Coronavirus and Attendance Management

13 Mar 2020

An update to the provisions relating to Attendance Management policy.

PCS received notice of potential policy changes regarding the procedures in Home Office regarding treatment of Coronavirus. Members will have seen the recent safety briefings from Martin Andrews H&S lead for the Group. This briefing is to outline the policy amendments that have been achieved in relation to absence regarding Coronavirus.

PCS requested a number of policy changes, not least of which, in line with Conference policy related to the ability of managers to exercise discretion on absences, and a will for this absence to be discounted when calculating future trigger points. Unfortunately, we were unable to gain traction on this. However, where we have gained a pragmatic change is in relation to the treatment of absence relating to confirmed cases of Coronavirus.

Home Office confirmed that in the current coronavirus scenario the trigger may be reached every time there is a further day of absence during the 12 month rolling period following a coronavirus related absence and that the coronavirus absence should be disregarded each time. However, they have confirmed that Home Office have allowed for this by saying that the coronavirus absence alone should not result in a warning being issued.  Managers will not need to conduct a Formal Attendance Meeting in these circumstances. The complete updated FAQ says:

How does sickness absence for coronavirus (COVID-19) affect the trigger/consideration point?

The Attendance Management Procedure already allows for line managers to exercise discretion when a consideration trigger point is reached or exceeded. If symptoms of COVID-19 are displayed, 

we expect line managers to exercise judgment on a case by case basis taking account of the current medical advice from Public Health England and adopting a supportive and sympathetic position by exercising appropriate discretion. As consideration trigger points are calculated over a rolling 12-month period, managers should apply appropriate discretion where a COVID-19 related absence alone has caused a consideration trigger point to be reached at any point within the 12-month rolling period. Home Office are recommending that any absence for COVID-19 does not invoke a warning.  

Additionally, to reduce what is an already stressful situation the FAQ’s go on to state:

There is no need to conduct a Formal Attendance Meeting. An informal Return to Work meeting will suffice but the date of this meeting should be entered onto Adelphi in response to the notification that a trigger has been reached.  Normal sick pay rules will apply.

At the time of the swine flu pandemic, the policy did not provide for manager discretion and a mandatory warning had to be applied at the point of a trigger point being reached, hence the need for special measures. The current attendance management procedure already incorporates manager discretion and there is no mandatory warning triggered.

If the absence is due to a confirmed case of COVID-19 then it will be classed as an exception (as a notifiable communicable disease) and so will not count towards trigger calculations.

PCS will remain engaged with the Home Office HR team and endeavour to ensure that members are not suffering detriment from the outbreak of this virus.

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