PCS expressed grave concerns about the quality of the data management gathered to support their position. The only data available was that published in the Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) management had undertaken. An EIA is a legal requirement placed on public authorities to undertake a thorough assessment of policies, practices or procedures to ensure they don’t have a disproportionate impact on those groups protected by equality legislation.
The data used in the EIA did not reflect the true picture of sick leave in the MoJ as the figures were the average for sick leave across the entire civil service. The data for the MoJ was unavailable because the current IT system couldn’t collate the statistics.
Management also accepted the figures included pregnancy and disability related absences (which should be counted differently to normal sickness absence) and didn’t distinguish between short term and long term absences.
On 1 June in an answer to a parliamentary question about sickness levels in the MoJ, management suddenly were able to produce statistics. These seem to show that the MoJ does not have a significant problem with attendance management.
As these figures still include disability and pregnancy related absences and don’t differentiate between long and short term absences it is very likely the real sickness levels are much lower than reported and the robust approach is unnecessary.
The EIA suggested that a robust MAP would not have a disproportionate impact on equality groups. This is nonsense as it is obvious that without a considered and consistent approach to managing and recording disability and pregnancy related absences that these groups as well as others will bear the brunt this punitive management approach
Another concern is that the EIA was completed after the new MAP was introduced. Equality legislation requires employers to complete EIAs when proposed policies are at the drafting stage so any adverse impact identified can be removed or minimised.
This meant that despite being aware of our very serious reservations about the new policy and the inadequacy of the EIA management launched the policy anyway.
Following PCS representations management agreed to review the policy. We obtained legal advice which confirms our position that the MAP forms part of our terms and conditions and should be negotiated and agreed rather than simply consulted on.
Our legal advice also suggests that the EIA was insufficient and management may not be able to defend a legal challenge.
Management are keen to publicise that those who are away sick cause additional work for those who are well, especially during this difficult period when staff are working harder with less resources.
PCS has always recognised and accepted that those who abuse the system cause additional work for members and this should be stopped. But the vast majority of MoJ staff are responsible and don’t abuse the system. People who are genuinely ill are being made to feel like they are letting colleagues down and are being dealt with severely, which we believe this is grossly unfair.
Management are taking a punitive approach to meet a civil service wide target of a 7.5 days sickness absence per year.
PCS members and activists are reporting a significant increase in case conferences, attendance reviews, warnings and dismissals under the new policy.
Management are frequently issuing warnings before they have obtained occupational heath advice from Atos Origin – their healthcare provider, and on numerous occasions have ignored the advice given by Atos regarding reasonable adjustments for disabled members.
The PEP highlights attendance as one of the factors that would prevent a member at risk of redundancy or relocation being allowed on the transfer register. This isn’t restricted to those who have been given warnings as it includes anyone who is currently involved in a MAP process, including those who are awaiting informal case conferences and attendance reviews.
We believe that the MAP could be used as tool by management to get rid of people from the organisation.
It also means that those with disabilities who may because of their condition have more sickness absences than average, are at the present time at a greater risk of being dismissed either through MAP or PEP other than non-disabled colleagues.
If you are pregnant and have any pregnancy related sick leave you could also be prevented from accessing the transfer register, simply because you have been ill. It means that any member who has the misfortune to fall ill, even if it is work related will be punished and could face dismissal or an uncertain future simply for being unwell.
Management have said they will review the policy in light of PCS concerns. This is a welcome development. However we can only be satisfied that our concerns will be addressed if management recognises that the policy forms part of our terms and conditions and we have a proper negotiated agreement.
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