The new policy instructs employees requesting time off for illness to call an 800 number to get a code and then relay that code to their store manager for approval of their absence. Previously, employees asked their store manager directly for such time off, employees say.
In addition, the new policy formalizes penalties for employees who fail to get their absences authorized or don’t bother to call. Among them: Any employee with more than three unauthorized absences in a six-month span will be disciplined, and those with seven will be fired. Any employee who is absent three times during a six-month period and doesn’t call the 800 number for any of the three times can be fired. And employees needing more than three consecutive sick days are encouraged to apply for an unpaid leave of absence or time off under the Family Medical Leave Act. Previously, store managers had more discretion regarding discipline for unexcused absences.
The union groups are attacking the policy change as an injustice against Wal-Mart’s employees. Wake Up Wal-Mart’s Chris Kofinis went so far as to claim that it “just sends another terrible message that this company looks at its workers as a commodity.” I hate to break it to you, Chris, but there isn’t much here that’s new.
The attendance policy that has been in effect since 1998 allowed three absences in a rolling six month period. A fourth resulted in a verbal coaching; a fifth in a written coaching; a sixth in a decision day. A seventh absence resulted in termination. Three tardies counted as an absence. Three consecutive days of missing work counted as only one absence. Three “no call, no shows” was grounds for immediate dismissal. None of this has changed. An associate can miss as many as 18 days in six months and keep his or her job. I don’t see anything unreasonable about this.
The only thing that has changed is the addition of the 800 number. Wal-Mart’s critics seem to think that this innovation is part of a diabolical scheme to force out the elderly and the sick. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Bentonville is trying to eliminate the lost productivity that results from excessive absenteeism — they are trying to save money. The only people who will find the new system problematic are those who took advantage of the system (You know, the people who find a reason to miss a day every week.).
With all the focus on the exaggerated negatives of the tracking system, everyone is ignoring the positives:
1. It lightens the load on the workers who do come in. Wal-Mart’s staffing isn’t that great to begin with, but when people call in there is more work for everyone. Breaks and lunches often end up late (or *gasp* skipped!). The customers have to wait longer and have even more difficulty getting service on the sales floor. Everyone will benefit from the decreased call-ins.
2. It curbs favoritism. We’ve all seen it. The boss likes Sally, so he looks the other way when she takes that extra day off, but when Joe does it, he gets in trouble. Since it’s being tracked by Bentonville, Sally and the manager can’t get away with this anymore.
3. It protects associates. The old system depended on management answering the call and making note that the associate wasn’t coming in. When managers are busy, they often don’t have time to write it down and it slips their mind. Just like that, the absence could go down as a “no call, no show.” Enough mistakes like this could cost a person his or her job. Now, there is no need to worry.
The anti-Wal-Mart movement never seems to notice the good Wal-Mart does. They are always looking for something bad to focus on, making sure to blow it out of proportion and distort it to fit their agenda. Why can’t they just state the facts and let them speak for themselves?
Guest Blogger: Someone In USA