The New Sickness Absence Policy and its Effect on Women

As we are all aware a new draconian sickness absence policy has recently been implemented with no discussion or agreement with PCS. The imposed policy reduces the consideration points for management by 50% from 10 days to 5 days and from 5 occasions to 3 occasions in any 12 month period.

The department have not consulted with PCS or even conducted an Equality Impact Assessment.

According to HMRC’s own guidance: “Equality Impact Assessment or EQIA is a process to consider the impact of what we do on our staff and customers and improve outcomes for people in all equality groups. It’s about good people management, good decision making and good project development. The process helps to show that you are meeting your legal obligations to eradicate discrimination and promote equality.

HMRC have decided to remain ignorant to the fact that it not only would cause additional stress to our already overstretched manager members, but it could be used by the department to persecute and harass our most vulnerable members.

Clearly, issues affecting women haven’t been taken into consideration.

For example:

  • The same procedures apply for anyone on continuous pregnancy related sickness absence as to anyone on continuous sickness absence. The procedure for continuous sickness absence is deplorable in itself but, as an example, the fact that one new mother in ten will experience post-natal depression adds new depths to how deplorable the policy actually is.
  • In 2009, the PCS Group Women’s Advisory Committee found worrying trends[link] regarding the effects of mental health issues on women for which the new policy has worrying implications.
  • The new guidance means that members will have to attend medical appointments or dental appointments in their own time. Therefore any gynaecological appointments (including smear tests) will have to be taken in members’ own time, which puts additional pressure to make time up. For members who haven’t got their own time to take this may even mean missing or cancelling these vital appointments. (See the Young Members’ Advisory Committee project from 2009[link] for more info on the importance of cervical smear tests)

The list above is far from exhaustive. It does, however, provide a snapshot of the adverse effects that this new policy will have on women in particular.

For more information on the PCS stance on the attendance management policy please see here.

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