26/10/2012 - Permalink

Proposed change to council sick-pay policy

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Shropshire Council is proposing to change the sick-pay policy for staff, following talks between the council and trade unions.

The proposed changes would mean the council would go back to paying staff for the first three days of sickness absence, regardless of their previous sickness record.

At the time of the new policy being introduced, the council pledged to review it to make sure that it was fair and effective.  The council has been working hard with the unions over the past few months to reach an agreement, looking at a number of options, and taking into account the results of the staff sick-pay survey.

Although sickness absence has fallen significantly since the new policy was introduced, with projected savings of £250,000 per year, it is clear that staff felt that the policy was unfair.

The proposal is subject to agreement by the council’s Cabinet, and a policy change would be effective from 1 November 2012. 

It will also be subject to the council and the trade unions agreeing to work together to find other ways of reducing the costs of sickness absence, and if an agreement is reached it is hoped to be able to make the temporary change permanent.  The council and unions are also looking at how to reduce the impact of long-term sickness.

Council leader, Keith Barrow, said:

“I think everyone appreciates why this policy was brought in, because the changes to staff terms and conditions have saved the council a lot of money, as well as jobs.  However, it’s become clear that many people thought it was unfair so, as promised, we have looked at it and are making changes.  It’s a management issue to make sure that anyone who takes days off sick more than usual is supported to improve their attendance.”

UNISON branch secretary, Alan James, said:

“I am delighted that we have managed to reach this agreement with Shropshire Council.  UNISON was the only Trades Union to oppose the introduction of a sickness policy that we always said was unfair and discriminatory.

“UNISON branch officers have worked tirelessly over the last 12 months to get to the stage we are now at and we view this move as a positive step in restoring the relationship between Shropshire Council and its employees.  We acknowledge the role that elected members have played in arriving at this position and we give a commitment to Shropshire Council to continue working with them on addressing sickness levels that will lead to the council achieving their targets in this area.”

Joan Humphreys, of the GMB, added:

“The GMB has worked for several months on a working group and identified that staff were most aggrieved with the loss of three days’ pay, as also confirmed by the staff survey.  We are delighted to see this part of the policy reverted for a set period and will be committed to working together with the council to ensure the current sickness policy is adhered to correctly and will deliver the required effect.  We appreciate this is a massive piece of work, but with the support of employees, managers and members hope to achieve a good result to ensure this reversion can become permanent.”