Bid to cut sick leave among York staff

Adult social care staff in York are being asked to phone a nurse
when they report sick in a pilot scheme designed to cut absence

Adult services was singled out for the three-month trial by York
Council because staff take an average of 28 days sick leave a year,
compared with 12.2 in the rest of the council. The council
estimates that sickness in the department costs them £2.3m a

The scheme has been tried in the public sector in Scandinavia and
the US, where it is alleged to have cut sickness rates by 30 per
cent, but this is the first trial at a public sector body in the

Human resources manager Stephen Forrest insisted: “We are not doing
it to catch malingerers. All the research shows that the sooner you
get medical advice to someone, the sooner they get better.”

He accepted, however, that having to report sickness to a nurse
might deter malingering.

Forrest added that the nurses would not pass on any medical details
to managers unless the employee consented, and the employee was
under no obligation to share medical information with the

But others were more sceptical. British Association of Social
Workers director Ian Johnston said sickness levels were high in
social work not because people were malingerers but because of
difficult and stressful working environments.

“We need to tackle the root causes of sickness rather than enforce
gimmicks from other places. And one key issue in the workplace is
the relationship between staff and line managers.”

He added, however, that reporting to a nurse was preferable to the
“misguided notion of offering rewards to staff who are not sick,
which implies that you can control when you are”.

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