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  • OminousChris
  • Adventurer

    • 49

    • April 20, 2010, 10:13:25 am
    • Mokpo, South Korea
Denial of sick days?
« on: December 03, 2010, 08:29:12 am »
I work at a public high school and so far it's been the usual expected fare. I have very few complaints save one: I was approached about two months ago by my vice principal who proceeded to tell me that I was "not allowed" to use sick days, and that even if I was very sick I "must come to work." He told me that my principal was always nervous that I wouldn't show up for work. Now to be fair, I had to take a sick day back in my first month of work because of a GI infection, but that was back in March and it seems unfair to hold that over my head so much later after the fact. My contract explicitly states that I have ten sick days, and with the psychopathic weather in my town I am positive that I'll need to use at least one or two of those days. I don't want to rock the boat more than necessary, but I refuse to be bullied into coming into work if I have the flu. My instincts tell me to inform him that I can't help it if I get sick and remind him of my contract, but then again my instincts also tell me to take a sick day just to spite the principal, so my instincts clearly cannot be trusted. So my questions are: is this "sick day denial" normal? Is my vice principal just pulling the typical "Korean boss trying to intimidate the foreign teacher" moves? Has anyone else encountered this, and if so what did you do?


  • Koradian
  • Fanatical Supporter!

    • 443

    • October 08, 2010, 10:29:15 am
    • South Korea
Re: Denial of sick days?
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2010, 08:39:19 am »
Great topic!

The unwritten rule in Korea is you can only be sick on weekends and holidays.

Here is what I think is totally unfair... Too often employers hold our contracts over our heads and tell us that we have to this and we have to do that because it is written into out contract.

My suggestion: Vacation days are written into your contract so if you feel you need to use them then use them.


  • Olga
  • Veteran

    • 125

    • October 04, 2010, 12:21:08 pm
    • south korea
Re: Denial of sick days?
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2010, 08:44:16 am »
I recently had an incident like that in my school.  I had a mad case of bronchitis (ended up hooked to an IV for hours) and i called to take the day.  as much as my coteacher complained about me taking a sick day, my GEPIK contract does state i have 10 days...

and if i am sick, i intend on taking them.

Don't be bullied, hold your ground.

 :D


Re: Denial of sick days?
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2010, 08:49:01 am »
All contracts vary slightly, but you should be allowed to take your sick days. I have used one, and as long as I phone 30 minutes before I am supposed to be there, it's ok. I am sure nobody loves it, but it is accepted, as per the contract. I would not use vacations days when you are ill, as they are supposed to be in addition to your sick days.

In your situation, I wouldn't take one to spite the principal, but when/if the need arises I would simply phone, and tell them you are taking the day to recover at home. They won't physically drag you to the school. Then, if there is negative fall out, you can discuss it with a coordinator. In my contract (GEPIK), I can take 3 sick days before I need a doctor's note. I wouldn't rock the boat until you need to use it, but I wouldn't be bullied into coming to school when I'm actaully sick either.


  • katrine
  • Adventurer

    • 55

    • October 01, 2010, 06:13:42 am
    • Gwangju
Re: Denial of sick days?
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2010, 08:56:24 am »
My school has been okay with the sick days. I've used one, and my co-teacher called during lunch because some students wanted to come visit me, and make sure I wasn't dying or something. I said no because well when you've got the flu, you're not really up for entertaining.

The next day my co-teachers told me that I should apologize to the vice-principal and the principal for being absent the day before. I did so, and everything was fine. But to be fair, I've noticed many of the Korean teachers at my school take sick days during the week. At least at my school it's not uncommon.

I agree with everyone: hold your ground. It's in your contract. Korea has this nasty habit of wanting as much as possible and giving as little as possible. If you give into this, they're going to just want something else promised in your contract later on.


Re: Denial of sick days?
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2010, 09:01:23 am »
Another solution would be to tell them you'll be planning for classes at home that day and prepare something official-looking to show to the VP after you recover.  At my school, they are accustomed to foreigners using their sick days because they've had many foreign teachers before me, so they are forgiving when I need to stay home despite the commonly-accepted standard that Korean teachers come to work even when they're sick. 

I'm lucky to have flexible colleagues, I reckon.  :D


  • creeper1
  • Veteran

    • 126

    • September 09, 2010, 09:02:08 am
    • Hwaseong City
Re: Denial of sick days?
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2010, 09:04:55 am »
You go to school when you are sick. If you are really sick you will be sent to the "hospital" or excused to the nursing room. That's how it works here. But you ALWAYS come to work no matter what (unless you are already in the hospital and you can get a nurse to call them for you.)

That's how it works here. That's the culture. Adapt.


  • Koreak
  • Super Waygook

    • 405

    • November 13, 2010, 08:15:43 am
    • South Korea
Re: Denial of sick days?
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2010, 09:12:23 am »
I agree with Katrine, apologizing to the VP and the principal really swings things in your favour.  Another thing is to call the Principal, even if they don't speak English, explaining you are sick in any language is pretty much universal.  The reason why, in some contracts it states that you can only take a sick day if the school is informed and authorizes it.  I know of people who informed their co-teacher that they were sick, but didn't personally inform the Principal (thus he didn't give the authorization), so they refused to give them a paid sick day.


  • Koradian
  • Fanatical Supporter!

    • 443

    • October 08, 2010, 10:29:15 am
    • South Korea
Re: Denial of sick days?
« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2010, 09:14:47 am »
That's how it works here. But you ALWAYS come to work no matter what (unless you are already in the hospital and you can get a nurse to call them for you.)


That may be how it is at your school, but not Korea in general. I'm guessing you're employed by Kin Jong Il?

Be honest about your situation, tell them they are more than welcome to call you if they have any questions, and you should be ok.




  • Morticae
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1400

    • August 31, 2010, 12:45:33 pm
Re: Denial of sick days?
« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2010, 09:15:08 am »
I was pretty sick for at least a week, I went to work. I could barely speak due to my sore throat, but I did it. Brought in a bottle of water to class and the CT lectured the kids about how I was sick and how great I was for coming in to teach them. The kids clapped for me, and I taught with little water breaks.

I do the same in the U.S., I'm not one to take "sick days" unless I'm deathly ill. If I'm throwing up, then I wont be coming in-- period. A cold or something? Yeah, whatever. I'll show up.  :P


  • summerthyme
  • Featured Contributor

    • 1108

    • July 10, 2010, 05:02:32 am
    • Waegwan, Chilgok, Gyeongbuk
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Re: Denial of sick days?
« Reply #10 on: December 03, 2010, 09:19:11 am »
I'm about the same as Morticae.  If I have a cold or something, I'll still show up.  I got sick during my second week of teaching, but I just brought a bottle of water, drank those Vitamin C drinks, and trooped threw.

However, I draw the line at vomiting and the flu. 

I  think it's a good idea to have a video and worksheets prepared in case you can't speak or can't come in; that way, you can show that you do care about your lessons, but you'll be covered if you can't actually *teach*.
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  • 7Suarez7
  • Adventurer

    • 53

    • November 01, 2010, 12:45:06 pm
    • korea
Re: Denial of sick days?
« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2010, 09:19:34 am »
I think it's more of a trust thing. I've been here one year now (just renewed) at public school and never taken a sick day and i've been into work a few times with a cold, headache etc...

The other day i felt really bad so called in and my school were OK, I think they know now that I would only call in if really sick. I'm sure it's the same with other schools, just show them that you can stick it out when you're a bit under the weather and when you need a day off i'm sure they'll be fine.

On a sidenote...not sure about the GEPIK contract but in the EPIK contract it says:

The Employee shall be entitled to a paid Sick Leave in the case of any illness or injury which prevents the Employee from performing the duties herein only with the
express consent of the Employer.


So basically if they say you still have to go to school when sick then i'd suggest you should do that. Harsh I know, if they see you really are sick then they'll prob send you home/take a rest from lessons.


  • kevin000
  • Waygookin

    • 23

    • June 08, 2010, 10:23:24 am
    • korea
Re: Denial of sick days?
« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2010, 09:19:59 am »
Great topic!

The unwritten rule in Korea is you can only be sick on weekends and holidays.

Here is what I think is totally unfair... Too often employers hold our contracts over our heads and tell us that we have to this and we have to do that because it is written into out contract.

My suggestion: Vacation days are written into your contract so if you feel you need to use them then use them.
This covers everything.

If you have sick days, and need a day to handle something... use a sick day.


Re: Denial of sick days?
« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2010, 09:24:01 am »
My EPIK contract also says that I am allowed sick days, and that I should contact my co-teacher at least 1 hour before the start of the day.  I too was a little nervous about actually using the sick days simply because the Korean teachers always drag themselves in no matter what.  However, when you are sick you are sick.  The days are yours to take.  I have had to use a few sick days, and I simply send my co-teacher a text telling her I can't come in.  That way, I have it in writing if there is a problem, and you can avoid having a conversation where your co-teacher may try to convince you to come in.  My school doesn't do it, but some of the other teachers who have called in sick have had surprise visits from their co-teachers and/or principals. So just make sure you are really sick when you call in =) I also always make up the classes I missed teaching when I return.  If you offer to do that, they may be more inclined to just let you have your sick time when you need it.


Re: Denial of sick days?
« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2010, 09:29:06 am »
I worked out the system my self.  I tell them i'm staying home because i have sick days in my contract and i cant go to school on time and don't feel like i can make it or teach.  They can't drag you or say anything after that.  Hold your ground, but be nice and convincing.  If they make you... go really late because you are sick (i have to get ready, get medicine, take the bus, walk to school, go to the doctors first then come to school etc).  I'm still suppose to go to the doctors if I dont go to school and show proof of medicine purchase (paper bag with yak in it).  Make things work out your way.  I get sick ALL the time. Use your sick days, thats why they are in your contract.


  • confusedsafferinkorea
  • Waygook Lord

    • 5502

    • October 08, 2010, 01:02:32 pm
    • Zhubei, Hsinchu Province, Taiwan
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Re: Denial of sick days?
« Reply #15 on: December 03, 2010, 09:31:49 am »
Wow, I work for SMOE in Seoul and I get 15 days sick vacation and if I am sick I just call my Korean co-teacher and tell her and then I sms my Principal and VP and tell them I won't be in. I have never had one minutes problem with that at all.

They are always super sympathetic if I am sick and tell me to rest and get well. I guess I am lucky. Glad I don't work for GPIK or EPIK !!!
There is no known medical cure for stupidity!


  • truongt
  • Veteran

    • 108

    • August 30, 2010, 06:51:00 pm
    • South Korea
Re: Denial of sick days?
« Reply #16 on: December 03, 2010, 09:44:50 am »
You go to school when you are sick. If you are really sick you will be sent to the "hospital" or excused to the nursing room. That's how it works here. But you ALWAYS come to work no matter what (unless you are already in the hospital and you can get a nurse to call them for you.)

That's how it works here. That's the culture. Adapt.

That's what I did. I had food poisoning/fever last month. Came to school, got sent to the nurse's room before getting sent home in the afternoon after getting taken to the clinic.

I did, however, call my CT to take the next day off. My school didn't really give me any grief about it, though. In fact, one of my students visited my apartment with porridge and my CTs and one of the administrative staff also popped in to see how I was doing.


  • JuliusCaesar108
  • Featured Contributor

    • 164

    • March 21, 2010, 08:28:10 pm
    • Gangwon-do, Republic of Korea
Re: Denial of sick days?
« Reply #17 on: December 03, 2010, 09:49:00 am »
I've never called in sick. I was however forced to take a week off because of my co-teacher and the Principal during the swine flu scare last year (and I didn't even have swine flu!).  It was quite hilarious.

Although I was sick, I came in anyway with a fever, barely able to stand up.  They would take children and foreigner's temperature, but stopped checking mine. So I volunteered since I was sick that time, and they were scared of me and my sickness. I was told to go to get diagnosed at the hospital.

So I went, and they told me I didn't have swine flu.  The doctor said in his broken English, "They are very scary of it." I was nodding my head, "Mmm hmm."

I called my co-teacher telling her I'd be back on Monday (it was Friday).  And she said the principal authorized me a forced leave for a week.  I told her I didn't have swine flu.  She said, "But the symptoms are similar!"
"In my forty-fifth year I, Julius Caesar, witnessed wonderful and frightening things that were to take place in a time that has not yet taken place."  - The Apocalypse of Julius Caesar


  • bern
  • Veteran

    • 201

    • November 09, 2010, 12:48:34 pm
    • korea
Re: Denial of sick days?
« Reply #18 on: December 03, 2010, 09:55:08 am »
Why would the weather mean you need to take a sick day? And why are you already planning on using something which is there in case you get seriously ill?

Stiff upper lip.
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  • sheila
  • Moderator - LVL 2

    • 1480

    • November 23, 2009, 08:32:58 am
    • Gangnamgu, Seoul
Re: Denial of sick days?
« Reply #19 on: December 03, 2010, 09:58:29 am »
I would never worry about this... I usually just send my co-teacher and head teacher a message and go back to sleep.  They are totally fine. The ones that aren't fine are the other 'teachers' who don't have a clue what to do with the students when I'm not there. But because they're so far behind in their curriculum to cover, I don't leave anything. They can play catch up during my class time. Just take your sick days.  It's really okay.  They can't fire you over it or anything. Also, consider the fact that you need to have prior written approval and think, 'Yeah, I'm going to be sick tomorrow so if you could approve that, yeah, that'd be great.' They would laugh in your face.  Take your days.
Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard!
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