Attendance Management - Prison Service Order 8404

The new Prison Service Order on Attendance Management has now been published.

The PSO is intended to cover all aspects of absence from work i.e.

  • Sickness Absence Policy
  • Family Leave
  • Special Leave Policy
  • Annual Leave Policy
  • Unauthorised Absence
  • Keeping In Touch Scheme

At this stage, only the Sickness Absence Policy and the Keeping In Touch scheme have been reviewed. It had been management’s intention to review and publish all the sections of the PSO by March 2009, but this proved unrealistic.

PCS national representatives have been consulted about the review. As with all HR policy reviews, we argued that there should be a single policy covering the whole of the MOJ. Management have repeatedly resisted this argument, and persist in “reinventing the wheel” by developing HR policies specifically for NOMS.

Having said that, PCS believe that the new PSO is a considerable improvement on PSO 8403, in that it abolishes the “attendance score” and introduces a degree of flexibility into the sick absence monitoring process. Warning procedures will still exist, but in some circumstances the manager will have discretion not to issue a warning.

The new trigger points are:

  • 10 working days in 2 or more periods in any 12 month period – 1st Recorded Oral Warning (Stage 1)
  • 4 working days or more in a period of 4 months after the 1st warning – 1st Written Warning (Stage 2)
  • 4 working days or more in a period of 4 months after the 1st Written Warning – Final Written Warning (Stage 3)
  • 4 working days or more in a period of 4 months after the Final Written Warning – A Sickness Absence Review is conducted, which may result in;

a) A further exemption, and no decision to dismiss taken, in which case the Final Warning stage continues,
b) No further exemptions identified, and no decision to dismiss taken, in which case the final Written Warning is re-issued,
c) Decision taken to dismiss for unsatisfactory attendance.

Exemptions are – Serious underlying medical condition, pregnancy related absence prior to the commencement of maternity leave, disability related absence, absences due to gender re-assignment, absences for which sick leave excusal has been approved.

Occupational Health Service referrals are no longer mandatory, unless and until a Final Written Warning is being considered.

Staff are entitled to be accompanied and assisted by their trade union representative during all the above formal stages.

Transitional Arrangements

For staff who were not subject to monitoring under the procedures prior to 19th January 2009, management have confirmed that absences that occurred prior to that date will not be automatically considered in determining triggers for unsatisfactory attendance. This would effectively mean that the full force of the trigger point would not be effective until 12 months has passed.

For staff who were subject to a warning stage on that date, and who then trigger a further warning, management have confirmed that the existing stage will be repeated.

The procedures for handling long-term sick absence largely unchanged from those set out in PSO 8403.

PCS continue to engage with management on a range of issues concerning this policy, in particular:

  • There will be a review of the operation of the policy after approximately 6 months
  • We will be consulted about the other sections of the PSO, which are due to be reviewed.
  • We have raised concerns about the guidance on disability leave, which is less comprehensive than in the previous PSO (although it is contained in PSO 8010 Equal Opportunities).

Although PCS believe that this PSO represents an improvement on the previous policy, members need be under no illusion about the employers aims. Sickness absence is a significant cost for the employer, especially in the current climate, where savage public spending cuts are being implemented across the MOJ.

PCS have consistently argued if the employer made a concerted effort to examine the underlying causes of sick absence, and looked at measures to deal with those issues, instead of concentrating on developing policies to “deal with” staff who take sick leave, we would all be in a much better position.

If you have any comments on this issue please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Contact me, Stephen Withers Group Vice-President.

The success of PCS, on all issues, depends on:

  • High membership level
  • Well organised workplaces
  • An active membership that is prepared to support our elected representatives.

If you would like to become active within with the Union or if you would like further information on this or other issues please contact me directly.

Stephen Withers
Vice President

Email: Stephen Withers

As a member, please encourage your colleagues to join PCS and to play a part in improving their working life. Please forward this for their attention and draw their attention to the membership link below.

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