This paper examines the role of sick leave in constructing the identity of a good worker. The setting is a public funded New Zealand university. Within a qualitative research design, interviews were conducted with a range of employees and managers about their use and management of sick leave. Sick leave entitlements, use, and management encompass moral discourses that impact upon worker identity. Normalising discourses generated by compliance to bureaucratic demands and norms of productivity and performance in the neoliberalised workplace are constitutive to the construct of the good employee as reflected by the appropriate use and recording of sick leave. Conversely, the respectful, authentic, compliant and productive worker is constitutive of its opposite – the difficult employee. The construct of the difficult employee positions conformity and self-management of sick leave as strong moral imperatives. Managers were generally supportive of workers’ efforts to self-manage sick leave with consideration for university commitments and were flexible around work hours, but this would in turn position them as deviant to institutional pathways of managing sick leave, with tensions between humanistic and authoritarian management.
15 December 2020
'‘There is no sick leave at the university’: how sick leave constructs the good employee' by Chrystal Jaye, Geoff Noller, Lauralie Richard and Claire Amos in (2020) Anthropology and Medicine comments