Pato grapples with brutal reality of drivers absenteeism
The day was panning out well and there was no cause for alarm when Mercy Laito, the Senior Transport Officer, entered Pato’s office, but immediately she opened her mouth, he smelt trouble. “Driver Jonathan Rogesa has been habitually absent from work for days on different occasions without permission.
When I asked him for an explanation, he claimed that personal problems had heavily weighed upon him.” She continued that on all occasions, he apologised and promised not to repeat the offence, only to repeat the offense a few days.
One of the drivers had secretly informed Mercy that on days Jonathan was absent, he was seen driving a delivery van of Smartlogics, a competitor. Jonathan boasted to other drivers about the side hustle.
It earned him a higher daily driving rate compared to that of Trulogic, he was heard saying. “Do you have evidence that he actually worked for Smartlogics on the days of his absence?” Pato thindered.
Lack of tangible evidence
Mercy, did not have any tangible evidence apart from one driver’s witness account. Therefore from his experience with such cases, Pato advised Mercy: “Next time when he absents himself, lay whichever trap to catch him red-handed driving a Smartlogics delivery van.” Pato summoned Jonathan to his office after lunch.
He told him: “Mercy reported to me that you have on separate days been absent from duty but spotted driving a Smartlogic delivery van. Instead of engaging in such hide and seek games, why don’t you leave Trulogic for our enemy company?” Jonathan explained that he was solving serious family problems on the days he was away.
Since there was no provision in the HR manual that covered his nature of absence, he decided to abscond duty and provide an explanation on returning to work. A visibly angry Pato retorted to Jonathan: “Decide whether you want to work at Trulogic or join Smartlogic on a full-time basis. If you don’t decide on your own, I will do so for you one of these days.”
Around 4pm, Driver Sophia Terema went to Pato’s office to obtain permission to be away from work for three days. Her aging mother was unwell in the village and needed specialised treatment in Nairobi. Pato naturally empathised with Sophia and granted her leave of absence.
But as she left his office, he wondered how Sophia’s work shall be rescheduled whenever she wanted to be away to care for her ailing mother. He planned to check with the HR office on what can be done for employees who also play the role of caregivers.
At the back of his mind, he could picture driver Lameck Gwabiki had become notorious in seeking permission to attend burials of his “close” family members. He always claimed that they had succumbed to the stubborn Covid-19.
Pato asked HR to provide him with Lameck’s personal file to verify his family members against the names of the people he claimed had passed away. When the names did not tally, Pato wrote a show cause letter to Lameck on giving incorrect information about his “immediate” family members.
While waiting for the reply, Pato wanted HR to clarify to whom and for which incidents compassionate leave was applicable. One of the drivers’ supervisors, Mabel Tobaro, had been searching for greener pastures for over two years.
She missed out on the last promotions due to stiff competition from her more eligible colleagues. To attend an interview on Friday morning, she had obtained a two day sick off from a clinic near where she resides. Pato had approved the off but it caused work disruptions which annoyed affected drivers.
On the same Friday at about 10 o’clock, Pato went for an abrupt meeting at Keyobe Tradewinds. He was surprised to find Mabel in the company’s reception waiting for her interview time.
On Monday morning the following week, Pato called Mabel to his office to explain where she was on Friday, the second day of her sick leave. She was frank, and on remembering that he had done something similar before his promotion to head the logistics department, Pato gave Mabel a verbal warning.
After taking his lunch, Pato went for a scheduled meeting with Phyllice Nsao, the HR Manager, in her office.
“Our drivers’ absenteeism has got into my nerves. It disrupts work schedules and leads to delays in luggage deliveries to our clients. How can we tackle the irregular absenteeism in my department?” he lamented as he narrated his ordeal to her.
Based on the cases that Pato had narrated, Phyllice said: “Our absenteeism policy is clear. If the drivers decide to disobey existing rules and regulations, we need to apply our disciplinary procedures.” Pato interjected: “But the policy is silent on an employee who works partly with our competitor.
It neither captures the off days for care giving employees. It is not specific on employees who seek permission to attend burials of close relatives. Also, it has failed to make obtaining fake sick offs a work offence.” Overwhelmed with the list of absenteeism reasons, Phyllice responded: “It is a question of interpreting the policy for some matters.
If you have evidence on the driver who was working elsewhere, table the evidence for disciplinary action. For the driver who had become a professional mourner, the records showed that he was cheating you. A show cause letter on the offence would sort that one out.
Phyllice continued on the caregiving case: “This is a matter that needs to be addressed with understanding so that the duties of such an employee can be rearranged. For instance, she can report to work late and leave late or vice versa.
The other option is to assign her duties near where she resides in order to combine work and caregiving. If the employee was not a driver, Phyllice would have recommended that she works from home. But CEO Ben was yet to accept this arrangement which many believed would be part of the future of work.
Closing the meeting, Pato asked Phyllice: “What about sick offs that are not genuine?” Indeed, some uncouth employees go to whatever lengths to release themselves from work.
To allay Pato’s concern, Phyllice replied: “Plans are underway to appoint a medical practitioner whose advice would be relied on for employees’ real or fabricated ailments.” Pato left the meeting with fingers tingling to quickly tap his desktop keyboard and issue show cause letters to the offending employees.
The writer is HRD Consultant and Author of Transition into Retirement,