Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Say No to Late Sittings at Work

Background
This is something I feel very strongly about. I have been working in the corporate world for over ten years now. Mostly it runs on a 9-6 model including an hour’s lunch break. These are intense 40 hours a week which comes to over 2080 hours a year. This sort of a lifestyle needs dedication, motivation and a lot of determination. Eight consecutive hours a day are hell of a lot for a human brain to operate almost non-stop. Research has proven that it is humanly impossible for a human brain to function for any more time than this.



Don't settle for less
I hear of countless workplaces here where staff is expected to work even after their shift ends. Sadly, many employees are not even alarmed by this lifestyle. They are like robots. They are sacrificing their family and social commitments for nothing. They are not even paid overtime. Many of the staff justify it by saying it’s their job requirement or that there is work which they need to complete.

I get extremely shocked when I hear some say. ‘Oh, we don’t really have much to do at home, so we don’t mind spending evening time at work too’. I’m like ‘Don’t you have a life?’ A corporate life should never define who you are! We are stuck from 9 am to 6 pm helping out others achieve their dreams. This itself is ironic enough. Why would someone want to spend any more time in office? If you are a workaholic, invest your time in setting up your own side-business and work for that. Know that the day you resign or are fired, your absence will make absolutely no difference to the company. Your replacement will be hired in seconds. If you have nothing better to do, just go out, sit in a garden and breathe in the fresh air. No sane human being would prefer confinement to freedom.


I have friends working in big multinationals like Nestle, Shell and Coca Cola and unfortunately they are also trapped in this sort of a dilemma. Whenever we make an evening meetup plan, invariably one of them is late and says she was stuck at work and is coming straight from there. I have had detailed discussions with them and they cover it up by saying, ‘There was some extra work and we had to complete that’. This sort of a reply either shows desperation or ignorance. Know that no employee should take this from their job no matter how desperate they are for it. Have some self-esteem people! Don’t settle for less. Know your worth.

It is not even about loving your job. I love my job like anything but I also love leaving office every single day at 6 pm so I can feel alive and enjoy at the Tennis courts. That’s where I can breathe in the fresh air and see the birds fly.  I can’t wait to reach home, meet my folks and tell them about my day and hear about theirs.

Why stay back at work?
  • It shows that you have been unproductive all day as you couldn’t complete tasks in 8 long hours
  • The office is short of staff - It needs to hire more people
  • Trying to show how much you work by sending emails after work hours - In reality it proves inefficiency and lack of management skills
  • The boss comes to office late and stays in office late – That’s his problem. You mind your own shift
  • The boss gives work to employee towards the end of the day - Pure mismanagement


How I was mistreated
I was working in JD Sports & Fashion, one of the biggest Sports chains in the UK. I worked in the Oxford Street branch for over a year which was really far from my house. So I asked for a transfer to the branch closer to my house in Stratford, London.

How I suffered
Little did I know that this branch manager Carmela (Filipino married to a Pakistani) was a very corrupt person. I realized after 2-3 days that I have come to the wrong place. Every day after our 9 hour shift ended, she used to lock the doors and make all the staff work 2-3 hours extra without any overtime. She didn’t employ sweepers and made us do their jobs too. She was doing well in her career as she was showing big bosses that she’s performing well within budget constraints. All the staff that she had employed were either students or illegal sort of immigrants who were scared to speak up for their rights.

Even in Ramadan, we were not allowed to break our fast and had to continue working. I used to stuff crisps in my jeans pocket and break my fast with it after our shift had ended. I was in a fix and I had no life at all. I had a billion chores at home after getting home and I was literally at work for 12 hours every day. I couldn’t afford to lose my job either but I had to stop this. This wasn’t right! So I went to Carmela’s office and politely spoke to her about this matter. I said I have been noticing that we’re being made to stay back even after our shift ends for hours. I asked her that this is really upsetting me. She spoke nicely the first time and said ‘Oh darling! Don’t worry about it. It’s just that we have some extra work load these days. I promise it’ll get better.’

I asked her if we will be paid for these hours. She didn’t reply to that but assured me that it will be back to normal soon. She was lying. Nothing changed. When I spoke about this to my colleagues, most of them stopped me (except an African guy who was angry with Carmela too about this) and said if I say something, I would lose my job. They didn’t really seem to care. They had a miserable life too but they had accepted it as their fate. I told them what she’s doing is unfair. They agreed but said we have to accept this as there’s no choice.


How I fought back
After a week or two, I thought I should talk to Carmela again. I walked up to her office and said that in reference to what we discussed in our last meeting, we are still working late hours. I was promised that it will get better but unfortunately it’s the same or getting worse. She got furious suddenly and spoke to me in an offensive manner. She said if you don’t like working here, you can go back from where you came. I had gone through so much hassle to get a transfer and I was finally saving 3 hours of traveling a day. I couldn’t go back nor could I afford to lose my job!  I was heartbroken.

I had my personal diary where I kept recording the time I checked in and out of the shop floor. At home I started my research on Labor laws. I found out that according to the National Minimum Wage law, no organization is legally allowed to pay a person less than this amount. At that point, the national hourly minimum wage was £5.80 which was exactly what we were getting. I knew I had a case.

Since I had worked for the head office branch in Oxford Street, I knew who our HR manager was. So I booked an appointment with her on my off day and had a highly confidential meeting with her. I told Rachel that ‘I am telling you these details in confidence. I do not want you to tell Carmela under any circumstances that I am the one reporting all this or my job will be under serious threat.’ She assured me that my name will not be taken and I don’t have to worry. Rachel seemed very concerned and thanked me for bringing this issue to light.
When I went back to office, Carmella started being even more horrible to me. She yelled at me in the morning briefing in front of everyone. I was so humiliated that tears started rolling down my eyes. I had to walk out towards the washroom. I splashed water on to my face.

Carmella was still yelling from there in front of everyone to make me an example. She didn’t like the fact that I spoke up for my rights. I stared at my red eyes and nose in the mirror and whispered to myself ‘No More! I will not cry when I’m furious. I will be strong and I will continue to stick up for my rights.’


That’s the day I recall often in my life. From that day onward, I stopped crying when I’m bullied and I started speaking up for myself. I refuse to be treated like a doormat. Now I say no to late sittings! That day onward, Carmela was at her worst behavior with me. She would literally call me names, yell at me and shout at me. She would also ask me to carry the heaviest boxes from stock rooms and give me the most difficult tasks on the shop floor. She would have the nastiest smirk on her face after assigning me such difficult tasks as she could clearly see the size of my arms and legs. She knew I couldn’t possibly carry so much weight. I had no choice but to do what she said.

I knew I had to do something quick. I felt betrayed as Rachel obviously let Carmela know it was me who complained. I could see the company’s HR was useless and nothing would be done regarding this issue. I thought I should aim higher and contact National Minimum Wage Community. I looked up for their phone numbers and started talking to them on the phone. I called anonymously and discussed this issue with their representative. They needed a lot of details from me. I told them I will provide them all the information they need. I had everything recorded including names of all colleagues and management.

In the meantime, a lot happened. Once while doing standards on the shop floor in Ramadan, I fell off the ladder from 4 feet. My head hit against the floor and ligaments near my hip bone got damaged severely. Carmela started being a little less nasty to me as she was scared I would claim against company. I had to go on sick leave for 1-2 weeks. The government sick leave is very less. Instead of 200 pounds/week, I was now getting 60 pounds/week. In spite of my injury, I had to get back to work very soon after the fall as the sick pay wasn’t enough to cover household expenses.

I had a friend in Liverpool Street Station branch of the store. She heard I was having the worst time in this branch and she suggested I should move to her branch. I talked to Carmela about the transfer and she seemed happy letting me go. There was really no point working in an office closer to my house if I couldn’t get home after shift ended. So I got another transfer.
 Related image
In the meantime, National Minimum Wage carried out their research after getting all details from me. Carmela had done hanky panky with CCTV recordings and had even fiddled around with logging in and logging out timesheet. I was determined and told them that my record is 100% correct. I told them she has obviously changed the details to save face. The conclusion of their research was that they realized Carmela had been illegally treating the employees. Carmela was fired from the company. All the employees along with me were given reimbursement of 80% of all the overtime hours we had worked for nothing! They couldn’t give 20% as Carmela had removed all record/proof. Later when I visited the store, my ex-colleagues who had asked me to stay quiet and not speak up thanked me. They all got reimbursed and were over the moon with the money and the change of branch manager. That was how I played my role in saving my colleagues and myself from all the agony.   

Current Scenerio
During my job interview with country manager of my current job, I had a list of questions that I wanted to ask. I went prepared for the interview. I didn’t know too much about the company at that time but I knew exactly what I wanted. I asked if they have any culture of late sittings in the office? His answer was that normally no one stays back and that it happens very rarely if there is work. My answer was that I am completely against this and I think it’s very wrong. I think that a person is not productive at all if he has to stay back after 8 hours for some more work. I told him clearly that I start at 9 and I leave office exactly at 6 every day. These are my beliefs and I will stick to them. He agreed that is how it should be and I was offered this job. Mashallah I am very happy here. Every day at 5:45 pm, I go to the office washroom and change into my sports gear. I leave at sharp 6 pm and head straight to the tennis courts.



What I learned
I think it is not only the bosses to be blamed. It is us. We need to stop this. My advice is that one should make this point clear from your very first day at work. Let your bosses know this is unacceptable for you and that you will not stay back after your shift. No matter how difficult or tough your job is, 9 hours (including one hour lunch break) are more than enough for any rocket-science and you do not need to work a minute more than this. In case you are being held back, fight for your rights. Find out the Labor Laws in your country and don’t let the criminals get away. This life is too precious and so is our family.

Let’s give our time and energy to those that really matter to us. For most of us, the reason we earn is for our family. If they can’t have our time, what’s the point of all the money? Think over it. It’s worth it.

Would love to know what your beliefs are about this. Are you forced to stay back in office after your shift ends or do you leave on time every day? I would love to know. All the best!


5 comments:

  1. I just started working. So this came at the right time. I agree with you on this. I have seen my husband work late sometimes. He works in Payroll so everyone's salary going on time depends on the payroll department. But I have seen him work late to cover up other people's mistakes.

    I am completely against working late as well. Unless it is an emergency like one in a month or something.

    ReplyDelete
  2. very well written Nadiya!! a much needed wonderful take on a very important issue..that most of us suffer from but choose to turn a blind eye and not even accept as an issue considering the competition and lack of employment opportunities here - leading to the managers exploiting us..we need to be strong and stand and speak up for the right - thanks for pointing it out and the encouragement..

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