Looking through the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) website, I came across the story of Michael Clarke, a night porter at Langdale Leisure in Cumbria, which is as follows:
“I just want to keep going in my job”
In 14 years, Michael Clarke never had a day off sick from work. But after having a heart attack in 2007, he was forced to take four months sick leave. At the age of 69, Michael’s illness could have been the cue for him to retire. But it wasn’t. He was as determined as ever to continue working in his job as a Night Porter. He says: “I couldn’t become a couch potato. I enjoy my work and the variety it provides – no two nights are ever the same.”
Michael recovered from his heart attack and returned to work at the Langdale Hotel and Spa in the Lake District. Although he is based in the main hotel building, Michael actually has responsibility for 35 acres of property. The hotel is part of the Langdale estate and includes time share properties and self-catering accommodation. Michael’s duties are therefore not typical of most hotel Night Porters.
“It’s not an easy job” admits Anne Durnall, Human Resources Manager at Langdale.
She adds: “There’s a great deal of responsibility with the Night Porter job because you have to deal with emergencies that could arise such as fires, power cuts and so on.” Anne believes that Michael is the right person for the job because of his years of experience and his ‘intimate’ knowledge of the Langdale estate. She says: “Night Porters need to be reliable and trustworthy”.
These are qualities that she believes Michael brings to the job.
Whilst he was recovering from his heart attack, staff rotas were adjusted to cover Michael’s absence. Anne visited Michael at home while he recovered and with his consent also talked to his GP about how he could be supported at work after his heart attack. She was assured that once recovered, he would be able to resume the majority of his duties.
Staff are highly valued.
“Michael has been fine since he came back to work” says Anne, “it’s as if he’s never been away.” She adds: “People like Michael are part and parcel of Langdale’s rich tapestry and we want to keep them part of it.”
Overall staff retention at Langdale is good and Anne believes this is because their staff are highly valued. She also believes that there is a strong business case for retaining staff who become ill. “If somebody leaves, there are costs associated with employing someone new. You have to take time to recruit and train them. It costs money to find the right staff, so once we’ve found them we want to hang onto them”.
Message to other employers:
“Don’t prejudge the health condition of staff and don’t prejudge what you think they can do.”
Anne Durnall, Human Resources Manager, Langdale Leisure.
In 1994, Michael made the switch from engineering to the hospitality industry. He spent forty years working as an engineer in the laundry industry and worked all over the continent. When a friend told him about the vacancy at Langdale, he welcomed the opportunity to work closer to his home in Kendal. After a successful work trial, he was recruited as a Night Porter.
Michael’s role includes the usual security duties of a hotel Night Porter but also some administrative work. Promoting good customer relations is also an important part of his job, especially when dealing with emergencies.
The job is very stimulating.
“There are challenges to my job” says Michael, “sometimes we have awkward customers which I have to deal with but on the other hand I also get to meet people from all over the world which I like.” He adds: For a person of my age, the job is very stimulating for the brain. It’s almost like getting paid for therapy.”
Since his heart attack, the only minor adjustment Michael has had to make at work is to avoid moving and lifting heavy furniture. Langdale were happy to make these changes to his duties.
Michael takes a great deal of pride in his job and since his heart attack he has been more determined than ever to continue working. He says: “I just want to be the best I can be at my job and to keep going as long as I can.”