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13 September 2011

Frontline staff who look after patients are being pressurised not to take sick leave and come into work when they are ill as part cost saving measures in the National Health Service.

Speakers at the recent Trades Union Congress today condemned employers who are compromising the fight against hospital acquired infections.

“The NHS has spent millions to raise hygiene standards to ensure that patients are not at risk of being infected by cross-infection,” said Pam Black of the Society of Radiographers.

“All the good work will be wiped out the instant an employee is required to work with an infectious disease because an employer wants to save money. Patients are the most vulnerable of the population,” she continued.

“Kitchen and ward staff are all feeling the pressure to be at work no matter what. Both of these areas are at risk if an employer feels the urge to control absenteeism with penalties rather than be responsible and work with the staff to improve attendance.”

Employers are using efficiency savings to introduce amendments to sickness and absence policies that seek to punish staff who are judged to be failing to maintain attendance at work.

“Many of the new procedures that have been introduced pay lip service to an employee’s well-being, are time-consuming to manage with no discernable financial or service benefit, and threaten the most vulnerable in the workforce,” Ms Black commented.

“As a result of changes to the negotiated policy, staff feel threatened and intimidated and attend work when they may not be able to work effectively, or are a danger to themselves and patients.”

The motion, which was carried unaminously, calls on employers to take a more responsible attitude to changes to agreed and negotiated policies, and not see sickness and absenteeism as ‘soft targets’ to save money.

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