Sick Leave vs Performance

24 Jun

Unite Union Call Centre Organiser Shanna Reeder took a call recently from a Unite Union member upset that she had been giving a bad performance review leading to her missing out on her annual bonus.

The bad performance review was based solely on her taking some unpaid sick leave to care for a terminally ill family member. The union member who wishes not to be identified at this stage, actually had asked for her roster to be modified so she could work part-time temporarily until her situation changed.

Her employer suggested she take some time off (unpaid) and while at first the member was concerned about not earning income for that time, she did eventually accept the offer. At no time was the member warned that taking this time off to be with her family would impact on her performance, and thus her annual bonus.

Since her return to work, the member has been rated poorly for her performance review, and been told she will not received any of her bonus. The employer told her the decision was based purely on the fact that she had taken time off to care for her terminally ill family member.

The Union believes that Sick Leave, whether paid or unpaid should not have any bearing on an employees performance, because it is only fair that an employee be judged on their performance at work, and not for their performance when they are not at work. It seems like common sense.

A meeting was held where the union argued that point, and the company did propose a slight (read, minuscule) upgrade of the performance rating, however this wouldn’t result in the employee regaining their bonus. However if the company agreed that the sick leave shouldn’t have led to the "poor" rating in the first place, why then is the employee still not receiving a good performance rating?

Presumably it is because there is some other factor affecting the employees performance? No, the union has checked this with the company and they have explicitly stated that there is absolutely nothing else affecting the employees performance rating expect for the amount of sick leave they have taken. In fact the employer congratulated the employee on their excellent performance over the years and stated that they thought she would go far in the company.

The union and the union member are now considering their option in order to resolve this. It seems wrong that an employee be punished by loss of a substantial bonus for taking time off (unpaid, and approved) to care for a terminally ill family member. These are not the actions of a fair and reasonable employer.

If any other Call Centre workers have faced similar struggles we would like to hear from you on 08002Unite or shanna@unite.org.nz

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