on Sickness Absence
10 May 2012: Following consultation,
the Branch Committee has agreed to a new Sickness
Absence policy in the City of Edinburgh Council after
improvements gained through negotiations. Click
here for a detailed briefing from negotiators
(pdf) and here for a brief
summary of the improvements.
The feedback from most meetings conducted
by stewards across the council and through website
feedback was that, while members remained unhappy
about the new policy, they welcomed the improvements
gained through negotiation and there was no appetite
for industrial action.
As in any negotiation, branch officers
had warned that rejection of the improved deal would
have meant a return to the original policy put forward
by the council in January 2012 without the improvements.
The council had already withdrawn from the previous
agreement before January 2012 and so that no longer
The lead negotiators pledged to monitor
the new policy, with further talks on implementation,
and to ensure it is applied sensitively and fairly.
Because it is a collective agreement, either side
can serve notice to withdraw from it if need be.
The full new policy will be published
on the council intranet.
time on new Sickness Absence policy (City of Edinburgh
27 April 2012: Detailed
briefing from negotiators
21 April 2012: Negotiations
on the proposed new sickness absence policy have come
to an end and the Branch Committee will be taking
a view in May. Meanwhile stewards have been briefed
and will be consulting members in workplaces.
Here we outline the main changes achieved
since the policy was first put to the unions. Also
look out for details in the branch magazine now coming
put to unions
|Fit Note needed for first day of
|No discretion for individual circumstances
||Discretion now allowed (with clear
guidelines to ensure fairness in compliance with
Council supportive procedures)
|Trigger level 3 instances in 12
||Same, but important discretion
in new Tool Kit
|Trigger level 6 days absence in
||Moved to 8 days in 12 months
|Stage One warning would mean no
||New ‘no action’ option
and discretion makes this no longer automatic
|Policy would be retrospective
||Talks to be concluded on transition
|No option to take ‘no action’
||Toolkit introduces option to take
|Individual areas able to set stricter
|Nurse-led reporting measures
||No reference in new policy
|Concerns about management support
||Management training and focus on
supportive measures to be introduced
|No negotiations on Toolkit
|| Negotiations with unions on Tool
Kit and implementation
New elements in final draft
Agreement to evaluate causes of
high absence in particular areas, and work with
the union on issues like stress, work related risks
Agreement for unions to provide
examples to inform areas for discretion
More references to supportive measures
than in the original 1998 document.
Much clearer up to date references
to legislation like DDA etc.
Case conferences to look at complex
cases and medical redeployment
More emphasis on return to work
meetings and supportive policies
What happens next?
UNISON has mounted the widest ever consultation
on this policy with one draft going out to every member,
a bulletin, leaflet and discussion at the AGM and
in stewards committees
Important: The negotiators
are clear that this offer is the best that can be
achieved through negotiation, and rejection will take
us back to the previous draft and require significant
action to gain any changes.
here to give your views on the new policy
New leaflet updates members on sickness absence talks
Spring 2012: As you are probably aware UNISON,
alongside the other trade unions, is currently in negotiation
with the City of Edinburgh Council about a new sickness
absence procedure - Managing Attendance at Work.
UNISON believes in a fair scheme that doesn't penalise
the genuinely ill and one that looks at the causes (e.g.
stress) rather than just punishing the symptoms. Excellent
workers could be sacked for minimal sickness. The main
- Lower trigger levels - for going into formal procedures
- Shorter timescales - formal 'stages' - can be accelerated
leading to a quicker dismissal
- Links to PRD - genuine illness could mean losing
your pay increment.
WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME THIS?
UNISON wants to keep members informed of the process
so far &
1. For the first time ever we sent a copy of the draft
procedure out to members and this provided an opportunity
for feedback directly to the branch or through local
2. Stewards have been consulting with members.
3. The draft Policy is on the Branch website. It is
the best place to find out the latest developments.
4. AGM booklet was sent out to every member for an
opportunity to feedback to the branch or to local stewards.
5. At the UNISON Branch AGM on 22 February, members
had the opportunity to voice their concerns. There were
two motions on the agenda regarding the new Sickness
6. We have instigated a campaign group to raise awareness
amongst members and prepare for any campaigning on the
issue if required.
7. We want you to help us - Join the Campaign
SO WHAT'S HAPPENED SO FAR?
Below is a brief timeline showing the major
events so far:
- •Having looked at the sickness absence procedures
of other local authorities, the council has made it
clear it is determined to change our 15 year old procedure.
- Following the debate at the AGM, our counter proposals
have been modified and will be used to generate discussion
around several key points of contention.
- One of the major areas of debate is around the
trigger levels. These will continue to be a major
source of discussion throughout the negotiations
- There will also be a focus on the use of discretion,
supportive policies, awareness raising/training and
having a collective responsibility in relation to
attendance at work.
- Following our counter proposals, the employer has
now issued the TU side with a revised draft proposal.
It has taken up some points, but there is still a
lot of work to be done.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?
- Speak to your local shop steward if you don t
have one then consider becoming one - or be a named
contact for your workplace
- Read the proposed procedure on the Orb be aware
of what is being proposed!
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0131 558
See the latest updates on our website | Follow us on
AGM BACKS MORE TIME TO NEGOTIATE ON SICKNESS ABSENCE
The Branch AGM, held on 22 February, backed an emergency
motion gving more time for negotiations after progress
was made in talks with the City of Edinburgh Council
on the Absence Management Policy. Motions calling for
a boycott and a consultative ballot were remitted to
the Branch Committee to be dealt with if negotiations
The AGM also celebrated the success of the "Our
City's Not For Sale" Campaign, elected new officers
to the Service Conditions Team and a new Equality Officer.
Full reports to follow.
The Emergency Motion passed on sickness absence is
SICKNESS ABSENCE POLICY
This AGM congratulates branch negotiators on achieving
a delay in implementation of the Council s new Sickness
Absence Policy and in securing progress on:-
1. Changes to the policy
2. The issue of transparent and fair discretion.
This AGM notes that in negotiations today, 22 February
2012, the negotiators presented the Council with counter-proposals
to ensure a fairer policy. The fact that the Council
has agreed to consider this counter-proposal is a significant
breakthrough in the talks.
Accordingly, This AGM instructs branch officers to:-
1. Continue to campaign against the imposition of an
unacceptable Sickness Absence Policy
2. Continue negotiations on the trade unions counter-proposals
3. Report back to Stewards Committees and the Branch
Committee on progress with further recommendations on
any necessary action.
Sickness absence policy put back to 15 March
Following representations from the unions to the Council's
Policy and Strategy Committee, the full Edinburgh Council
meeting on 2 February 2012 agreed to postpone the imposition
of the new sickness absence policy until 15 March 2012
to try to reach a negotiated settlement in an implementation
plan with the trade unions.
A Working Group (Managing Attendance Procedure - Implementation
Team) is being set up and all of the trade unions will
be involved. We are currently trying to agree the terms
UNISON's position is that it will be looking for positive
talks to achieve a positive procedure. A key element
will be clarification of the Head of HR's assurance
to councillors that no-one who is genuinely ill will
have anything to fear from the policy.
We will be arguing there is a need to revisit the procedure,
include the amendment put forward at the Policy & Strategy
Committee (to give discretion to managers) and the comments
made at a meeting between UNISON, the Administration
and the Chief Executive.
UNISON welcomes statements that the employer recognises
that the majority of people are off for genuine reasons,
and that the policy is intended to be supportive and
that people who are genuinely off ill have nothing to
fear from the report that went to Policy and Strategy
UNISON also welcomes the statement that the employer
wants to work with the trade unions to help reduce absence
levels. UNISON has always recognised the impact that
absences have on colleagues and services. It also accepts
that supportive procedures exist. This issue is that
they to be applied fairly, managers need to be trained
on them and staff need to be aware of them.
UNISON has also sought legal advice and drafted a letter
with the aim of sending out to all members should the
UNISON wins more time to put case against sickness
UPDATE: 1 Feb 2011. After meetings
with councillors, UNISON oficers are hopeful that the
full council on Thursday will further delay implementation
for more talks. Report will follow...
UNISON has won more time to put the union's case against
the council's proposed new sickness absence policy.
At today's Policy and Strategy Committee, UNISON set
out the union's concerns about the 'draconian' policy
(see below) and its reasons for opposing it.
Lib Dem and SNP councillors agreed to ask that a sentence
be added to the policy to allow managers to apply discretion.
Labour councillors asked for a continuation to next
month's committee to allow for meeting with Administration
and Chief Executive to take place.
The Lib Dem/SNP motion was carried so Labour asked
that it be referred to Full Council in February and
this was carried.
The issue will now go before the full Council on Thursday
2 February and in the meantime, UNISON Branch Secertary
Agnes Petkevicius has asked for a meeting with the Administration
to outline UNISON's concerns.
IMPORTANT UPDATE ON MANAGING ATTENDANCE AT WORK (SICKNESS
There is a drive within the council to reduce absence
levels across the council and the current target is
4%. As a way of achieving this, there was a proposal
to introduce a new Absence Management Procedure.
Only 3 meetings were held to discuss draft and after
some minor changes the Council served a 4 month notice
to withdraw from the present procedure, and impose the
new procedure. The date for imposition is the 30 January,
Some changes have been made e.g. no need to provide
a GP note from day one. However, after discussion with
stewards and Branch Service & Conditions officers, it
was decided that an Avoidance of Dispute should be raised
against the new procedure and also the FirstCare pilot
scheme. This was sent beginning of December.
Since that date we have had 2 further meetings with
Philip Barr, but they have resulted in no change. We
are still in Dispute over this matter.
WHAT THE NEW POLICY MEANS TO YOU:
1. Change to procedure triggers - 6 days or 3 unrelated
absences in a rolling year will mean a Stage 1 warning
2. An employee on the formal stage warning will lose
their annual increment as per Modernising Pay guidelines.
3. New procedure has 3 stages before dismissal, compared
to 4 stages in current procedure.
4. Transition from current to new procedure. If sick
after the 30th January, then a review of the employee's
absence record from the previous year will be instigated,
and if this meets the new triggers then a Stage 1 warning
will be implemented.
5. The new procedure demonstrates very little support
of employees with an illness. Lack of counselling stage,
little discretion for managers.
6. Stages are applied to both short and long-term sickness.
It also allows the fast tracking of stages.
FIRST CARE PILOT SCHEME:
This pilot scheme is a new reporting absence procedure
for employees. The pilot will run for a year. This was
introduced in December, 2011 without any consultation.
The pilot has been implemented in 13 different groups
across the council.
Issues raised about the pilot scheme:
1. Lack of consultation. An initial information day
where First Care gave a presentation, but there was
no further discussion on how, when and who would take
part. UNISON did not agree to this pilot, and the avoidance
of dispute includes our opposition.
2. Why introduce another reporting absence procedure,
when we already have a robust reporting system?
3. Why in this time of cuts and job losses are the
council paying for a private company to manage sickness
4. How can the council assess if this pilot is successful
or not when they are also introducing a new procedure?
5. Feedback from members highlights many problems with
this type of reporting procedure. E.g. you still have
to phone your line manager to inform them, if you have
planned meetings etc. for that day you are absent.
ADVICE FOR MEMBERS IN THE FIRST CARE PILOT SCHEME:
For members who are now part of this pilot we advise
you to comply with the pilot for the moment. This is
because management have indicated that employees will
be disciplined if they don't participate.
Remember, any formal stage in the disciplinary or
sickness procedure means an employee on the formal stage
of these procedures will lose their annual increment
as per Modernising Pay guidelines.
HOW DO WE OPPOSE THIS NEW POLICY AND FIRST CARE
1. Branch Officers have and are willing to continue
to meet with HR to try and negotiate further.
2. Legal advice has been sought, and we hope to have
a letter for individual members to sign showing compliance
under duress, and show our opposition.
3. Stewards are informing members and encouraging them
to join a action campaign against this new procedure.
4. On 24.1.12 the Council's Policy and Strategy committee
will meet to agree/disagree with the new procedure.
The Branch will send a deputisation to put our views
forward and ask for proper consultation on this issue
and/or withdrawal from this procedure.
If you are concerned or have questions, please contact
your shop steward or the Branch. Look out for further