“The welfare of workers must be paramount and central to any decisions about their fitness to work or to return to work”, said UNISON today, commenting on the Government’s response to the Black/Frost report on sickness absence.
The union hit back at suggestions that sickness absence management in the public sector needed strengthening, saying that they were in-line with sickness levels across the country.
The report will need to be examined in detail said UNISON, but Karen Jennings, UNISON Assistant General Secretary went on to say:
“We welcome the recognition that there is currently little support for both employees or employers on the early stages of sickness absence.
“However, the proposed advice service to assess workers is problematic. Foremost is how this service is to be procured and on what basis?
We would be opposed to any target driven service that would put pressure on people to get back to work quickly rather than when they were fit enough to return.
“UNISON refutes suggestions implicit in the response that the public sector needs to be singled out for special measures. There is no evidence that sickness levels are higher amongst public sector workers, when other factors are taken into account. Within the public sector, healthcare workers have to be mindful of vulnerable patients and service users, violence affects thousands every year, working face to face with the public leaves workers themselves vulnerable and many live and work in deprived areas and experience poorer health.”
The union called for time to examine the response in detail but criticised the proposal to do away with the requirement to keep sick pay records calling it a step backward in managing sickness absence.