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Lots of folks weighing in on the sick leave debate, and whether Walmart’s policy of not not paying people for the first sick day taken is actually creating an environment in which people go to work sick..even with the H1N1 flu.

One MNB user wrote:

The problem is two fold; 1) as always, people who abuse sick leave. 2) The new America, jobs without benefits full time and jobs without benefits part-time and wages so low for most Americans that they cannot take time off  when sick to recuperate.  Walmart is not the only company that has part time workers who have zero benefits and therefore do not accrue sick leave. This is a problem for all of us.

I could be wrong but I do think that Kroger, Supervalu or Safeway give their part-time workers sick leave. Therefore, if one is trying to survive on part-time pay at whatever wage then one must not miss a minute. This problem will not go away unless every worker earns sick leave, even though some (even many) will abuse their sick leave program.  The grocery industry is certainly not the only industry where this is a problem.   Even worse are food servers and kitchen workers in restaurants and our school food programs who most likely work for minimum wage.  It would be very expensive to add paid sick leave.  Wish I knew the answer.

Another MNB user wrote:

Not having read the policy, my comments could be totally off-base, but that’s not going to stop me. It could be their policy is set-up in that manner to prevent accusations of favoritism. A similar policy was enacted at a former place of employment. By using the point system for absences everyone in theory is treated equally, instead of the supervisor having discretion on who’s excused and who isn’t.  My husband’s employer has made allowances for the current outbreak of H1N1 and the recommendations of public health departments. Not excusing Walmart, just sharing that their policy is in place for a reason and with a company the size of Walmart making sure there are no differences in how each employee is treated would be very important.

Still another MNB user chimed in:

I work for one of the MANY companies with no “sick days” and points (demerits) given for each occurrence.  We, too, are allowed to use vacation time to pay ourselves so we don’t lose out on pay. I love my company (no, it’s not Wal-Mart) and I think that Wal-Mart is getting a bum rap this time. If the person who is ill does not have a record of frequent missing, then no harm. If an employee has a consistent record of missing work, then that would be on their head. You need to be able to count on your co-workers being at work. I think Wal-Mart’s plan, with allowances for unusual circumstances, is totally acceptable. Just my opinion.

And another MNB user wrote:

As a salaried manager for another "Mart" I can tell you that sick leave is just about worthless in retail. Staffing is so thin that actually calling in is impossible because that would mean someone else has to work open to close- and that's a long day! I have been going to work sick for at least two weeks now- flu, to sinus infection... A lot of hourly team members simply can't afford to miss work or they can't pay their bills. Retail is rough right now- especially working for a company trying to turn it around in a very tricky economy. But it's better to have a less than wonderful job than none at all, so I won't complain too loudly.

I have to tell you...I am a bit of a germaphobe, and I am really grossed out by this.

Here’s a different point of view:

I have to say that the one good thing about this recent flu pandemic and our state of digital technology is that it really has put a spotlight on how certain populations (typically lower class citizens) are unfairly treated in the workplace.  As a country we are quick to take on the labor policies of other countries without taking a good hard look at our own country.  I have a brother that works for a casino in West Virginia and it’s the same type of demerit system so another example of a great way to move this illness along a bit quicker.  Glad I don’t gamble!

I think retailers that allow or even encourage sick people to go to work - especially at a time when there are concerns about pandemic - are gambling.
KC's View: