UPDATE 11/03/2011: ballot to commence 23/03/2011. More here.
Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs chose February 14th, Valentines Day, to spread a little love for their employees by introducing new Managing Attendance & Wellbeing procedures. This will be smashing news for our already over-stretched line managers and for any staff who have the misfortune to fall ill.
Spread the Love
Legally an employee can have up to seven days of self-certified sickness absence before requiring a Fit Note. Under the new Managing Attendance procedures five days absence within a twelve month period are now a trigger point (now named a ‘consideration point’, but a thorn is still a thorn by any other name.) Not only is this three days short of the self-certification period, it is also no longer than the amount of time taken to get over an average bout of ‘flu. It is also shorter than time taken for someone with influenza to stop being infectious. From the NHS site:
The infectious period
Symptoms develop one to four days (two days on average) after being infected.
People with flu are usually infectious (can spread the virus) a day before symptoms start, and remain infectious for five or six days. Children and people with weaker immune systems (such as cancer patients) may remain infectious for slightly longer.
Try to avoid all unnecessary contact with others during this infectious period.
Your symptoms will usually peak after two to three days. You should begin to feel much better within five to eight days.
So, by setting the first ‘reminder’ alert at five days the new Managing Attendance procedures are, albeit indirectly, encouraging a perception that people with ‘flu should return to work both before they are well and while they are still infectious.
It’s good to share.
Anybody who works for HMRC should be well acquainted with management’s predisposition towards irony, knowing that any announcement about addressing a problem is likely to be followed by another which exacerbates it. On this occasion they don’t disappoint.
Just four days before the introduction of the Managing Attendance procedures Leslie Strathie, HMRC’s Chief Executive, had an item published on the HMRC intranet, ‘Improving Our People Survey Results.’ You see, HMRC have come bottom of all Civil Service departments for staff engagement. Why is this irony? Consider this statistic from Gallup, reproduced in the Civil Service People Survey itself:
Engaged employees in the UK take an average of 2.7 sick days per year, the disengaged 6.2 days (Gallup Research, 2003)
HMRC’s management have chosen to address a problem that is closely associated with low staff engagement by implementing an increasingly stringent sickness absence policy. It should be noted that this policy was introduced without the agreement of the unions.
Bear in mind that all this is happening at a time when HMRC has to shed thousands of jobs, and when deskilling and increased monitoring are making the working day increasingly unpleasant, leading to increased levels of stress and associated sick leave.
Dismissing people for their sick leave is a lot cheaper than making them redundant; making conditions so bad that they leave of their own accord is cheaper still.
The PCS R&C Group response to the Managing Attendence & Wellbeing is on their site here.