Women and sickness absence

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2018 Local Government Service Group Conference
15 February 2018

Conference notes that increasingly local government employers are penalising employees taking sick leave, and that women are disproportionately affected by the sickness absence schemes in use in local government that treat regular short periods of absence particularly severely.

There are many women-specific conditions that fall foul of those penalties, including endometriosis, menorrhagia, menopause, PMS- related migraine and others.

It is well documented that employees in local government are under huge pressure from heavy workloads, staff shortages and competing management priorities, which put additional pressure on staff to work even whilst unfit.

For the many low paid women in local government the reality of period poverty creates an additional complication, as the cost of sanitary products for women can be prohibitive, particularly for women with menstrual problems. Those women can be faced with the stark choice of potential workplace humiliation or calling in sick and suffering the penalties of the sickness absence procedure.

Conference notes the UNISON gender health and safety guide which covers these issues in detail, and provides guidance on how to negotiate workplace policies which do not penalise women unfairly for these conditions.

Conference calls upon the service group executive to:

1)Raise awareness of the importance of considering gender related health conditions in negotiating and representing members facing sickness absence measures;

2)Issue guidance to branches in this respect; and

3)Signpost the gender health and safety guide.