Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Working benefits

There are a lot of people out there looking for jobs. In the current economy people are settling for "less" in the benefits packages. I suspect that will be the wave of the future.

At one time--way back when I was a young woman--benefits meant you were hired to work a standard forty hours a week and therefore you could count on a specific amount of money in your paycheck. When I started working, I was paid once a month and received the princessly sum of two hundred dollars (take home). That was considered a decent wage for a beginning accounts payable clerk.

That was the sum total of my benefits. Insurance? No. Overtime? No. Vacation Pay? No. Sick Pay? No. If you didn't show up for work, you didn't get paid.

I'm not sure exactly when medical insurance appeared on the scene as a standard benefit. I know the hunk didn't have it as part of his wages when we had our first two children. I was leafing through their baby books recently. The hospital bills for the two of them were under four hundred dollars each--for five days. Back then, you actually stayed in the hospital when you had the baby. As opposed to now when they throw you out after twenty-four hours.

Natural be damned. With the first baby you don't know what the heck you're doing. With all the subsequent ones, you need the rest before going home to deal with the family.

I believe he finally had paid vacation sometime between the first two children and the third. Back then you had to work three or four years before you "earned" a week of vacation. We rented a cabin at Lake of the Ozarks and mostly hung out in the cabin because that was what we could afford. I recall a quick stop in Springfield, Illinois to visit Abraham Lincoln's home. That was it.

He didn't have sick days until he was there about five years. The company had an interesting policy. You could be out sick for fifteen or twenty days a year with no problem as long as it was one occurrence. They didn't count actual days. They counted occurrences. So if you were female and missed one day a month because of your period, that counted as twelve occurrences per year...not a good thing as you were only allowed three occurrences per year. It didn't matter that it was only twelve days. On the other hand, if you broke your leg and were out for three months, that was fine as long as it was one occurrence.

I was working full-time when I got pregnant with my first child. The first day I walked into work in a maternity top, my supervisor met with me and informed me I needed to give my two week notice as I couldn't work there once I was showing. He mumbled something about it being dangerous for the baby. What was I doing? Um, I was writing numbers in ledgers. This was well before the Age of Computers. Actually, I didn't even have a typewriter. Pencils and paper are very dangerous to developing fetuses.

I have a feeling that much will go back to the way it used to be in my young adulthood. Even wage levels are dropping. So maybe Ann up there in the photo has the right idea. Doggie bags could be the new benefit of the future.



  1. I worked for a company that had the occurrence policy in place. Kinda insane really.

  2. I think benefits came early here in Detroit--I can't remember my Dad not having them--insurance, vacation, etc. But with the unions so powerful, they eventually overplayed their hand until now, that's part of the reason Michigan is in such big economic trouble.

  3. I thought I had it good when I first began working. Paid vacation, overtime...and then I learned the first time I was sick, my boss was paying my sick leave. Since I was only suffering my fall allergies, I told him to just dock my pay; I'd use it if I caught the flu or something. But no...I look back now and wish I'd spent my 'big bucks' in a wiser manner. Lessons learned...

    Hubby gets paid two hours' show up time if the job site is rained out. If they turn on the machines, he gets paid for 4 hours. Anything past 4 hours is an automatic 8 hours, even if the rain arrives at one minute after the 4 hour mark.