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Hospital trust acted unlawfully in attempt to block pay increments


A hospital trust acted unlawfully in attempting to stop pay progressions for staff claiming sickness leave, an employment tribunal has found.

Central Manchester NHS Foundation Trust had sought to deny incremental pay rises to 83 staff members who had claimed more than 18 days sick leave in a year.

The case against the trust was brought jointly by three unions: the Royal College of Nursing, Unite and Unison. The challenge was also supported by the Royal College of Midwives.

The ruling, announced today, will affect all staff on the national AfC pay deal at the trust. Three nurses were among the test cases cited in the ruling.

Band 6 nurse Susan Proctor saw her salary held down after a bout of retrocaecal appendicitis which needed emergency surgery. Charge nurse Karl Taylor had to take time off due to a foot injury which left him unable to stand or walk for long periods.

Band 5 nurse Doreen Allet was penalised after four occasions of absence due to vomiting and abdominal pain which led to biopsies and a coloscopy.

Meanwhile, medical technical officer Sandra Kaye, who had been the victim of an unprovoked physical assault, was denied a pay rise despite attempting to return to work before the 18-day threshold took effect. She had been sent home by the trust’s occupational health nurse as being unfit to work.

The tribunal concluded that, while incremental rises could be deferred if an employee’s performance was not satisfactory, this did not include sickness absence and the trust’s actions amounted to “a series of unlawful deductions” from [the claimants’] pay”.

Unison regional head of health Paul Foley said: “This is a victory for fairness. This decision means that other trusts will not be able to penalise health workers in a similar way.

“We hope this Manchester hospital trust now drops any further legal challenges, honours its obligations to pay incremental rises, and gets back to the day job of providing healthcare.”

He added that nurses were more likely to become unwell as they were often surrounded by ill people. “Many health jobs are also very physical – lifting and moving patients on an hourly basis -  the stresses and strains can cause injuries that people need time off to recover from,” he said.

RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “We feel it is outrageous that an employer should attempt to withhold payments simply because a member of staff is sick.

“If unchallenged, this decision by Central Manchester Foundation Trust could have had major repercussions for NHS staff across the UK.  This decision sends a clear and decisive message that employers must adhere to the agreed terms and conditions.”

Jon Skewes, RCM director of employment relations, said the college welcomed the “ground-breaking judgement”.

He added: “Central Manchester chose to unilaterally impose their policy on sickness absence against the negotiated contract (Agenda for Change) for NHS staff and have been clearly found to be acting illegally by the tribunal.

“NHS trusts and the government need to work proactively with NHS unions and not seek to impose sweeping and draconian cuts on overworked and overstretched NHS staff.”    

A trust spokeswoman said: “The incremental pay progression policy was introduced in November 2010 as one of a number of initiatives for safeguarding the employment of permanent staff, to reduce the use of bank and agency staff, and to ensure the continued delivery of high quality care to patients.

“Whilst the policy was in force there was a significant reduction in absence levels and a substantial increase in staff compliance with appraisals and mandatory training.

“In light of this judgement the policy will be withdrawn.”


Readers' comments (15)

  • tinkerbell

    Peter seems to be acquiring a pair of wotsits lately. What with his appearance on TV, well done mate. See what happens when you speak up for us nurses, OUR NHS, we applaud you. Keep up the good work.

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  • tinkerbell

    might even consider joining the RCN, just need to check how much i have in my purse or would i be better off putting this cost towards private healthcare insurance? Aparently people in my age group 50-60 the premiums with BUPA are £500 per month. You can't get to our age without any pre existing conditions you see. What a financially, lucrative game. So long as you present 'no risk' they will cover you.

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  • well done the unions

    the people who tried to implement this should hang their heads in shame

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  • Nice to read some good news for a change.

    Well done to all involved.

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  • Great work from the unions, but I cant help but think that here is a trust that will not hesitate putting sick staff on a capability passway without any thought - we need to get the caring back into the NHS - and that includes for the staff too.

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  • Good news, I could see the Trusts point if they were habitual offenders as we all work beside some of them who take the pass and infuriate their colleagues and nothing seems to get done about it.

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  • good news

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  • I was taken on as a band 5 nurse newly qualified a few years ago and taken on knowing my medical condition status and was sacked after a farce of a capability hearing for being ill while waiting for treatment which significantly helped in manageing the condition causing the problem. The NHS needs to care for staff a lot better than it currently does. Im on the road to recovery but it has caused a lot of problems financially of course as now rely on benefits. The people carrying out these policies need to think, what if they were in my position, how would they like it, if the same was done to them? Im very lucky to have a very supportive network of family and friends. I will fight this and urge others to do the same. Enough is enough. We are human too..

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  • Anonymous | 24-Feb-2012 5:57 pm

    it is very sad and discouraging. people seem to be so set on following policies and protocols nowadays it leaves no room for them to think. employers seem to prefer young and inexperienced 'yes wo/men' who will not question and need lower salaries. However, the young college leavers are now fortunately thinkers and questioners as well.

    Your situation could have had unnecessary but very damaging and serious mental health consequences as well as a result of such disgraceful actions and at a time when individuals are so heavily criticised and stigmatised for being out of work and on benefits even through no fault of their own. Sometimes all the doors are closed and one is left banging one's head against a brick wall without any effect.

    In a country where an elderly lady in her 80s or 90s is refused a bottle of alcohol in a shop because she is unable to provide identity with proof of her age it is time for a serious shake up to produce drastic improvements and with employees who are permitted to think for themselves instead of blindly following sets of rules.

    I am pleased to learn that your outcome is also positive and hope that very soon with all your negative experience your career will soon take off with new élan. It is worth fighting for!

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  • "Whilst the policy was in force there was a significant reduction in absence levels and a substantial increase in staff compliance with appraisals and mandatory training"

    But what was the evidance of those who were on the top of their band (usually higher Bands) went off sick more then 4 times a year and more then 18 days yr? They did this regularly and got way with it?

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