Be quick if you're sick at Merrill

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You wouldn't want to work at Merrill Lynch during an outbreak of H5N1.

The US bank reportedly plans to penalise employees who dare to take more than three sick days a year. Strikes us this doesn't make great business sense.

Firstly, there's the risk that employees with the lurgy will feel compelled to return to work sooner than they might otherwise have done, engendering an office cold epidemic - or worse.

And secondly, in these days of scarce talent and brutal combat over anyone with an ACA or deal execution experience, Merrill's decision doesn't look very... well, caring.

"It all sounds a bit draconian," says a banker at a rival US firm in the City, which allows its employees to take six consecutive days out before they're obliged to explain themselves and produce a doctor's note. He adds: "The average in the City is probably between five and eight days. This doesn't send a great message to Merrill's employees - it leaves the bank looking a bit harsh."

From Merrill's perspective, the move appears to be wholly rational, however. Selena Morris, a spokeswoman for the bank, reportedly told the New York Times that it brings the company in line with the competition and will discourage skiving employees from taking Fridays off in July.

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