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Deal agreed 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 The council had already withdrawn from the previous agreement before January 2012 and so that no longer existed.

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.


UNISON News April 2012Decision time on new Sickness Absence policy (City of Edinburgh Council)

27 April 2012: Detailed briefing from negotiators (pdf)

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 out...

First draft put to unions Final draft after negotiations
Fit Note needed for first day of absence Removed
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 months Same, but important discretion in new Tool Kit
Trigger level 6 days absence in 12 months Moved to 8 days in 12 months
Stage One warning would mean no pay step 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 no action
Individual areas able to set stricter targets


Nurse-led reporting measures No reference in new policy
Concerns about management support and training 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 and illnesses.
  • 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

  • Make sure you have a workplace meeting
  • Read the new policy - all the info is on the website - and you can give your views there

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.

Click here to give your views on the new policy


Sickness Absence update
New leaflet updates members on sickness absence talks

Sickness Absence Sprin 2012 update
Click here for a pdf copy of the leaflet

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 differences are:

  • 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.


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 stewards.

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 Absence Procedure.

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


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.


  • 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!

branchoffice@edinburgh-unison.org.uk or call 0131 558 7488

See the latest updates on our website | Follow us on twitter @unisonedin




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 fail.

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 blow.....


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 of reference.

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 Committee.

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 talks fail.


UNISON wins more time to put case against sickness absence policy

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...

Tues 24/1/12

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.





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, 2012.

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.


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.


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 absence?

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.


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.


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 info.






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