Police spy tactics may weed out malingerers

Major public-sector employers could follow the lead of the police and use
covert surveillance to check up on staff believed to be exploiting sick pay.

With spiralling ill-health and early retirement costing the public sector
dear, experts say spying on staff could become more widespread.

David Crichton-Miller, a consultant with the Risk Advisory Group, said any
move towards covert surveillance by police forces would create pressure on
other public-sector employers.

He said, "I am absolutely sure that there is a general trend toward
being more scrupulous on this type of point. Anything that is reasonably widely
held up would tend to put on the pressure in that direction because it is
public money that is being lost."

The news come after the Association of Chief Police Officers revealed it may
recommend surveillance to forces in guidance to be issued later this year. If implemented,
other employers could follow suit.

A spokesman for the association said, "It is being considered at the
moment. If we had reason to suspect that an officer was lying, then we would
take a very serious view. Certainly surveillance would be an option.

"We would not need to contract it out to private investigators as
covert surveillance is one of the options that is available within
forces."

Employment law consultant David Marshland, of William M Mercer, said he does
not expect the practice to become widespread – even if it is adopted by chief
constables.

But he added that an increase in the number of employers using it would be
inevitable.

"I think in time if you get an impression that other organisations are
doing something like this your own likelihood of doing it becomes
greater."

Mike Lewis, assistant chief constable of South Wales Police, said he would
be prepared to monitor officers suspected of malingering.

He said, "We have adopted a robust approach to sickness. While the
overwhelming majority of people taking sick leave are genuinely ill, this
management is designed to weed out the small number abusing the system."

By Helen Rowe

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