Dear Workforce Member: The Definition of “Acceptable Damage” Has Been Escalated

The news that the University of Vermont Health Network will force workers to use up their vacation and sick days if they get Covid is bad enough. What’s worse is the implicit message about the future of the disease.

“While the UVM Health Network understands that this is a change, as we enter the third year of the pandemic with a realization that COVID-19 will become endemic, UVMHN needed a policy that could be sustainable and offered for the long term,” UVM Health Network spokesperson Annie Mackin wrote in an email.

Worth noting that “this is a change” is a totally vanilla way of saying “we’re sticking it to all of you.” Beyond that, the message is that after pandemic transitions to endemic, the ravages of Covid-19 will be impactful enough to warrant a permanent change in workplace policy. Even when “pandemic” is nothing but a memory, a lot of workers will still get sick enough to use up their paid time off.

For those who believed that we were going to come out of this unscathed — that “endemic” meant our lives could return to normal — this is a chilling concept. Kinda provides a bit of unpleasant context for Gov. Phil Scott’s sweet-talk about the endemic phase. We might be wearing N95s and thinking twice about entering public spaces for a long, long time. Like, indefinitely.

That’s the bad news for all of us. It extra sucks if you work for UVMHN. I should note, however, that the network isn’t being completely heartless. if you get sick enough to use up all of those days, UVMHN will continue to pay you until you’re better enough to go back to work.

But for the remainder of the year, you will have no vacation or sick time. Hope you don’t get long Covid!

If I were an employee of UVMHN, I’d be polishing up the old resumé. Then again, since UVMHN controls most of the health care infrastructure in Vermont, getting out from under this Scroogian diktat probably means leaving the state. And if I lived elswehere, I’d sure as hell think twice before I accepted a job in the network.

Gosh. Here I thought we were trying to attract workforce, not drive them away.

Then again, maybe UVMHN won’t be an outlier. Maybe workers won’t have much of a choice.

The UVM Health Network began offering paid Covid-19 sick leave in 2020 after a federal policy required employees with 50 to 500 workers to do so. The federal government amended its policy in June, telling employers they could require workers to use up their time off before getting paid Covid-19 leave.

Ah, federal policy allows employers to force people to deplete their paid time off.

Let’s see if I’ve got this right. The generous time-off policy was imposed during the Trump administration, and employers have been enabled to screw their workers by the Biden administration.

So, this is the New Normal? Covid-19 will indefinitely continue to be a scourge on us all? Those who get sick will have to think of their convalescence as “vacation”? It seems so. Remember this the next time the governor says “pandemic to endemic.” Which he does frequently enough to make the phrase a dangerous trigger in a drinking game.


2 thoughts on “Dear Workforce Member: The Definition of “Acceptable Damage” Has Been Escalated

  1. walter carpenter

    “But for the remainder of the year, you will have no vacation or sick time. Hope you don’t get long Covid!”

    We should remember this when UVMMC goes before the GMCB next year to whine about the need to increase their fees.

  2. gunslingeress

    The more liberal the state, the more mandates and oppression the politicians and bosses force on their workers/employees. That goes for both private employers and the government.


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