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Warning for trusts planning to water down pay and conditions


Trusts should be “wary” of withholding pay increments from staff with poor attendance records, one of the country’s most senior industrial relations figures has told Nursing Times.

The warning from Peter Harwood, chief conciliator at Acas, comes as several foundation trusts are poised to fight through the courts for the right to restrict pay in this way.

Asked whether linking pay to attendance was the right thing to do, Mr Harwood said: “I’d always be very wary.

“You’ve got to be careful that you’re not discriminating against people because of their disability, and [careful about] your record keeping and consistency [of approach].”

He added: “The key element of attendance management is that if anyone doesn’t attend for work it should be noticed and commented upon. Too often nothing happens until a trigger point is reached.”

Staff unrest in the NHS was likely to grow due to financial pressures, mergers and the growth of shared services, Mr Harwood said. This meant trusts planning changes to staff terms and conditions should consider delaying at least until the ongoing public sector pensions row had been resolved.

He said: “I don’t think it’s unreasonable for trusts to have to think about these issues, but is now the best time to do it?

“Trying to deal with lots of issues at the same time can get very confusing both for unions and managers.  It might be better to get one issue out of the way first before you start looking at other issues.”

Mr Harwood said last October’s abolition of the default retirement age of 65 was also likely to land NHS employers with particular challenges. For example, some employees may want to continue in their roles until old age, even where the work is felt to be too physically tough.

He said: “There may be issues in the caring services where some of the work is physically demanding. In a way the default retirement age managed their performance for you. You need to make sure managers have the confidence to have conversations about people’s performance.”

But cuts to training budgets meant managers were not always getting the help they needed, he added.

He advised trusts to keep in regular contact with staff and explain any financial pressures and changes to the organisation’s structure.


Readers' comments (4)

  • Peter Harwood is stating the obvious but is no less welcome for that.

    Penalising "poor attendance" by cutting pay is not only open, rightly, to challenge on discrimination grounds but is a very poor way of dealing with attendance issues anyway - pretty much an admission of poor management. Poor attendance may have numerous causes, some of them to do with stressful working environment, some due to issues outside work.

    Good management tries to support staff through such issues wherever possible not just wave a big stick.

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  • I just like to know which Foundation Trusts......

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  • To withhold 'wages' is unlawful. One could argue that AfC incremental increases are 'wages' under that Contract of Employment basis.

    If the Gov has not been able to legally touch our increments (and they have mooted that point already) - then neither can the employer.

    Do I get cheesed off that certain staff pull the long term sick leave card yet still get all the benefits of incremental pay rises - you betcha.....but this is a Sickness Management issu and should be dealt with as such.

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  • “You’ve got to be careful that you’re not discriminating against people because of their disability, and [careful about] your record keeping and consistency [of approach].”....presumably and that as the employer you haven't contributed to the employee's ill-health through all the things which as nurses we work with day in-day out - reducing staffing levels with increased workloads, poor management, blame cultures, and all the multitude of other things which can increase stress levels->decrease resistance to infection as well as other stress effects, oh, & pressure for presenteeism with your pay threatened if take genuinely needed sick leave. (Strange how employers seem to have neglected that part of the Boorman report and just focussed on attendance)

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