Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Money for nothing By Kate

Beware, all pregnant teachers - your work could damage you and your unborn child. I know this because I have been plucked from the jaws of peril by a team of Spanish bureaucrats and at times it was a close-run thing.

After acquiring the risk assessment survey, which uncovered the treacherous nature of language teaching, then the recommendation of my doctor that I should be signed off work due to the inherent dangers to myself and my developing offspring, the next step was to convince the Social Security.

The faithful Marina and I accordingly took a taxi to the Asapeyo office, the organisation set up to protect workers in Spain and prevent avoidable accidents and illness during employment. We had an impressively fat wad of bumf to take with us - my boss, already acquainted with the Spanish way of doing things was taking no chances. He'd made two copies of everything official related to me - my passport, Certificado de Registro, doctor's notes, work contract, etc. etc.

Marina and I carted all the paperwork to the office (which turned out to be at a different address to the one we'd been given, but no matter - it was only across the road) and after one redirection, made it to the desk of a young woman, who expertly sifted through all the data and separated out the stuff she needed to manage our claim.

We were both slightly taken aback to be scolded for neglecting to apply for the baja por emarazada del riesgo earlier - it seemed a bit harsh, given our combined efforts before Christmas and the third-time-lucky routine with the tough talking Dr P. The young woman told us that to ensure the baja was granted quickly, we would have to go to another office to see a further official and be assessed by the Asapeyo doctor. This, we were told, should be little more than a formality, but we must get on with it straight away.

Ignoring our grumbling stomachs (it was lunchtime, after all), we flagged another taxi to take us across town and found ourselves sitting at the desk of another official, this time a man named Jorge. He went through the sifting routine again, made a few notes and tapped something into his computer, then sent us back out to the floor receptionist.

She went through what appeared to be almost the same process, then bade us sit down for a moment. This we did until we were summoned back and told to go down two floors and wait to see the doctor on duty there.

It was a good thing Theo had slipped an emergency clementine in my bag, because I'm not sure Marina and I would have made it otherwise. We shared it and entered the lift with our strength slightly revived.

Another floor, another waiting area. After about five minutes, the doctor called us into her office and smiled kindly. What repetitive actions did I have to do in the course of my job, she wanted to know? I stood up and did a little mime of writing on the white board, feeling like I'd stumbled into a rerun of What's My Line. The doctor seemed satisfied with my performance and I was allowed to sit down again. She then asked what hours I had to work. I said around seven per day, including lesson preparation. That, apparently was enough. She told Marina and I that the fact I was often on my feet for several hours at a time was enough to categorise my situation as risky. She said she would recommend that I be signed off on that basis and that we would have the definitive answer from the Asapeyo in the next few days. She gave us the impression that this was likely to be little more than a rubber-stamping exercise. She told me she would ring me to let me know the outcome, at which I admitted I might have trouble understanding her, as my level of Spanish wasn't very high.
"That's all right, nor is my English", she said (in Spanish) - which was supposed to be reassuring, I think.

So, all being well, in the next day or two I should be officially entitled to receive 100% of my salary from the state until the day our baby is born and I start my four months maternity leave. And my boss will get a bit of help paying for my replacement, which I think he more than deserves after all his (and his wife's) efforts navigating through the swamp of Spanish bureaucracy. Possibly, they should be awarded some sort of medal as well.

In celebration of our achievement, Marina and I headed gratefully to a nearby cafe and shared a mixed salad (which we requested to have without tuna, given that I'm a vegetarian - they obliged and brought one sprinkled with cubes of ham instead) followed by French omelette and chips. I was so hungry I had practically wolfed the lot before I realised the omelette was still very runny in the middle - pregnant women are supposed to avoid undercooked eggs at all costs because of the risk of listeria. Out of the fire and into the frying pan.

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