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2010 Health Care Service Group Conference
11 December 2009
Carried as Amended

This Conference notes the excellent work of UNISON’s Health & Safety unit including its guidance on compliance of sickness absence agreements with current legislation, including the Disability Discrimination Act, based on research by the Bradford University School of Management.

However Conference notes that there appears to be a growing trend towards dismissals due to an overzealous application of the Employer’s Health and Attendance/Sickness Absence policies.

Whilst we fully endorse the need for effective management of health and attendance and in particular, the support mechanisms which any such policy should include as best practice, the reality is that this is not always the case. When staff become unwell they need sympathy and support to enable them to fully recover and where possible successfully return to their post.

We need to enable our staff with long term or acute conditions to lead full and productive lives and balance their health and roles effectively. Staff need access to re-training to enable them to move within their organisation when their health deteriorates. We need to be flexible to ensure we retain our highly skilled staff, we rightly expect patients to receive high quality care when they are unwell but NHS workers have the right to expect no less when they themselves are ill.

Conference notes the present economic climate with enormous pressure brought to bear from central government on NHS Trusts to meet ever moving/growing targets, the 18 week Referral to Treatment and changes to the national tariff all contributing to the need for efficiency savings to be made. Unfortunately, it would seem that our members are suffering directly as a consequence of this. A number of trusts have embarked on enforcing punitive measures to manage health and attendance without a consistent or fair approach. We are seeing an increasing number of dismissals on the grounds of capability due to ill health.

This Conference asks the Service Group Executive to:

i)Provide support and guidance to branches, stewards and safety reps to ensure all sickness absence and attendance policies comply with the appropriate legislation, more specifically, the application of the Disability Discrimination Act.

ii)To work in partnership at national level to ensure that NHS employers apply a fair and consistent approach to managing sickness absence and that best practice is reflected in policy at local level including the incorporation of Annex Z from the NHS National Terms and Conditions Handbook.

iii)To work in partnership with NHS Employers to specifically gather information about the management of long term sickness in an ageing nursing and midwifery workforce that is predominantly female, with a view to better inform the future development/provision of services specific to age related health problems in women. These are currently managed poorly by the employer, having a devastating effect on the way that our members are treated with reference to performance and capability issues.

iv)To make the case for the Boorman review to be implemented including improving access to occupational health services and support.