The Caramel Crunch (22 February 2020)

Over at Caramel (Learner at Love), CARAMEL has started a new prompt. I’d like to see her prompt do well, and I had some time today to write a post, so here we go…

The prompts are called the Caramel Crunch and so far are centered around a moral question. For your convenience I shall repeat her question.

You have a horrible cold and you realize you are infectious. However, there is a culture in your workplace of still attending work when you are ill. You realize that if you phone in sick, your manager will then have to spend time ringing other staff  and may not be able to find someone else who can cover your shift. You realize that the other staff will be under a lot of pressure to keep up with the work. They always turn up for work even when they are ill.. What would you do?

This is another easy one for me. Let’s take it step by step. A culture of still attemding work when you are sick is code for a culture of going into work and infecting healthy people.

There’s one reason. If you’re infectious, stay home and don’t infect anybody else. Some people want others to think of them as martyrs, but in reality they are a risk to everybody else’s health.

Second, the manager might have trouble covering you. Tough. That’s the manager’s fault for not forming (or training) a team with sufficient diversity of its skills. How many of us has been promised on-the-job training which has been non-existent?

The last thing to point out is that in the UK, somebody can take up to a week’s sick leave, without anybody’s say-so excpt their own. Certification from a doctor is only required when you go beyond this timespan. That’s the law. If your manager doesn’t like that, they should speak to their MP.

My background? I worked for myself for twenty years. If I didn’t work, either through holiday (even public holidays) or sickness, I didn’t get paid. It would have been in my interests financially to work 24/7. But, you know, we need some distance at times – holidays to recharge our batteries, and time to recover our health when we’re below par. When you’ve worked for yourself for long enough, you realise that downtime is neecessary regardless of the cash.


  1. As a teacher I would often go to work if slightly ill. Not if I had a fever or was contageous. Teaching 170 kids a day, exposed me to tons of creepy crawlie germs. I knew when I needed to stay home. Happily I live 10 minutes from my job and I could drop off lessons if need be.

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  2. I asked this question because sometimes I feel as if I am not allowed to use my own common sense. In some workplaces, they are all for being balanced and taking time off if you are ill, especially infectious. Usually there is someone else to do any important tasks. But I have also been in jobs (including the one I am in now) where taking a day off because you have a cold would make you very unpopular. Instead everyone comes in full of germs and they pass it on to the rest of the team. It’s bizarre! But we are extremely short-staffed.

    I agree with everything you wrote…I only wish it was practiced in all workplaces.

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  3. I suppose when someone is sick, taking time off depends on how sick they are. Something like a cold is a measly excuse, I never usually took time off for something so trivial. In any case with a cold, isn’t the dangerous time before one shows symptoms?
    I could imagine that there must be some illnesses where a job would thank someone for staying away, especially if it’s normally facing customers. Not for the employee’s benefit, but the customers’.


  4. We had that culture too, come in to work when you can, half dead is also acceptable. In my opinion a part of that culture is an employees ‘fault’. Some people think of themselves as ‘not replaceable’, they like to think that a lot of people depend on them. So they come to work.
    Here the legal situation is different. When you are at work and you become ill, you can go home for that day. The day you don’t come in, you need a certification from your GP.
    I could stay home sometimes because I also used to work with babies, who are a risky population to infect. But when working with the elderly my GP told me that they get enough medications very quickly and that there was no risk in infecting them.
    So it really did depend on how quickly one went to the GP and how their evaluation of the situation was. Overall my GP thought that healthy people are strong enough to fight off the germs, so I didn’t impose a risk. The thing that he used to look at was a fever. With high fever I could stay at home.
    I myself find it a bit egoistic to spread your germs around, especially on public transportation, I can’t stand it and I end up breathing into my scarf (as if that would help) and holding my breath when anybody coughs. My skin just crawls when thinking that I’m inhaling germs from somebody else! 👻👻👻

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    • Anecdotally, I believe that last part to be true. When I first worked in London I used to use the Tube and had my fair share of sniffles. I switched over to riding my bike – it was only maybe 15mn and not only was fitter but was never ill. I am sure I became more immune but am also sure that the air I breathed was cleaner (in London, probably a close call!).
      My mum used to think she was irreplaceable. She had a mildly technical job – estimating how much carpet was required to cover a room – but she still only worked in a department store. Not mega-specialised. She was not happy when I said I could write a computer program to replace her! My first job, but really I could. My co-worker told me how much I would be missed – like taking a grain of sand from the Sahara. That stuck with me, and I have never been under any illusions…
      Your health rules assume that you can see a GP the same day, no? That’s not usually possible here. They will speak on the phone but only really to assess whether you get a personal appointment. Wife has all her nursey appointments booked 2 weeks in advance

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      • A grain of sand in the Sahara … what a nice saying …. No one is irreplaceable and that is actually a reassuring message don’t you think?
        But at the same time people do matter, people who like to do their job and are good at it matter.
        The key would be balance again I think.
        We can see the GP the same day if there is a spot available. You can check that on the internet and book yourself an appointment. Normally you can go the same day or the day after. I don’t know how that will evolve as they are far too little GP’s for the population at the moment.

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