There is no altruism expected of companies; and I know that businesses are not charities. But the recent death of a friend and colleague and the way in which he passed got me to asking about how companies treat with age and sickness. When I worked at a media house, we created something called the “HELP Account”. This Account would be used in times of tragedy to help persons seeking general assistance, but it would also be used for members of staff who were having a difficult time. For example, one staff member was able to get a generous amount of money because her home, which was uninsured, had burnt to the ground.
But let me rewind so that you can understand the story of my now deceased friend. He was an employee of a company, which then made him redundant and proceeded to hire him as a consultant to do the same thing. (I think we can all see how fundamentally blatant that approach is when it comes to saving money, but I will continue in the interest of time). As a consultant, although overtime was completely at the discretion of the powers that be –and sometimes he was paid, while other times he wasn’t– the employee continued to work well into the night, ensuring that all clients were taken care of. His main focus was ensuring that the company’s image was positive and that clients were happy. He suffered a stroke and spent about a month away from work. Upon returning, he was asked to train other members of staff so that in his absence, there would be persons who could fill in for him, as it was chaos without him. He did so dutifully, even spending weekends training the junior members to ensure that they knew exactly what to do. When the head of the company was satisfied that the junior members were up to speed, she terminated his contract and sent him home.
This was a man who worked with said company for over thirty years. He was single and had no surviving family members. He would cook for his colleagues, invite them to his home, but he was known for being totally committed to that company. Naturally, when he was sent home, he was depressed. With no retirement income, with no pension benefits (as he was not yet entitled to them) and with no work to look forward to, he relied completely on his savings. No one came to visit; and the head of the company claimed to sympathise, but offered no financial help.
No one is saying that the company owed him anything, but this is a lesson with regard to how employees or contractors can be treated, no matter how committed they may be to a company. It is extremely important therefore, to ensure that if you are an employee, that you rely upon the protection of the law when it comes to what may be deemed unfair dismissal; and as a contractor, you must ensure that you have a clause within your contract which will protect you, should your contract be terminated before its duration.
Lots of love & good vibes, Veoma Ali
Veoma Ali is an Advertising Executive, with a Ph.D in Communications and a Masters in Business Administration.