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A Man of a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

The Sickness Advisor

‘Hello Doreen. Thanks for coming to see me. Please sit down.’

‘If it’s about my sickness record in this company, I want my Union rep present.’

‘Well, it is about your absences, but not in any critical way.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I’ve become very concerned about how little time off sick our other employees take. They appear to be excessively dedicated to the Company. Jones from Finance came to work last week with flu symptoms, and I had to order him to go home when he collapsed at his desk.’

‘What’s that got to do with me?’

‘I think other staff have had too little practice in being ill and don’t know how to deal with it. You, on the other hand, have enormous experience of taking sick leave, and I thought you might be able to advise your colleagues.’

‘What could I tell them?’

‘For example, you seem able to detect the onset of physical and psychological maladies long before you show any symptoms, sometimes weeks before. Your use of preventative sick leave to forestall further development of an illness is truly innovative. Indeed, I consider myself most fortunate that you can join me here today.’

‘I see.’

‘The therapeutic approaches you use to promote your recovery are also an example to all.’

‘What therapeutic approaches?’

‘The late night clubbing is one example. Also, I gather you convalesced in Benidorm when you were stricken with last month’s disabling condition.’

‘Who told you about that?’

‘It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you’ve just the practical expertise that this company needs.’

‘What do you want me to do?’

‘Give regular lectures to staff about identification of illness and how to give themselves the maximum possible time away from work to recover. Also, accepting the role as full time Company Sickness Advisor should enhance staff perceptions of you.’

‘What staff perceptions?’

‘There’s a general scurrilous and defamatory misperception that you’re a useless, idle malingerer. I think both you and your Union rep would wish the Company to take all possible measures to correct this. Your new high profile role in regularly telling staff full details of how you decide upon and manage your absences will afford you a new status.’

‘I’m not doing that. That might reinforce the misperception that I’m a useless, idle malingerer, and devious and manipulative too!’

‘I’m sorry to hear that as this task is well within your existing job description. Refusal to undertake it would force me to address the matter via a disciplinary route, probably resulting in dismissal.’

‘I’m not waiting for the completion of a disciplinary process. I resign!’

‘That’s your decision, of course. You’re an excellent employee and the Company will be very sorry to lose you. We will, of course, give you first class references, with no mention of your absence record - just like those bastards you previously worked for gave us.’

‘What did you say?’

‘I said we would give you first class references, with no mention of your sickness record – just like those bright stars you previously worked for gave us. We won’t hold you to a notice period if you want to leave now.’

‘Perhaps I’ll go then. To be honest, I don’t feel too good and was going to take a sickie this afternoon, anyway. Goodbye.’