Monday 8 March 2010

Working up the sick for rules sake

Not us, it’s them

What I never expected was to be caught in a ping-pong game between social security departments but that seems to be the case.

On Friday, the unemployment benefit office called to ask if I was available for work or still sick; well, whilst I am quite available for work, the fact is there is a recuperation time after chemotherapy that means I might not really be able to work at the moment and hence, I would still be on sick leave.

So, because I am on sick leave I can only apply for sickness benefit and not unemployment benefit – the letter I received the day after advised me to call in and register as sick.

Double Dutch or quits

I called the number this morning and typed in my Social Security Number which allowed me to be connected to an agent, I explained that my Dutch was not that fluent and asked if we could converse in English, she sternly refused and rained a torrent of Dutch down the phone.

As I tried to slow her down, the conversation descended into confusion and finally I said in English, I will end the conversation and get someone who speaks Dutch to help make the call – she very well understood that sentence and we stopped.

Thankfully, my other neighbour was in and I explained my situation to him regarding when I was unemployed, when I fell ill and all the other aspects of dates, registrations and their so-called rules.

Working the sick seeking work

Another call was made where I explained that I had a friend with me to help and a long conversation ensued about employment, sickness, eligibility and whatever else.

Now the technicality is because I fell ill after I became unemployed, I have to be paid out of the unemployment benefit funds rather than the sickness benefit funds – how that was confused by all the other people I have talked to about this situation escapes me.

Apparently, the unemployment funds are loath to pay up because I am registered as sick and the sickness funds are loath to pay up because I fell ill after I was unemployed.

The rules

In 24 hours, I should get another call from the unemployment benefit office where I really do not know what will happen.

Office automation is one of my areas of expertise and one would really expect that these matters have a protocol for handling the issues internally without having to bounce the system off the claimant – they have all the information.

As the conversation closed, I asked the agent how she felt about introducing the stress of keeping abreast of their system on a person who calls to register as sick – without saying it, I realised the famous Dutch cop-out for the establishment and bureaucracy, “The rules are the rules”

I just hope this ping-pong game ends with a speedy resolution rather than this passing of the buck, the situation is very clear and at the end the fault is because I did not resort welfare funds as a first option; as a last resort, the matter has become a bit more complicated.

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