Monday 11 March 2013

Oh, they're coming for you lads.

Simon, Phil, Dean and Harry all work.

Simon and Harry work together at a debt agency. They have to meet punishing targets, but the incentives are quite good and there's always overtime.

Simon, 24, is married with two small children. He's a grafter, does well, hit's his targets. Provides for his young family

Harry, 21 does his job, but has none of the pressures that Simon has. He plays rugby at weekends and spends every week of annual leave in Ibiza or Faliraki.

Phil works on the production line at a big Pharma company. The H&S laws, targets and ever demanding hunger of the production line make the job stressful, but his hourly rate beats everything his friends get. This massive, multinational company doesn't take people on any more. All of Phil's colleagues are on agency contracts, he doesn't remember anyone ever getting a permanent job.

Dean works for a Supermarket chain. Well, actually he works for 2 because neither take people for more than 16 hours and more. This gives Dean even fewer employment rights than the other 3, but he's 20 and lives with his Mum and Dad, so he never considers it. He rides his bike to both jobs to save a bit of cash.

"Benefits" are things scroungers claim. Lazy people who don't work like they do. Don't have to put up with the insulting boss or the gruelling early shift starts.

But it's not just those out of work who've been cheated. Not nearly. Oh sure, there are really no sickness benefits LEFT in the UK, but that's OK, because Simon, Harry, Dean and Phil are young and healthy and fit. So far, they haven't come across the Great Sickness Swindle.

It goes like this. :

Your Employer now has a set of rules

-Thou Shalt Not Take Time off work Ever.
-Thou Shalt not be away from your desk/line/station Ever.
-Thou Shalt Not Be Late
-Thou Shalt Not Be Ill or Have any Accidents

Now, Simon, Harry, Phil and Dean aren't that unlucky - not even averagely unlucky really. But they ARE all vulnerable workers. And as such, the companies that employ them, pretty much treat them how they like.

Simon simply got the real flu that was going around and a few months later, got salmonella from a curry night.

He missed targets in two months out of 7. The company put him on a stage 3 disciplinary ( the highest) One more day sick that year and he'd be fired. A few weeks later, his wife was sick with the flu too and Simon had to take a day off to arrange childcare and look after them all. He lost his job.

Harry fractured his pelvis playing rugby one weekend. He was laid up for 3 months and his company said they couldn't keep his position open.

Dean walked out of his second job one evening to find his bike mangled to a pile of twisted metal, run over by a hasty shopper. He couldn't afford another so his Dad started dropping him to work. On the fourth time his Dad got him there late (he was never late on his bike in three years) they "let him go," just like that.

Phil's Big Pharma company aren't doing too well through the downturn. They've cut back on the particular products Phil makes on his line. Now he only gets work when the company say, held in a pattern with 35 people for 23 jobs, waiting every night to see if he's one of the guys who gets a call.

But when they needed help, there was nothing left any more. Harry couldn't claim sickness benefits while his pelvis healed, he couldn't even apply for the first three months. 

Simon got no help with his new mortgage or his new children or his new wife. He went out every day armed with CVs but couldn't get another job. There were 100 kids fresh out of school who were younger and cheaper than Simon. 

Phil couldn't earn enough to pay his rent, but he didn't qualify for any housing benefit or income support because he managed to scrape together the few hours that he did. Because he kept working, kept "doing the right thing" 

Dean got depression. He lost all his confidence, feared another company that would "just let him go" however hard he worked, however far he cycled. He couldn't get any treatment from his GP - the wait for counselling was months. He drifted further and further down. But he can't get ESA (Employment Support Allowance or sickness benefits) either. He had an assessment but they concluded he was "too well dressed to be depressed" and said he didn't qualify. He's stuck at home with his Mum and Dad and none of the access to job support and healthcare he needs. 

THIS is why #ESAendgame matters to everyone. Your companies will rarely support you if you fall any longer. Especially if you're young. The state will no longer support you if you fall - and the fall can be as simple as a few months of not great luck - you'll find there's no legal aid if you are treated unfairly when you try to claim support, no income while you wait to hear if you can appeal. No income for the first three months. No mortgage relief payments, no "dole".

If things are more serious than for our boys, if you find yourself permanently disabled or caring for someone you love full time, you will be horrified by the skeleton of support left - if you manage to secure any at all.

We have an unpredictable labour market with high unemployment and little demand for workers. It's a buyers market. We have too many part time jobs with few employment rights and wages have been stagnating for years. Sickness procedures have been tightened to an utterly illogical degree and most of the safety nets have been removed - Good Lord, George Osborne even wanted to buy what employment rights you had left!! Something aimed at young men just like our Harry and Phil, Dean and Simon.

Having an efficient, functioning, fair sickness benefit system is a vital building block of a civilised society. Without one we step back 100 years. It matters to EVERYONE that we have one that works for the day your luck might change. Just like Karen


  1. Hi sue, I so agree with this. It looks like we are going back to the Victorian days

  2. My son has been the victim of these unscrupulous employers! He suffered a relationship breakdown and had to move house and county - he came home. There's little work available in Devon and he took what he could, a job in a 99p Stores branch.

    At first it was great, 5 days a week, regular pay. He got a flat... and then it changed, he was off sick for two days, boss was fine, understanding even, but then he would find he wasn't on the rota, or he'd be on the bus into work (at the cost of 4 return) and they'd send him a text message saying he wasn't needed that day. Once he was actually in store signing in when the text arrived.

    Now most employees would 'kick off' after all he had a contract? Well he did, but it was a ZERO hours contract, he'd signed a contract which basically gave the employer the right to treat the staf like sh*t.

    He wasn't alone, many of his colleagues found themselves at the mercy of this fickle and unpleasant company. It's affects not only the employee's wallet, but their home, confidence and self-esteem..

    1. I think this is what the government want people who are to scared to say or do anything other than what they are told.
      It's time this coalition remembers that they serve the people not the other way round
      Ian Duncan Smith once said "never underestimate the power of a quiet man" we'll Mr IDS don't you underestimate the power of the people. The time will come when you are held accountable for all the suffering you have put on sick and disabled people.

  3. I remember when I first came to the UK, my then-husband thought I just had a "poor work ethic" when I was fired for being too ill in the US. He insisted in the UK that companies had a loyalty to their employees, just as employees had to their company. Companies would bend over backwards to be accommodating, and would find ways to keep people in jobs. However, he started working for IBM and I told him immediately off the bat that he was now working for a US based company, and he was now just a cog in a wheel. I also said "You wait, the UK will adopt the exact same view as in the States - if the cog breaks, it gets another cog, end of." It was an eye-opener for him when he became depressed and was no longer considered for the "fast track" of coding even though he was brilliant at his work, one of the youngest people in his office.

    It's an important lesson which people need to get clued up about: you are all just cogs now. No more loyalty, no more being treated like a human being. "Keep your head down, stiff upper lip, don't make noise" is all very well, but it makes people docile, weak and willing to just roll over for a paycheque. Which, of course, is exactly what companies want. I'm always amazed at the definition of 'pride' - the I'm All Right Jack isn't actually a joke or satire, it's now considered an aspiration. And 1984 was never meant to be a schematic, either.


  4. Another great blog, Sue!
    It is becoming clearer & clearer that all this Government are interested in is creating a potential workforce who live in fear. If you (really) can work but are unemployed, they have you jumping through hops to keep what little benefits you have. If you are working in low paid/part-time jobs you have few if any rights & live in fear of losing what little you have. Worse still, the disabled/chronic sick, who live in fear of the "brown envelope" from ATOS. Then they wonder why there is an increase in people suffering from anxiety & depression...
    If you aren't already living in fear yet, you should be, because they are out to get you!

  5. A very well sketched portrait of the remains of the 'social security' that will one day fail us all if we do not act now. Thank you Sue,

  6. This is so accurate, as it really can happen to anyone....I assure you accidents at work happen.
    It used to be that we paid a thing called National Insurance, which was there for the hard times......I am not so sure now, except that the hard times will be harder, and far far worse!

  7. And every single one of these problems is the unintended consequence of decades of 'caring' socialism.

  8. This is spot on. People have the "it won't afect me" mentality. It will! At some point it will, and you'll wish you'd sat up and taken notice while your support was being carefully taken away.

  9. How do you figure that? Given that the purpose of socialism is to protect the people from precisely this profit driven uncaring exploitation. This is capitalism in its purest form and only the utterly deluded would blame the philosophy that created the safety net for the fact that the unscrupulous work ceaselessly to remove it.

  10. another great blog, something that i have been telling anyone that will listen. it can and does happen to anyone. i had my life all mapped out before i became chronically ill and work was a big feature of the life i had planned for myself, now i am one of the many who fear the brown dwp letters, constant reassessments for a condition that won't improve.

  11. So true Sue. A lot of people don't get it at all, if they are well and working they don't spend a second thinking about what would happen if they became ill.

  12. I could discuss why I no longer have a cutting edge job with a leading multinational, but the gagging clause stops me. Draw your own conclusions....

  13. yep you hit the nail on the head once again sue I wished it wasn't so but then our benefits taken away from us our job security taking away from us and our nhs sold off ready for Unum and such but we are not the social scroungers but they in the big house who pay no bills but until you the public wake up to our abuse by this corrupt government then its take away your rights and even thou ones working your welfaire rights when needed wont be there as they deemed you not unfit to work jeff3

  14. I was still on probation when my doctor told me I was unable to work full time any more because of the seizures I was having (I was a copywriter, so a job that could easily have been made more flexible). My company told me that they were too small to be able to adapt the job I was doing to two part-time positions, and let me go.

    I was young enough and vulnerable enough to just accept it, rather than fight, but the thought of trying to find a job despite my health fills me with dread and fear - not because I don't want to work; I do. I just can't see anyone taking on a mother with epilepsy and seizures when there are so many people out there "with more experience". Because we all know, it's not discrimination if they say the other person was "better suited"...

  15. I just read the story today about the man who wrestled that shark away from those kids in Australia, has lost his job because he was signed off with stress. According to the BBC news site, he and his wife had travelled to australia to stay with friends, he saw the shark, saved the children....and has now lost his job because "Whilst unfit to work you were well enough to travel to Australia and, according to recent news footage of yourself in Queensland, you allegedly grabbed a shark by the tail and narrowly missed being bitten by quickly jumping out of the way." I never realised that suffering from a mental health condition meant you were supposed to sit locked in your home. Or with any illness for that matter
    Now, you can call me stupid if you like, but in what way would a mental health condition cause a person to be unable to move quickly? OK, yeah if you are perhaps on sedating medication, or have co-morbid physical ailments. But I don't see how the actions he took "prove" he was actually not ill??? Perhaps one could argue (and I admit, I know only what I read on the BBC, I do not know the man or any further info about his condition) that a man suffering from stress may have higher levels of adrenaline or cortisol, or perhaps less care and concern for their own wellbeing allowing them to put themselves at such risk as wrestling a shark.
    But anyway, I thought the story was relevant in relation to your post.
    Keep up the good work.

  16. if you have a mental condition your supposed to stay house bound if your to receive benefits and that is the DWP rules not mine

    you need permission in writing to travel and loss of benefits whilst away

    you also have to be accompanied by a fit person at all times

    in other words if you have a mental condition you are constantly watched and as far as I'm aware that is standard procedure

    1. are you serious?? that is, for want of a better word, insane.
      Surely getting out and about, within your own limits, will be beneficial? Fresh air, daylight, social interactions, surely all better than being effectively forced to remain at home, with your illness and worries for company.
      And in that scenario, how is anyone meant to start getting involved in things again, like groups, activities, hobbies, volunteering, all steps towards rehabilitation? Am I missing something really obvious here?

  17. It's highly disrespectful for these spammers (and the rest) to invade this blog. can they be deleted?