Mixed reaction to scheme linking sickness absence to annual pay rises

The move by an NHS trust to refuse annual pay rises to employees who have taken more than 18 days off sick in the year has provoked a split reaction from the HR community.

Last week, Personnel Today reported that Central Manchester University Hospitals Trust was introducing the new policy, which will also apply to staff who have had four separate sickness absences, as part of measures aimed at saving £120 million by 2014.

The announcement provoked an angry reaction from health service union Unison, who threatened legal action if the trust refused a pay rise to any worker.

But, commenting on Personnel Today’s HR Space forum, member John Picken said: “If an employer fulfils all its obligations to ensure and promote good health at work, isn’t it part of the employment contract that employees do all they can to ensure they are fit for work? The trust’s proposition is discretionary and does not include those with long-term illnesses or disabilities.”

AnnieHR agreed, suggesting that an 18-day limit was more than fair. “Sickness is much lower in places with less generous sick pay schemes and it’s time that something is done about this in the NHS,” she said.

But LMiller warned that the method being used by the trust “rarely works” when compared to approaches based on the “Bradford factor” (the theory that short, frequent, and unplanned absences are more disruptive than longer absences).

Pausanias was also unconvinced: “I don’t think this will work for long because it is discretionary and this will be the scheme’s Achilles heel – the union will find more and more deserving cases until almost nobody will be subject to action.”

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