Search This Blog

Monday, March 14, 2016

Ethical Dropouts on Illness

Company theft. It happens on all levels. The really minor stuff is taking pens, making personal copies, and the like. It advances into some pretty sophisticated thievery.

One pizza delivery guy embezzled thousands of dollars from the company for which he worked. It took a while, but he systematically did this by manipulating receipts. The employer was pained by having this young man arrested. But indeed he did.

Corporate theft is often referred to as “shrinkage.” The FBI claims it is the fastest growing crime in the United States — bigger than identity theft, cyber fraud, credit card theft, and Internet scams. And it proves difficult to uncover. Fom the article written by the pizza company owner, “Nearly 75 percent of employees do it, and the vast majority of discovered theft goes unprosecuted, according to FBI statistics.”

But there’s a more subtle and unethical sort of theft that apparently many people feel no guilt over. Stealing time. Specifically, sick time.

The United Kingdom may be the unwanted champion of this dishonor. The details are chronicled in the story, “Calling in sick? This country beats everyone.”

If the reports are correct, UK employees take more than four times as many days off work for “sick leave” than their global colleagues. PwC (previously PricewaterhouseCoopers), examined 2,500 companies to determine that “UK workers took an average of 9.1 days off sick per year. This was nearly double the 4.9 days U.S. workers took off, and four times as much as their counterparts in Asia-Pacific (2.2 days).”

It may seem innocuous to some, but that number cost these firms nearly $43.8 billion a year according to PwC calculations. 

Obviously, most of these days are legitimate sick days. But from another more recent report, “the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) estimated that around 12 percent of UK sickness absence was fraudulent.” That makes about $5.2 billion PER YEAR in time theft!

Closer to home — home being Chicago — we have a common example of this kind of thievery. In January, the Chicago Tribune compiled the data in their story, “The jailhouse flu hits Cook County”.

It was the Tuesday after the NCAA championship football game. The county jail had to be placed on lockdown after 18 percent of those scheduled to work called in sick for the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift. What are the odds of that?

The Tribune writers asked if it was unfair to question the “integrity” of those workers. They answered their own question! Here were the stats they presented:

•135 people called in sick for the 3 to 11 p.m. shift on New Year's Eve.

•637 called in sick over four shifts during the weekend of May 2, 2015, which included the Kentucky Derby and a live broadcast of the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao "Fight of the Century.”

•877 called in sick over four shifts during the February 1, 2015 weekend, which featured the Super Bowl and a blizzard.

The Teamsters union representing these correctional officers were angry at this news coverage. Of course they were. They defended members' rights to use earned sick days. They blamed the unusual spikes on winter weather! Sheesh! And for reference, a total of 128 workers reported ill to Cook County Jail on Super Bowl Sunday – about a third more than a typical day of sick calls.

To be fair, Chicago correctional workers are not a unique breed. On average, about 1.5 million U.S. workers call in sick after Super Bowl Sunday. Time magazine believes that might be due, in part, to the  reported 325 million gallons of beer Americans consume — or the 1.3 billion chicken wings they devour.

Some managers apparently got creative and held day after brunches or special events designed to draw employees BACK to the workplace after these big events! Are we a creative people or what?!

One of the other observations proven to hold true about sick days is that happy employees take less of them. And those who hold critical roles within an organization do the same. That’s worth considering.

It’s a timely discussion because March Madness starts up this coming week. Now we have a few weeks of big time college basketball games on the weekends. And along with that comes the “shrinkage” of time lost to office pools, pre and post game chatter, and possibly those “sick out” days.

I only speak with a call to those who care about moral convictions on these matters. Watch yourself. Be reasonable. Don’t overindulge. But please don’t steal a day from your employer faking illness. 

A good proverb to remember in this regard is this: “The honor of good people will lead them, but those who hurt others will be destroyed by their own false ways.” (Proverbs 11:3, NLV)

And as for March Madness, I’m picking Kansas. Or Oregon. Or Stony Brook.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.