Agenda item

The Council's Sickness Absence Management Policy & The Ageing Workforce at DBC


T Boggins raised concerns around the ageing workforce especially with those working at Cupid Green who were now coming under sickness review meetings. People were unsure of the purpose of these meetings and she felt that it was unfair to hold them and expect people who were off sick, to attend. The hearings can bring undue stress onto the employee. She explained that she had been informed that occupational sick pay was suspended too soon into a period of absence and sickness was monitored monthly by the Corporate Director for Finance & Operations. She disagreed with this process as this was people’s personal medical information being discussed by people who were not medically trained.

The Union disagreed with the sickness absence policy and felt it was unfair and would therefore be looking for a review.


Councillor Taylor informed the group that he was the Chairman of the Audit committee and explained that he had seen and monitored the sickness absence policy and he was aware that internal audit had reviewed it. He felt it would be worthwhile for the union to put their concerns in a report to him which he could take to a future Audit Committee meeting. He noted that internal and external auditors attend the committee as do members of the CMT.  He would ask if representatives from the Union could attend too, to put the case across.


Councillor Whitman agreed with T Boggins that people reviewing medical cases who do not have any medical qualifications was disconcerting and unacceptable.

Councillor Taylor said that officers were only reviewing statistical information and data trends and not medical information.


A Stunell explained that the policy was introduced in April and was due for review after 12 months and that the union were consulted. The policy was agreed at Cabinet. She added that occupational sick pay was only removed if the employee was on a warning for their sickness. Officers do review cases however she assured the group that they look only at data and statistics, for example the number of days taken off sick and the number of occasions.

A Stunell noted that Group Managers and Assistant Directors reviewed the hearings and use information provided by Occupational Health and not on specific medical information. The current sickness target is 8 days and the average was 7.8, this was compared to 11 days last year.


T Boggins said that the sickness target had been reduced to 4 days and therefore this was very easy to exceed, especially for those employees working closely with others. If someone fell under the equalities act then the target was doubled, but again this was very easy to exceed. She felt that it was unacceptable to be allowed only 4 days sickness before being under review.


A Stunell replied that the current sickness absence policy had been consulted on with the Union, and then agreed by Cabinet and CMT, who had agreed the targets set and any changes raised through the consultation.


Councillor Taylor noted that T Boggins was incorrect with her statement and explained that the 4 days target was a guide only and then support meetings would be held.

Councillor Chapman added that the review meetings were held to help those who were sick and to highlight those who were possibly abusing the system. The HR teams would then look at ways of helping those who had been sick to integrate back into the workplace. He said that if the Union were aware of cases which were not following the policy, then they should be highlighting those, with specific examples so the committee could look into it.


C Plested said that there had been cases where the council had jumped ahead and suspended sick pay.

A Stunell reiterated that occupational sick pay was only suspended once a warning had been issued and this had been the process for the past 6 years. Officers were following the agreed HR policy.


T Boggins said that other council’s did not suspend sick pay so soon.

Councillor Chapman said council’s had different policies to follow and if the Union felt this was something to look into, then they should provide examples and evidence of other council policies.