In the latest of our columns from activists, we hear from Stephen Taylor, branch secretary for the Home Office West London Branch. Stephen recently helped a disabled member reach an agreement with an employer who wanted to drastically reduce their sickness absence trigger points.
“I recently completed a personal case of a member who had a disability, and who had increased sickness absence levels as a result. To offset this, and as a reasonable adjustment, she had her sickness absence trigger points raised from the standard 6 days and 3 occasions, to 35 days and 18 occasions.
She changed units and the first thing her new line manager said was that they needed to reduce her sickness absence trigger points to a level they believed was sustainable – which they said should be 12 days and 6 occasions. The reason for the change was not because her disability had changed, nor even because there were any changes to the unit, it was just because they were doing the same thing to everyone else in the unit and reducing all of them to the same level.
Understandably the member was unhappy and asked me to try and intercede.
We met the line manager but he refused to change his mind. I told him that we believed it amounted to disability discrimination as the reasonable adjustments had been in place for more than two years and her condition had not got better – if anything it was getting worse.
Nevertheless he said the decision was made. I then emailed the head of unit and asked them to be reasonable, stating that such a reduction in sickness allowed would put huge pressure on the member as she would be continually worried about receiving a warning and, ultimately, dismissal. The member had agreed to allow a reduction to 18 days and 9 occasions, and so we showed our reasonableness by offering that as a compromise position. The head of unit still refused to budge and said that they felt they were being reasonable.
We then raised a grievance, followed 28 days later by an Acas application for an early conciliation certificate.
At the end of the 28-day Acas period the department said they would be willing to consider talking once the grievance was completed, but it went nowhere.
So we then raised an Employment Tribunal claim (ET1) online. Within 36 hours of raising the ET1 the department contacted the member and said that they would be willing to concede their position and give the member the 18 days and 9 occasions trigger points she had offered them as a compromise option.
The moral of the story is that unless you try you don’t stand a chance of getting what you want.”