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"Presenteeism:" Calling in sick isn't really an option for us

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I've been seeing this one being used more and more often.... "Presenteeism."

Meaning, that foodservice and restaurant workers don't call in sick, even when they really are, because of the threat of losing their job.

Interesting, if you really think about it. A poll recently conducted found that 86% of all foodservice industry workers do not have "paid sick days" as part of their overall benefit plans.

That's a bit worriesome, really. Considering that infectious bacterias can be carried on nearly everything and anything imaginable, wouldn't the exact opposite be more important?

As a chef, I can verify that I don't get paid sick days. Everyone that works for me doesn't get paid sick days. However, when someone is sick, I always tell them get a doctor's excuse first. Even if it means you will be late for work.

Anyone else have thoughts on this issue? :cool: :confused:


post #2 of 8
I have been cooking for over ten years now. As I'm sure you know this industry doesn't have back up employees. Typically most rests. have exactly how many people they need if everyone is there. Rarely more, and usually not enough. Making it more of an issue of the rest. can't afford people to take off. And frankly most of us would rather work sick than lose a days pay. I have been on both sides, both as an employee and as a manager. You mention requiring a doctors note before coming back. Does your rest. supply a health insurance program? Probably not, and most cooks I know don't have and never have had insurance. Making it expensive to go get a doctors note. Anyway's, in most conditions it's something that the doctor would tell you to take three days off before going back to work. You show me a cook that can afford that, I'll show you one that lives with their parents still. We can't afford to take a doctors advise. And with the lifestyles involved, how many would even if they could afford it.
For health reasons, you are very correct. But I can't see a time when that will be a reality. I wish it was. I have worked for a week straight with a terrible flu. Hated every minute, and was in the bathroom sick every other minute. But I needed the money and the rest. needed me. Frankly an employee that does that is more likely to get recognition from their superiors for working than if that time was taken off even if in the interest of public health.
post #3 of 8
We have known for a long time that this business has it's dark side.
It stinks and we have accepted it for the most part.

This is why most cooks seem to burn out before middle age.

I can only see it going two ways:

The expectations of today's young culinary graduates are unrealistically high, but the again, an increasing number of prospective cooks are coming out of the schools and not out of the dishpit as in years past. This may serve as an impetus for better conditions.

On the other hand, the growing income gap between the upper and lower income scales may well create an underclass of ready to abuse kitchen labor.

But if we wern't just a little weird to begin with, most of us would turn and run from the kitchen as fast as possible.

I cook therfore I am.
I do it and keep alert for ways to not let it kill me.

Self sacrifice as a kitchen employee is a fine attribute, but if push comes to shove, I'm going to take care of my physical well being, because if I lose that, I'm not going to be cooking for anyone.
If the owner and GM don't like it, they can get another chef.
One of the best aspects of this line of work is mobility. A good cook can go practically anywhere, especially if they aren't wedded to a title. This is one of the top 3 reasons I got into this business. After years in aerospace and the machine trades taking crap from employers and worrying about job security, I turned to kitchens.

I'll always work, and if abused, will be elsewhere and working for another establishment by the end of the following month. I can be a valued employee, or the establishment can be just another check mark on my resume. Their choice.
post #4 of 8
We have to post rules for infectious diseases in with all of our employee bulletins and notices. I don't have a copy in front of me but it is pretty explicit as to what to do if someone has visible signs of sickness- they have to be sent home. The state put it in the health code. We don't give sick days but we do offer health insurance. And medical flex-spending, which takes money out of your paycheck before taxes to pay for non-covered medical bills, like co-pays , prescription and non-prescription drugs. Having someone get a doctors release for work is mandatory for anything besides cold or flu. We have a couple of part time people I can call for fill-in work if I need extra help. One of the nice things about not working with sick people is I don't get sick often. We are a small operation or I would give sick days. I just can't afford it. But I like my employees, and sometimes can be an alright guy (see "When Cooks go Bad" with me as the Evil Employer) so I want my people well and functioning and would rather send you home to get better then have you miserable and contagious. Chances are the person will be back to work quicker if they rest and take care of themselves.
Seeing sick employees makes me not want to eat in those places...
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
post #5 of 8
There is currently a proposed law to give sick pay to all employees, I think, Kennedy maybe?
The problem with this is that the arguement for the law, is that it lowers productivity in the work place when someone is sick.
We all know, that there are many who abuse the system and will feel that they are due those day and will take them unnecessarily.
I'm thinking that empolyers will just get it back somewhere else"vacation etc."
We never let anyone work sick. in fact, the past two months we have been shorthanded most of the time.
The only thing I request is that the person call me the night before so I can cover their shift. I've also worked out a plan with a local doctor, above and beyond our insurance, to see these people in a timely fashion and get them well rapidly. People have a tendency to think they will feel better the next day. Not always true. He sees them for a flat 65. fee. and I send in the precroption cost. Our group policy is lousy! Thge doctors hate it so they tend to prolong the course of treatment to get a reasonable fee.
This is really where the problem.
We usually have our people non-contageous in a couple of days.
post #6 of 8
Pannini, thats the greatest thing I have ever heard. I commend you. Salute!
post #7 of 8

"Cooks Rule!"

Living North of most of you I can not comment on the cost of health care as we have a very different system in Canada. How ever in regards to the industrry as a whole, I think we are our own worst enimies. We praise those who work injured or sick. Think about it, most of us have a story about the guy who gave him self stitches and then worked 14 hours, the guy to used a hot burger turner to cauterize a bad cut, Covering for a fellow cook who was in the bathroom being sick from a night gone bad and so on.......

We have created hero's in our profdession not based on public health or maximum productivity but some version of macho insanity.

As has been pointed out in so many discussions, we are all a little nuts or we never would have made it more than a week in the kitchen. Do I think it is going to change? Maybe, but certainally not quickly. Do I think is should change? Definately. Do I want it to? I am not sure. We are who we are because of what we endure.

To quote Anthony Bourdin "Cooks Rule!" :cool:
Chef Bob

"Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch?" ~ Orsen Wells (1915-1985)
Chef Bob

"Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch?" ~ Orsen Wells (1915-1985)
post #8 of 8
As much as I like the tough guy aspect of kitchen work, needing to work sick or injured to avoid crippling the operation or not being able to pay the rent is insane.

I don't complain about it too much as I got into this business eyes wide open. It isn't right, and I don't see it changing anytime soon.

Most of us get no benefits at all. I know I don't. Just my meager salary.
But the one great unwritten benefit, the one I prize very highly, is mobility.
I can and will move from job to job, without regret or damage to my career. Aside from the cooking itself, it's the main reason I got into kitchen work. I hate being pegged, pidgeonholed, and held hostage to any single employer.

I'm broke, but free,
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