When storms hit or shutdowns happen, the U.S. Government sends “non-essential” employees home, and the pundits wonder “Why are we employing non-essential people?”
The best way to think of this is to think of your own job. Assume a parent died, or that you became ill for a week. Could your office find a way to limp along without you for a week? Could they make do without hiring someone else?
For the most part, that’s all non-essential means — the people who can be let go for a little bit where other people wouldn’t have to be hired to take their place.
Exceptions to this rule might include security guards, and people processing payments. In these jobs, if you called in sick, they would have to find someone to replace you for the day. They are “essential”. They are not more important — they just need to be executed on a daily basis.
On the other hand, if you’ve taken sick leave for more than a day or two and your office hasn’t had to hire someone to replace you, congratulations — you’re non-essential too!