“My son has been in close contact with a positive for coronavirus.” This was the explanation given by a man who worked in a gardening company to request a 10-day absence from work. The notification came just after the storm Filomena, in a At a time when landscaping work was being more in demand to clear streets and parks, so the company suspected the veracity of his case and requested that a private detective confirm his doubts.
The surveillance and monitoring carried out by the firm Indicios Detectives showed that, far from staying in a quarantine house, the man had taken advantage of the days of leave to carry out gardening work on his own, using the van and the company’s materials without giving notice of it.
“With the pandemic, we have had several cases of people who, as they do not need proof to request the discharge, say that they have had direct contact with a positive for coronavirus and that is why they cannot go to work,” explains Alicia Lerma, director of the Indices agency.
The year of the pandemic has skyrocketed the absenteeism rate to 7.1%, the highest mark in the last 20 years, according to the X Report on Healthy Company and Absenteeism Management Posted this week by Adecco. The figure translates into some 1,700 million lost working hours that have cost 36,900 million euros to the Spanish economy, 3.3% of GDP.
The figure is swollen, clarifies Javier Blasco, director of the Adecco Group Institute: three-quarters of the increase is explained by the increase in common diseases, such as Covid. The rest corresponds to licenses such as preventive isolation due to close contact with an infected person, a justification that caused 10 hours of absenteeism per worker in 2020.
Although the Ministry of Health recommended these types of measures to reduce the increase in infections, some employees took the opportunity to avoid working, which has led companies and mutuals to hire detectives to verify their situation.
Covid as an excuse
“With the Covid cases, it has been very difficult to show that workers really need to be on sick leave,” explains a doctor from a mutual insurance company, a collaborator with Social Security, who has preferred to remain anonymous and who assures that those infected have also taken advantage sickness to extend sick leave for up to six months.
This is the case of a 43-year-old woman who had been diagnosed with coronavirus in October. When the mutual made the first proposals for discharge in December, the woman and her family doctor evaded requests for new tests and documents to verify the current state of health.
It was not until April, when the mutual was going to hire a private detective to verify the real condition of the woman, when a co-worker let the doctors know that she had been enrolled in yoga and yoga classes for months. spinning and that the week before they had met on a mutual friend’s birthday.
“We have seen people buying PCR results, both positive and negative, for just 50 euros”Says Detective Lerma, who affirms that the coronavirus has been added to the list of justifications of some wage earners to defraud Social Security.
Other explanations have also been included, such as the increase in anxiety derived from the pandemic, something more difficult to verify according to Lerma. “In these cases we seek to verify that the worker does not consume alcohol if he goes out partying, since it would be counterproductive with common medications to treat anxiety, or that he is not employed in another company while he receives the leave of the first job”.
Before the Covid, Lerma was chasing another labor pandemic: lumbar pain. “Once we discovered that a commercial who claimed that he was unable to work due to a lumbar injury, led his normal life driving his car and motorcycle and even lifting sacks of feed,” he says.
Companies have expanded the use of private detectives to verify that employees comply with their working hours with the new modality of remote work. According to detective Alicia Lerma, the control of teleworking is difficult because the employee is only obliged to connect, without having to demonstrate what he is doing during his working hours, but the suspicions of companies begin when the performance of the employee declines.
In two cases brought by the Indices agency, Lerma discovered that a worker used her working hours to go shopping with her friends. “Sometimes we do not understand why they do it, if they are not emergency activities,” he explains. However, he cites another case of a worker who broke her telework schedule because she was caring for her mother.