At the Royal Mail you are sometimes made to come into work even when you are sick or injured, on threat of dismissal. It’s called an ‘Attendance Procedure’. They monitor your attendance. If you are off work for sickness or injury too many times, or for too long, you are given a Stage 1 warning. If you go over the limit a second time while still on the Stage 1 warning, you are given a Stage 2 warning. If you exceed the limit for a third time you are given a Stage 3 warning and threatened with dismissal. The limits are: either three absences in the space of a year, or one absence of three weeks or more.

This is whether or not you are actually ill. All illnesses are assumed to be genuine, but all illnesses, no matter how desperate, also count towards your warnings. They don’t take any mitigating circumstances into account. They don’t take the severity of the illness into account. So, say you get swine flu while on a Stage 2 warning, then you would have to come into work, spreading the illness to all of your colleagues, or risk the possibility of getting a Stage 3 warning and a possible dismissal.

Or you could be in hospital having a hernia operation – I know someone this happened to – and when you get out they will still haul you into the office for a reprimand. The Royal Mail would rather the whole workforce got swine flu than take the chance that one of your absences might be due to a hangover.