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Trusts press on with pay curbs for sick leave

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A tribunal decision that forced a trust to stop withholding pay from staff taking long periods of sick leave has failed to deter other organisations from pursuing similar policies, Nursing Times has learnt.

Central Manchester University Hospitals Foundation Trust was told last month by an employment tribunal its actions were unlawful. The trust had imposed rules whereby employees who were off sick four or more times a year, or for 18 or more days in total, would lose that year’s increment.

The unions that lodged the case, including Unison, Unite and the Royal College of Nursing, hailed it as a landmark ruling that would deter other trusts from attacking Agenda for Change.

But Nursing Times has found at least three trusts that are still pursuing policies under which staff members who take a certain amount of sick leave risk having increments withheld. They are Salford Royal, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay and County Durham and Darlington foundation trusts.

Salford Royal executive director of organisational development and corporate affairs David Wood said the trust had “definitely not” frozen its policy in light of the tribunal decision.

County Durham and Darlington has also declined to immediately halt its scheme. A spokeswoman said it was “aware” of the Central Manchester ruling but would “discuss it in detail” before taking any steps.

Morecambe Bay confirmed its scheme was still in place. A spokesman said it was “not exactly the same” as Central Manchester’s scheme and the trust would “consider whether any changes need to be made”, based on legal advice.

However, Unison spokeswoman insisted the tribunal had sent a “signal” to other trusts that national terms and conditions should be upheld. Union representatives were negotiating with employers in the first instance but could resort to further legal action if necessary, she said.

It is not known exactly how many other trusts are linking sickness absence to pay. But Andrew Rowland, a partner at the legal firm Capsticks, said it was “the kind of thing trusts are looking at”.

Identifying savings through the Agenda for Change framework was “very high on trusts’ agendas”, he told Nursing Times.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • It's an area that needs addressing. Most of us know colleagues who take days off to extend a weekend or to recover from a hangover, while others drag themselves into work however they are feeling. I know somebody who was disciplined for taking time off to recover from chemotherapy for breast cancer. The difficulty is rooting out those who abuse the system.

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  • If there are people who are taking days off and claiming to be sick when they are not, that is a disciplinary offence and should be dealt with through that channel.
    We work with vulnerable people who are often immunocompromised. Why should the hard-working majority suffer financial penalties for taking time off work when legitimately ill when otherwise we could spread our diseases to other staff and our patients?

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