Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Dubious Accounting

I haven't been posting as much lately because I'm starting to feel a bit burnt out. I'm not burnt out on posting, mind you, but a little burnt out on dealing with heaping piles of tasks that need to be done. Posting when I'm in this state is rather difficult because I don't have much energy to accomplish more than what I'm already doing.

Last week, I did a fair bit of freelance work on top of my private teaching load (which is up to full capacity again after the holiday lull) and my husband has been sick all week. He's been a trooper and worked anyway but it's really left him worn out and prolonged his cold. For those who don't teach, teaching is one of the hardest jobs to do when you have a cold because it strains your throat constantly and requires you to project yourself at least somewhat energetically all the time. It also makes all the disgusting little maintenance things (blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, etc.) you have to do to alleviate your discomfort much more difficult to do because you've got an audience. What's worse, you've got an audience which is part of a culture that doesn't condone nose-blowing as a socially acceptable behavior.

Since my husband has been working 9-hour days while sick, he's not been able to help out much and requires more care than usual. Some people might wonder why he doesn't just call in sick. There are a couple of reasons for that but one of them is that he doesn't get paid if he doesn't work. For teachers in Japan, I don't believe there is any such thing as a "sick day" though I guess you can take one of your 10 legally-mandated vacation days off as a sick day if you haven't already taken them as vacation days.

In my husband's case, he has no vacation days left but also his paid time off is calculated in a dubious fashion so he gets paid less for taking a day off than he would if he worked that day. This is something that my company started doing the last year of my employment but I think is really sneaky and unethical. My husband's salary is variable based on the number of hours he puts in each month. He does not work for a set salary. If he takes a day off, his school divides the previous month's salary by the number of days in the month and pays him 1/30 or 1/31 of the previous month's salary.

Of course, no one works 30 or 31 days a month so this is a lower wage than one actually makes on a daily basis. The fair thing to do is divide the previous month's salary by the number of working days in the month (generally 21-23). This accounting technique allows his company to pay him about $50 less per day taken off.

When my former company instituted this practice after years of calculating it fairly, they just said that's the way they do it as if that was an explanation for an accounting technique which is clearly designed to screw the employee over. I don't think this is a Japanese practice though. In fact, I'm nearly certain other companies in the U.S. do it as well. Companies do this petty little accounting trick to cheat employees out of their fair wages and then wonder why they, in turn, do petty little things like steal office supplies, milk breaks for a few extra minutes or slack on the job when the boss isn't around. You reap what you sow.

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