Feb 24 2005

I hate having a cold…

And I especially hate having a cold in Sweden. Why would the location possibly matter? I can give you two reasons. One is the paltry selection of over-the-counter cold medicine. (I know a number of ex-pats who have lived here for years and they’re STILL importing cold meds from their home countries.) The other is the national sick-leave policy.

In an effort to prevent Swedes from calling in sick when they are really just hung over rather than actually ill (I guess this was a serious problem in years past), the government has decreed that the first day you’re home sick is unpaid.

The second consecutive sick day is then paid at 80% of your regular daily salary…and this set-up can continue for up to two weeks before the company will want your Dr. to say you should be on some kind of long-term disability. But once you’ve recovered and are back on the job for a couple days, the cycle starts over. So next time you get sick the first day is…you guessed it, UNPAID.

Now I suppose this is an okay deal if you’re the type of person who requires a lot of recovery time. But I think it’s terribly unfair to those with iron constitutions who rarely need more than 24 hours of rest and forced fluids to get over anything. I am one of those people. And because I will probably NEVER need to be home sick more than one day at a time, it’s going to cost me a full day’s pay every time it happens…which pisses me off.

I had 10 days of paid sick leave every year when I worked in the US and rarely took more than two of them annually. Most companies would kill for an employee with attendance rates like mine, but here I’m punished for it.

Interestingly enough, this “first day unpaid” policy has had an unintended effect that’s probably just as costly to businesses as the one it was intended to fix. I’ve seen plenty of anecdotal evidence that *no one is ever sick just one day*… they’re off for at least two or three. The thinking being, “Hey, this stupid cold has already cost me a day’s pay…I might as well stay home a second or third day and collect 80 percent of my salary while I finish remodeling the guest bathroom.”

And while I’m not sure my Protestant Work Ethic would ever allow me to do something like that, I TOTALLY get it.

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Feed my ego!

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