Manchester hospital unions' sickness pay cut victory

Moves by a Manchester NHS trust to dock staff pay if they take too much sick leave have been overturned by an Employment Tribunal.

Central Manchester University Hospitals Foundation Trust introduced a new rule for employees who were sick on four or more occasions a year or 18 days.

Unions lodged tribunal cases on behalf of scores of staff who were not paid their incremental rise.

The trust said the policy had reduced absence levels.

Paul Foley, regional head of health for Unison, said: "This is a victory for fairness.

He added: "The nature of working in a hospital, surrounded by ill people, means you're more likely than in other jobs to become unwell."

'Reduction in absence'

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) general secretary Dr Peter Carter, said: "Put bluntly, we feel it is outrageous that an employer should attempt to withhold payments simply because a member of staff is sick."

He added: "Under Agenda for Change, increments can be withheld, but only in certain strictly defined circumstances. We strongly believe, and the tribunal upheld this belief, that these circumstances do not include sickness absence.

"If unchallenged, this decision could have had major repercussions for NHS staff across the UK.

The trust said its pay policy had been withdrawn, adding: "The Incremental Pay Progression Policy was introduced in November 2010 as one of a number of initiatives for safeguarding the employment of permanent staff and to reduce the use of bank and agency staff and to ensure the continued delivery of high quality care to patients.

"Whilst the policy was in force there was a significant reduction in absence levels and a substantial increase in staff compliance with appraisals and mandatory training."

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