Delegates highlight misuse of attendance management

National delegates conference heard this morning that attendance management is a tool that can be used by employers to discriminate against disabled members.

Peter Bailey for the national disabled members’ committee told conference that “attendance management is a tool used to victimise and remove disabled people from work.

“Many managers use attendance management to choose who will be made redundant or even sacked.”

He said that, if disability-related sickness is taken into account when employers are considering redundancy, this can put disabled workers at a disadvantage.

And he reminded delegates that the 2010 Equality Act says that employers should take into account disability and work to avoid discrimination on that basis.

Kim Silver for the national executive said said that “attendance management is often the vehicle of staff who are wrongly perceived as too costly or difficult to manage”.

She said that the good practice of disability leave that had been developed by UNISON was now being used by other TUC-affiliated unions.

Cath McGuinness from Newcastle City told delegates that her employer has a special disability absence policy, but she explained that there can be problems with employers when the question of “what is a disability?” is raised.

Her message was that “we, as trade union activists, must have the knowledge to challenge wrong decisions”.

Nick Ruff from Kirklees told delegates that “attendance management was a bullying tactic … a backdoor way of getting rid of our members”, while Steph Davies from Newport City Branch told conference that “sickness absence is one of the most important issues to an employer” and often leads to employers asking very personal questions of people who have disabilities.

“It is shameful that our members who take time off because of a long-standing disability are still challenged by the employer,” she observed.

And she emphasised the problems with mental health issues – often growing as workplace stress increases – and recommended “UNISON’s model disability policy” to delegates.

Conference called on the national executive to campaign for an end to the use of potentially discriminatory attendance management polices, and to promote the union’s own disability leave policy, encouraging employers to adopt it.

UNISON disabled members