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Sheffield Health and Social Care Foundation Trust

Sheffield trust dismissing staff with high absence

Staff with the highest level of sickness absence are being “pro-actively” managed at Sheffield Health and Social Care Foundation Trust – leading to a number of dismissals.

A report to the board revealed that the 1% of staff with the most absence each month are being targeted, and there has been five dismissals for “attendance related” issues in four months. It is not known if other staff have resigned before the process has reached this point.

The trust is trying to bring its sickness rate down to 5.1%. In December it was 5.76%, which was lower than the previous months.

The report to the board says that attendance levels have been within a smaller range than previously, which suggests more consistent management.

However, it adds: “Despite the great effort that has been placed on this issue for some time, the rate of sickness absence remains consistently higher than expectations.

“And consequently, the establishment of a ‘task and finish’ joint working group comprising trust management and members from staff side is being planned to carry out a joint approach to gain a better understanding of the context, data and underlying reasons for the level of absence and why this is so.”

Readers' comments (13)

  • About time the unreliable shirkers were ousted. I am sick and tired of coming in every day to find out the usual suspects are off and left the rest of us to pick up the slack while they are off with a bad back or stress or IBS SITTING AT HOME GETTING THEIR ENHANCED HOURS.

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  • I hope that HR have looked into the reasons why there is a high level of sickness. Maybe staff go off sick for a very good reason, it may be work related stress which many people think is just shirking but it can be very real for those affected.

    Short staffing, working without breaks, working with no support from colleagues and managers, having constant complaints made can all lead to stress.

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  • Anonymous | 25-Feb-2013 2:24 pm

    I agree with you. it would be grossly unfair to dismiss anybody for an 'occupational illness'. these nurses are also not effective at work if they are unwell. Lack of adequate support and understanding from employers, their managers and colleagues can exacerbate the situation and result in them being off far longer.

    Staff off for valid reasons should be replaced to prevent putting extra strain on those working which is also very unfair. It is up to management to budget their resources properly. They should also be able to weed out those who consistently abuse the system and offer support if needed but they should not act as absenteeism police for those genuinely in need of sick leave or support this ridiculous idea that those who are sick should not be seen outside or in a supermarket, etc.

    People should also understand that frequent absenteeism or consistent lateness is often a non-verbal message that there is a deeper and perhaps more serious underlying problem.

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  • Trusts need to reflect on the rate of sickness/high absence and audit why their figures are high. There are a number of reasons why this is so - sickness is unavoidable and individual, bullying culture, low morale, burnout, personal family problems. Staff need support and this is not acceptable. It's another money scheme to save funds. If trusts actually took responsibility for the well being of staff, supported them, instead of playing devils advocate. Then staff would be happy, healthy and efficient. . . This applies to all trusts. Sometimes I wonder what planet managers are on.

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  • Employers have no right to know why a person is off sick and if an employee has to consult a doctor medical confidentiality still has to be respected.

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  • Agree. Medical confidentiality does have to be respected .

    How can nurses be expected to care to high standards when there is little or no empathy or compassion for their own wellbeing?

    As a nurse I am also registered disabled with a chronic illness.

    I have been bullied and discriminated against by colleagues and management.

    At the end of the day , I don't see anybody else's sickness as any of my business - so why do so many other HCPs speculate about what their colleagues are doing off work?

    At the end of the day I would far rather be stressed and at work than stressed , ill and off work worrying about my return to work interview.

    Do colleagues think that most staff who are off sick actually choose this ?!

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  • Balderdash. Medical confidentiality is respected within the HR process. This is evidenced at the outset by the inclusion of a health questionnaire at the application stage. This is what Occ Health services are there for. I challenge anyone to say that they refused to complete a health questionnaire on application because of medical confidentiality!

    Sick pay of all staff has to be maintained and that money comes from budgets that of course can only be spent once, its not as if can be spent on agency or bank staff. What is required at the moment is assurance that these staff are treated by due process and that all avenues are exhausted, this isn't about sacking someone for having a bout of the sniffles. Its about those who are taking advantage of a rather lax system. I have seen people go off on full pay for six months, come back for a month (phased return on full pay) and then go off again for another six months.

    Its harsh but at the moment its reality as well.

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  • Does it ever occur to you that this is still genuine? Until you return to work you don't know how you can cope. No one plans to go through difficulties and certainly do not deserve this judgement. The last thing a person returning to work needs is off the cuff comments, negativity, this is a form of bullying. Reasons may not be of health or sickness, nurses also experience social problems too. Domestic violence effects all classes and cultures, cancer diagnosis is not just physical but psychological, I won't patronise but we are supposed to be a caring profession but we don't care for each other. Recipe for a fail. At the end of the day you don't know what tomorrow may bring . . . Don't lose sight of that. One day you might be wearing the shoes of those you have judged.

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  • Anonymous | 26-Feb-2013 1:03 am

    we could do with more comments like this to show that nurses do actually care. if they can't show understanding and tolerance for one another how can they be trusted with the lives of their patients. I just hope I never become one of them!

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  • if you are a manager could you change your off duty and claim an annual leave day or a management day instead of a sick day? if you did would any of your staff challenge it, especially if you were a bully.

    we assume this is all about nurses, what is the sick rate amongst other groups of staff at that trust?

    what is the reason staff go off sick? stress, overwork, no breaks, long stretch of shifts, one day off after a stint of nights, being forced to take a sick day when you have emergency family issues, having work related injuries (how can anyone seriously think it okay to discipline staff who pick up a chest infection, norovirus, scabies and all the other things rife in hospitals).

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  • "Anonymous | 25-Feb-2013 8:14 pm

    "Balderdash. Medical confidentiality is respected within the HR process. This is evidenced at the outset by the inclusion of a health questionnaire at the application stage."

    Confidentiality _should_ be respected within HR, but to generalise is dangerous.
    I have lost my health, my income & my career after my Equal Ops form was leaked, & my manager told Occ Health if they didn't declare me unfit she'd "find another way to get rid of me" (subsequently admitting I had a 'clean' HR record including attendance until my Equal Ops status was leaked). As part of that, an HR manager not only spread the info further, but actively did the opposite of any advice Occ Health suggested (despite time/cost free) & refused to submit any info to NHS Injury Benefit so I didn't get that either. They misrecorded both reason for & length of subsequent sick leave so I didn't trigger the appropriate H&S/HR procedures & banned me from contacting Occ Health unless I told them the health concern 1st.
    Just as not all nurses are paragons of virtue, neither are HR.

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  • the daily mail have recently published an article about high levels of stress, burnout causing high levels of sickness in the UK, if you are really lucky and a nurse you can also add the constant criticism from the media too.

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  • Anonymous | 28-Feb-2013 6:21 am

    when you read the appalling attitudes expressed in some of the comments following some of the NT articles it is hardly surprising that the media and a large number of the pubic no longer hold the profession in very high esteem or have any trust in them.

    Many and especially the elderly are terrified they may land in hospital and fall into the hands of some of these so-called nurses. Two have said to me they would take an over-dose rather than go to hospital. nobody should have to live with such fear, stress or threat.

    'Unions agree to reduce staff terms and conditions
    26 February, 2013 | By Shaun Lintern'

    and the one on 'Professionalism' are just two examples of such articles.

    I fight tooth and nail for the profession but will not support poor and non-professional attitudes which always reflect in how colleagues and others are treated, and ultimately in the care given to patients on the receiving end.

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