Incentives against us

If you make $2000 a month, working about 20 days, your single work day is worth about $100 to the boss. If he dangles $100 in front of you and tells you that if you don’t take any sick leave for a month, you’ll be given $100 “incentive”. Most of us have 14 days of paid sick leave in a year so by right, the $2000 salary ‘budgeted’ for more than 1 day of sick leave. But it seemed like a win-win for you to continue working, getting paid, and for your boss to continue extracting value out of you in the meantime, especially since the value you can bring him is potentially more than $100/day.

But what if you’re sick, what if you are at risk of spreading illness to others in the company? What is the price you are actually paying? How about your family, and your colleagues? And the society? This time around, because of the pandemic, there was a law and it punished this man. It is deeply unfortunate for him, his family who needs him and the income. But if employers are doing these sort of things to their workers, and pitting their workers against their own health for the sake of work, should the law be stopping them?

Laws are not the cure-all, and we’ve seen that countries with strong labour laws typically end up just discouraging paid workers, causing higher rates of unemployment. So we need to build a culture that rallies around the labour and staff, and frown upon such employer practices. We need a culture of helping one another so that such incentives have no claim on us.