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
    levels.

    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
    year.

    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
    UK.

    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
    nurse.

    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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