Picture this: you’re ten minutes late for a meeting at work. You’re very sorry. You explain to your boss how the bus was on diversion and took half an hour longer than usual. Your boss has no time to discuss it and simply tells you that you won’t get paid this month. That’s it, not a fine, or some kind of reduction, but nothing, no pay, absolutely nothing.
Or this: you’re home based. You’re on flexible hours. Today you had an appointment to check in with the team. But just as you were leaving to go to the office, your daughter’s school called. She’s in the sick room, they say. She isn’t well and the school needs you to fetch her home right away. You phone your office and explain there’s an emergency and head off for the school instead. Next thing you know, your work has written you a letter telling you, you won’t get paid this month: nothing, no pay, absolutely nothing; four weeks without a penny. No investigation; no checking the facts; no phone call to the school to see if your story added up.
Of course, in the UK, today, this would never happen. There are laws to prevent it. If anyone tried to justify anything like this in the workplace, they would be told just how grossly disproportionate a sanction like losing a month’s pay would be. And the idea the punishment could be put into action on a first offence, no yellow card, so to speak, would make it all the more far-fetched. Far-fetched that is, if we are talking workplace and employment.
But foodbanks in the Trussell Trust network deal with this type of situation with welfare recipients every day. A pregnant women who was working part time (less than 16 hours per week) but was ‘not looking for a job hard enough’ and sanctioned and left hungry. A construction worker on a zero hours contract who was sanctioned because he found work that day and had to cancel his appointment. Just two of many examples.
Somehow, the nation has got itself in a place where draconian action like this happens to tens of thousands of citizens without most of the rest of us batting an eyelid! Not when they are in work, but when they are out of it.