He needs surgery but can­not take the time o≠

The Washington Post Sunday - - TAKING STOCK -

Reader: I’m a chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer at a medium-size non­profit. My boss and I have worked to­gether for many years and have al­ways had a great re­la­tion­ship. Over the past year I’ve been deal­ing with a health prob­lem, and my doc­tor is push­ing me to have surgery. I keep putting it off be­cause it could mean be­ing away from work for as long as three months. I can’t af­ford three weeks with­out a pay­check, let alone three months, and the amount of paid time off we can ac­cu­mu­late is lim­ited. My boss has urged me to have the surgery and says, “We’ll work some­thing out.” How can I get him to give me a more con­crete ex­pla­na­tion of how ex­actly we’d work this out? I think he doesn’t want to be backed into a corner, but am I just sup­posed to trust his in­tent?

Karla: You know what would make this whole sit­u­a­tion eas­ier? Short-term dis­abil­ity in­sur­ance. Many em­ploy­ers and a hand­ful of states use it to pro­vide in­come to work­ers tem­po­rar­ily dis­abled by ill­ness or in­jury un­re­lated to work, or to cover work­ers re­cov­er­ing from child­birth when parental leave isn’t avail­able. But since you don’t men­tion it, I as­sume it’s not avail­able to you.

I want to be­lieve your boss wants only the best out­come for you. But you need to “work some­thing out” with him be­fore you go un­der the knife so you don’t spend your re­cov­ery wor­ry­ing about fi­nances, and he doesn’t worry about you tak­ing ad­van­tage of his pa­tience. Pre­sent him with some ideas, and let him tell you the min­i­mum he can com­mit to. These could in­clude:

Let­ting you work from home once your doc­tor says it’s safe to do so.

Grant­ing you an ad­vance on your salary or al­low­ing you to take more paid leave than you’ve ac­cu­mu­lated (both of which you would have to earn back over time).

Ask­ing col­leagues to do­nate ex­cess paid-leave days through an anony­mous, vol­un­tary process.

If your boss isn’t will­ing to com­mit to any of those, you may have to re­sort to beg­ging fam­ily, friends and strangers for loans or do­na­tions, or wait­ing un­til you’ve built your sav­ings. Just re­mem­ber: The longer you have to wait for your surgery, the longer you may be out of com­mis­sion af­ter­ward.

Ide­ally, you can use this ex­pe­ri­ence — and, hello, your po­si­tion as COO — to push for for­mal paid-leave ben­e­fits (short-term dis­abil­ity cov­er­age or un­lim­ited sick leave bank­ing) for your en­tire or­ga­ni­za­tion. Al­though the fed­eral Fam­ily and Med­i­cal Leave Act pro­tects many work­ers’ jobs for up to 12 un­paid weeks, it would be nice if no one — in­side or out­side the C-suite — had to make bleak cal­cu­la­tions about whether un­paid re­cov­ery time is a lux­ury they can af­ford.

Thanks to Suzanne Goulden, di­rec­tor of to­tal re­wards and an­a­lyt­ics at the So­ci­ety for Hu­man Re­source Man­age­ment.

Send your work dra­mas and trau­mas to work.ad­vice.wapo@gmail.com.

You know what would make this whole sit­u­a­tion eas­ier? Short­term dis­abil­ity in­sur­ance.

Work Ad­vice KARLA L. MILLER

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