A major Bradford voluntary sector organisation has been forced to make major amendments to its absence policy following a challenge by a Bradford IWW member with the support of our union.
The long standing absence policy was amended last year removing any managerial discretion regarding how ‘disability related absence’ was treated. The changes meant that such absences were treated in exactly the same way as an ordinary absence due to ill-health, counting toward a particularly punitive numerical trigger point. In this case the change meant that three separate occasions of absence (half day or more) would automatically trigger a review with disciplinary sanctions potentially leading to dismissal.
Our member, who suffers from an auto-immune condition had levels of total absence much lower than colleagues but was unduly affected by the numerical counting of ‘occasions’ of absence rather than a cumulative number of days. The consequence of this was that whilst colleagues might have weeks off work because of one or two periods of sickness, her much lower total of absences was spread across more occasions inevitably triggering the new procedure and an ‘Individual Attendance Plan’ with an additional and still more restrictive set of trigger points.
With the support of her union this employee submitted a grievance. In the first hearing she was bullied and cajoled and the grievance was lost. Shaken and disappointed she was however unbroken and she submitted an appeal which was heard two weeks ago by the CEO. Our member cogently argued that the policy was discriminatory and breached the Equality Act as it effectively prevented consideration of ‘reasonable adjustments’ around disability related absence.
Yesterday she received a letter accepting the need for a revision to the organisations policy and outlining the proposed changes to the text. The revision requires that where an absence is caused by a disability the organisation must now explore reasonable adjustments to the Absence Policy itself and where necessary dis-apply the numerical trigger points to the worker.
This constitutes both a major success for the individual member and a massive change to the terms and conditions of the hundreds of other workers employed by the organisation.
In this respect A ‘Victory for One’ truly is a ‘Victory for All’. Individual struggle can improve the workplace for everyone but underlines just why it is so important that we all join a union.
SOLIDARITY IS STRENGTH