individuals being a good colleague to someone with a chronic illness that is already having to deal with an attendance management system?

Living Creatively with Fibro |An example of problems with attendance management. An image of germs with the wording Congratulations, you came into work and Kindly shared your virus with the whole office!

Improving Attendance Management

So should the methods of attendance management be reviewed in light of their adverse effect on people with chronic health conditions? I certainly think so. I don’t have the answer, and I think any real improvement would take more than one person to devise. But the real question is, who else is asking questions, does anyone else think the system needs an overhaul? I would love to know your thoughts on this, why not drop a comment down below? Nothing ever changes until enough people say it needs to!

Until next time,
Gentle Hugs,

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