The Holiday Conundrum

The strain was starting to tell. It was time to take a break from work. A week away would do it. Plenty of holiday entitlement left, just needs the manager to sign it.

I’d like to book a week’s holiday.

“Holiday! Ha! You don’t get holiday, only management get holiday. What you have is time off. Completely different thing all together. Have you arranged cover for the week? We can’t have the shifts short handed.”

Cover? But this is for dayshift, it’s the shift with the most people on it all ready.

“Now you know the rules, no time off without adequate cover. Either you get a colleague who is on a rest week to swap with you or you get someone from another shift to do your shift. Company can’t operate without the proper resources in place.”

But if I swap with someone then it’s not using up my holiday because I shall have to work a shift when I am off.

“Quite right too. Must have these shifts up to scratch. Can’t see why you people need to take time off anyway. You already get five days off a week.”

Yes, five days off a week, but that’s because we work two twenty-four hour shifts. We have to stop at that point or else we would exceed the average number of hours we are allowed to work in a week.

“Of course. The health of the workers is paramount in this company. We wouldn’t want to be seen to be working you to death now. But that doesn’t disguise the fact that you get five days off a week, and get a healthy shift allowance to do it. Never really understood that. Shift work is a lifestyle choice, nobody forced you to be a shiftworker did they?”

The shift allowance is for working unsocial hours.

“Do you know there are people working twelve hour days, seven days a week and for no extra money. That’s the commitment the company is looking for. Take young John as an example, worked 18 hour days for six months, got the project completed on time and under budget. Why the man even slept in the carpark to cut down on the time to get to the office. Excellent commitment. Just the sort of thing the company values. As I said to his widow at his funeral the Johns of this world are the future, he would have been a manager by the time he was 30 for sure. Nice woman, bit quiet though. Actually a bit scatty. Didn’t know where John had put his mobile. Didn’t seem too interested about it either. Told her it was company property and had to be recovered. Rather taken aback at the language she came out with, don’t know where they learn such words, luckily a couple of the other guests came along and took her away. Still haven’t got the mobile back, even sent a letter asking for it. Probably end up having to deduct it from her widows pension.”

But what about my time off?

“Get someone who’s not off that week”

But that will leave a gap on their shift.

“True it will. And we can’t have that can we so you’ll have to find a replacement for that shift. Can’t have undermanning on the shifts, it’s an important role you have there. Lifeblood of the company in your hands. Without the shifts the company would be in real trouble. That’s why we take so much care to ensure they are fully manned at all times.”

So I can have time off if I swap with someone, but however I must somehow fill the gap that person leaves in their shift. And fill the gap of the person that fills that gap. Eventually I shall have to fill one of the gaps so all that has happened is that we have shuffled the shifts and no one has used any holiday up.

“Right, you seem to have grasped the process. But don’t forget any entitlement not used is forfeited.”

It’s Catch 22, that’s what it is Catch 22.

“Actually it’s Catch 34, and where have you seen the Management Handbook to know about the Catches? They’re confidential you know.”

No. Catch 22. The novel by Joseph Heller.

“Don’t know him. Work in admin does he? Some good people in admin you know. Make good production managers admin people do. It’s the attention to the detail, getting the paperwork right. Makes for a smooth running company. Which reminds me, do I have your updated CV on file? Here you are demanding time off when you should be concentrating on the important things in life. I’ll expect it by close of business. And don’t slam the door on your way out.”


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