The probation unions have been in ongoing discussion with NPS management since the introduction of the new Attendance Management Policy in January last year. Napo’s concerns are around the unrealistically harsh trigger points that result in members with more than eight days absence, or as few as four separate occasions of sickness absence (even if only a day for each), being caught up in the formal sickness absence procedure.
This means attending a formal meeting to decide whether disciplinary action is necessary and receiving a written warning leading to an improvement period during which the trigger point is 25% of the normal trigger point. Reaching this trigger invokes the second stage warning leading to a further improvement period. Napo calculates this could mean someone with four days sickness getting the sack if he or she has just two further days’ absence in the next six months.
It is even worse for part time staff, as those working less than 20 hours have a pro-rata four day trigger. Plus any absence over half a normal working day counts as one day’s absence for the trigger, while any absence over one hour counts as half a day – so if you come to work but go home early because you feel unwell that’s half a day.
Napo has asked for data on the number of warnings issued and whether there is evidence of manager’s discretion being used. However, we are told that the SOP is not able to provide this accurately, though some manually extracted data did show 2,958 cases of manager’s using their discretion no to issue warnings.
Napo argues that the procedure is discriminatory and the recent equality impact assessment produced by HR in the NPS fully supports this. Napo reps met to discuss this. We are in the bizarre situation of having an equality analysis which details the ways in which the policy potentially has a disproportionate impact on people on the grounds of age, gender, disability, race, religion/belief and sexual orientation but there are no plans in place to mitigate this disproportionate impact.
Napo’s strong representations have secured a further review of the equality analysis and more updates to the guidance notes which support the policy. The difficulty that members, managers and reps will have is finding these guidance notes however. Tthey are linked from the policy page on the intranet but links don’t work on the old probation IT systems. They are on “My Services” but impossible to find easily.
We will be updating our advice to reps to support challenges to the policy and at the same time are collecting information about cases where we feel that members have suffered a detriment due to protected characteristics.
We know that our members who are line managers are struggling with managing the process and with pressure on them to use this punitive policy to reduce legitimate sickness levels. We have also heard reports of manager members being put under pressure not to use the discretion they are allowed under the policy and reports of manager members’ decisions being scrutinised and challenged by other mangers, by HRBPs (HR Business Partners) and more senior managers.
Please contact your local rep if you have concerns about the policy, either because you have been through the process or because you have to manage it.
In the latest development, Napo’s continued pressure has finally seen some progress on achieving a ‘suitable and sufficient’ (EA) Equality Analysis of the Absence Management Policy. Napo has issued a comprehensive briefing for Napo reps outlining aspects of the revised assessment, particularly around increased management discretion to “mitigate” against discriminatory aspects of the procedure, for the use of Napo reps when representing members with protected characteristics.
This advice and the EA can be found on the Napo website