Unions undermine moves to cut down sickness absence

I agree with some of Mark Godfrey’s conclusions (Letters, Personnel Today, 13 June) – especially that large organisations tend to have more difficulties in dealing effectively with absence.

One of my greatest concerns is that public sector employees speak of sick ‘leave’ in the same way as they would of annual leave or study leave – as an entitlement. One of the most interesting notes in the CBI’s annual absence survey is that, where no trade unions are recognised, there is a significant reduction in absence levels. I cannot recollect this appearing in previous reports so am unable to comment as to whether this is a regular trend.

I also recently read a report that Amicus was, in effect, telling members that if they got caught ‘pulling a sickie’ to watch the World Cup, their officials would be able to defend them with appropriate excuses. What sort of message does that give to staff when managers are trying their hardest to reduce absence to that which is genuine?

I have to disagree with Godfrey’s assertion that the public sector deals with absence at least as well as the private sector. What incentive do managers have to get it right, other than the feeling of doing a good job? There are no profits to be made and, if you do seek to deal with the issues, the trade unions will get involved.

As regards the public sector employing a higher proportion of female staff, perhaps they need to benchmark against such private sector companies as Marks & Spencer, Bhs, Tesco, Sainsbury, etc, which all have very high percentages of women employees, operate nationwide, have a high number of outlets and large staff numbers.

My own organisation has about 82% female staff. But that should not be used as an excuse by anyone as to why they can’t meet benchmarks.

Graham Brown
Head of people support services
Barnardo’s

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