Significant numbers of members have contacted us to say that some managers have been told to start to apply considerable pressure when people report sickness absence. We’ve seen numerous cases of:
1.Members being told to contact more senior managers directly if they want to report sickness absence.
2. Insistence on video calls from managers to reporting sickness (a telephone call or text message is said to be insufficient).
3. Changing working hours so that people aren’t reported as sick, including reporting sickness as TOIL.
4. Multiple threats to move people from home working to office working if sickness is reported.
5. Pressure on home workers to keep working, despite the fact they’ve reported that they’re too unwell to work.
6. A total lack of any sympathy or understanding for any sickness.
As we’ve explained before, once employers have cut, cut and cut again there isn’t much room for economies unless they start to behave unethically, unlawfully or accept a deterioration in customer service. With this frustration at the forefront, obviously someone at a senior level has decided that exerting plainly inappropriate pressure is the way to reduce sickness absence.
However frustrating it may be for Lloyds and Halifax, the fact is that people get sick, particularly at this time of year, and if someone says they’re too ill to work the Bank has to take that at face value. Applying intolerable pressure to get people work is unreasonable and will almost certainly:
1. Cause people who are already unwell, unnecessary stress and worry which may impede their recovery.
2. Cause people to take longer to recover.
3. If people are working when they genuinely aren’t well enough to, there’s an increased risk of them making mistakes, for which they will no doubt be criticised by the Bank. This could lead to consequences as extreme as disciplinary action and conduct rule reports to the FCA.
4. If people come to work with infectious illnesses, there’s obviously an increased risk of others falling ill, which will only serve to worsen the situation.
5. The service provided to the Bank’s customers will almost certainly be less good if people are working when they don’t feel well enough to.
The ethical, thinking manager realises that nobody wins by frightening sick people into working. Most managers will not want to involve themselves in what is going to amount to illegality. Many will refuse to do so.
The law permits staff who are ill for 7 calendar days or less to self-certify their sickness, which means that people need only to report their illness, without the need for medical evidence. That right needs to be respected. If persistent sickness becomes an issue, the Bank has procedures in place to address it, but the latest initiative is unreasonable and clearly Lloyds and Halifax need to back off.
Does This Sound Familiar? Talk To Us About It
We’ll be monitoring the situation closely, but if your manager tries to put you under pressure when you’re too unwell to work, contact the Advice Team straight away so that they can advise you on how to deal with the situation. The sooner we’re involved, the sooner we can help. The Advice Team can be contacted 24 hours a day on 01234 262868 (choose Option 1).
Glossy Blurb Versus Reality
The near idyll that the Bank (and Accord with its partnership agreement) like to portray is a long way from the reality of working in a Bank in 2022. No one supports lead-swinging which just puts pressure on other staff but with their age and gender profiles, in the network in particular, Lloyds and Halifax are going to experience higher than normal levels of sickness and family emergencies. This is a fact of life and no amount of bullying will change it.
According to the 2021 UK Census:
“The groups with the highest rates of sickness absence in 2021 included women, older workers, those with long-term health conditions, people working part-time and people working in caring, leisure and other service occupations.”
Ring any bells?
Some of the things reported to us are plainly breaches of the Bank’s implied duties of care and what is called trust and confidence (you have to be able to trust your employer and your employer needs to be able to trust you). These are important issues and the difference between BTU and other unions is that we will take cases of bullying that are not resolved to the Employment Tribunal as breaches of contract or acts of discrimination.
This shouldn’t be necessary and although most members won’t need this support it’s there on this and all other issues if required.
All You Need To Do
To meet the requirements of you contract of employment you and the Bank need to behave reasonably and in the context of sickness absence you need only to report your absence to your line manager. At that point the law cuts in and your period of self-certificated absence begins. You don’t need to take part in bullying video calls or any other rigmarole clearly designed to bully you into working when you’re unwell.