Is fear a factor that can explain the high rate of employee absence in the health network?
According to the government, YES!
The government has said that there are nearly 11,000 employees absent in the health network. Of these, approximately 5,000 are said to be absent after having been infected with Coronavirus. Therefore, according to these numbers, around 6,000 employees are absent for other reasons.
Since the beginning of the crisis, the Premier has asked employees to return to work many times. “We need you,” he declared during one press conference.
This call for help, which appears legitimate, gives the impression that employees are absent by choice, apparently because they are scared to go back to work and be exposed to the virus.
But is that true? Are there really 6,000 employees sitting at home waiting for the crisis to be over?
It is important to remember that no employee can be absent from work without a valid reason (including fear), or else they could receive a fine under the Public Health Act, or even lose their job.
In reality, some of the employees absent from the health network include people who were already on disability leave or who went on disability leave after the pandemic started. Others are vulnerable workers, i.e., those who are pregnant, immunosuppressed or chronically ill. Lastly, there are workers who live in a household with a vulnerable person.
To say that healthcare professionals refuse to go to work because they are scared is insulting. Since the beginning of the crisis, they have shown up, despite the ministerial orders, despite their vacations being cancelled, despite having to do mandatory overtime and despite being transferred from place to place.