There is a drive within the council to reduce absence levels across the council and the current target is 4%. As a way of achieving this, there was a proposal to introduce a new Absence Management Procedure.
Only 3 meetings were held to discuss draft and after some minor changes the Council served a 4 month notice to withdraw from the present procedure, and impose the new procedure. The date for imposition is the 30 January, 2012.
Some changes have been made e.g. no need to provide a GP note from day one. However, after discussion with stewards and Branch Service & Conditions officers, it was decided that an Avoidance of Dispute should be raised against the new procedure and also the FirstCare pilot scheme. This was sent beginning of December.
Since that date we have had 2 further meetings with Philip Barr, but they have resulted in no change. We are still in Dispute over this matter.
2. An employee on the formal stage warning will lose their annual increment as per Modernising Pay guidelines.
3. New procedure has 3 stages before dismissal, compared to 4 stages in current procedure.
4. Transition from current to new procedure. If sick after the 30th January, then a review of the employee’s absence record from the previous year will be instigated, and if this meets the new triggers then a Stage 1 warning will be implemented.
5. The new procedure demonstrates very little support of employees with an illness. Lack of counselling stage, little discretion for managers.
6. Stages are applied to both short and long-term sickness. It also allows the fast tracking of stages.
FIRST CARE PILOT SCHEME:
This pilot scheme is a new reporting absence procedure for employees. The pilot will run for a year. This was introduced in December, 2011 without any consultation. The pilot has been implemented in 13 different groups across the council.
Issues raised about the pilot scheme:
1. Lack of consultation. An initial information day where First Care gave a presentation, but there was no further discussion on how, when and who would take part. UNISON did not agree to this pilot, and the avoidance of dispute includes our opposition.
2. Why introduce another reporting absence procedure, when we already have a robust reporting system?
3. Why in this time of cuts and job losses are the council paying for a private company to manage sickness absence?
4. How can the council assess if this pilot is successful or not when they are also introducing a new procedure?
5. Feedback from members highlights many problems with this type of reporting procedure. E.g. you still have to phone your line manager to inform them, if you have planned meetings etc. for that day you are absent.
ADVICE FOR MEMBERS IN THE FIRST CARE PILOT SCHEME:
For members who are now part of this pilot we advise you to comply with the pilot for the moment. This is because management have indicated that employees will be disciplined if they don’t participate.
Remember, any formal stage in the disciplinary or sickness procedure means an employee on the formal stage of these procedures will lose their annual increment as per Modernising Pay guidelines.
HOW DO WE OPPOSE THIS NEW POLICY AND FIRST CARE PILOT SCHEME?
1. Branch Officers have and are willing to continue to meet with HR to try and negotiate further.
2. Legal advice has been sought, and we hope to have a letter for individual members to sign showing compliance under duress, and show our opposition.
3. Stewards are informing members and encouraging them to join a action campaign against this new procedure.
4. On 24.1.12 the Council’s Policy and Strategy committee will meet to agree/disagree with the new procedure. The Branch will send a deputisation to put our views forward and ask for proper consultation on this issue and/or withdrawal from this procedure.
If you are concerned or have questions, please contact your shop steward or the Branch. Look out for further info.