Plan to cut social worker sick leave with nurse call scheme

Adult social care staff in York are being asked to phone a nurse
when they report in sick in a pilot scheme designed to cut high
sickness levels, writes Craig

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 to 12.2 in the rest of the council. The council estimates
that sickness in the department costs them £2.3m a year.

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

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 some
very 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

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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