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Attendance Procedures

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At the Royal Mail you are sometimes made to come into work even when you are sick or injured, on threat of dismissal. It’s called an ‘Attendance Procedure’. They monitor your attendance. If you are off work for sickness or injury too many times, or for too long, you are given a Stage 1 warning. If you go over the limit a second time while still on the Stage 1 warning, you are given a Stage 2 warning. If you exceed the limit for a third time you are given a Stage 3 warning and threatened with dismissal. The limits are: either three absences in the space of a year, or one absence of three weeks or more.

This is whether or not you are actually ill. All illnesses are assumed to be genuine, but all illnesses, no matter how desperate, also count towards your warnings. They don’t take any mitigating circumstances into account. They don’t take the severity of the illness into account. So, say you get swine flu while on a Stage 2 warning, then you would have to come into work, spreading the illness to all of your colleagues, or risk the possibility of getting a Stage 3 warning and a possible dismissal.

Or you could be in hospital having a hernia operation – I know someone this happened to – and when you get out they will still haul you into the office for a reprimand. The Royal Mail would rather the whole workforce got swine flu than take the chance that one of your absences might be due to a hangover.

Comments on “Attendance Procedures”

  1. Bungaroosh says:

    Roy, for another London Review take on the Royal Mail, try googling “indestructible malignant fungus”. Adding “sneaky bastard” should refine the result.

    • Thomas Jones says:

      Thanks to Roy, the author of that piece is now considerably more sympathetic towards postmen. Though in fact he wasn’t entirely unsympathetic at the time, as a careful reading of the piece in question (as opposed to misleading selective quotation: thanks, Bungaroosh) should make clear. The bosses – and neoliberal ideology – are to blame.

  2. Roy Mayall says:

    Hi, I read the piece. It was quite funny, but my sympathy went out to the old put-upon postie. What struck me that the author not only didn’t know who his postman was, he didn’t even know his neighbours. Isn’t that part of the problem? For clarification, you don’t have to know my real name to address me when I’m in uniform. Just call me “post” or “postie”.

    • Thomas Jones says:

      Yes, absolutely, that is part of the problem. However: part of the reason I didn’t know my postman was that he didn’t have enough time to wait for me to answer the door when he rang the bell (not his fault, I know). And as for the neighbours, the basement of that house was so horrible – dark, damp and constantly being broken into – that no one stayed very long; it was hard to keep up. I knew my other neighbours – on the intervening floors, and next door – quite well.

  3. Thomas Jones says:

    BTW the piece in question, to save anyone the trouble of searching for it using Bungaroosh’s search terms, is here.

  4. Roy Mayall says:

    Interestingly enough, doing a google search using Bungaroosh’s terms, that piece comes out on top, which is hilarious. I mean, who would think to tag a piece as “indestructible malignant fungus”? All of which is getting away from the main point of my post, which is that the Royal Mail are getting increasingly belligerent about enforcing these attendance procedures. It’s like they’re trying to get rid of as many postal workers as possible, using any means possible.

    • Thomas Jones says:

      It’s not tagged with that phrase! Google finds words whether or not they’re tagged.

      But, yes, the wish to get rid of postal workers: bad for them, bad for Granny Smith.

      • stax68 says:

        Using it twice probably helps. Were you that pleased with it, or were you intentionally adopting the technique, popular with hollywood scriptwriters, of repeating, in slightly different context, a previously used phrase? I think it’s supposed to give the illusion of wit or significance…

        And I’m afraid the piece was what it was, complete with ludicrous anecdata and humourless venom. Too late to back out now chum.

        But to make amends, you could try having a word with anyone you know in the mass media and see if you can convince them to mention anything – anything at all – about the reasons for the strike. From what I’ve come across the story starts with the strike – apparently unmotivated by any recognisable human concern – and passes swiftly on to sympathetic reporting of Mandelson & the management fulminating about ‘punishing customers’.

  5. Roy Mayall says:

    I know it’s not Thomas, but it does come out on top on a search for that phrase, which is the funny thing. I wonder, when you wrote that combination of words (which is a pretty good description of the effect of piles of junk mail building up in your hall) that you would one day be haunted by it? Or that it would end up identifying the piece on google? Ah the randomness of existence… or of google at least.

  6. Roy Mayall says:

    As an interesting aside, the Independent ran a version of my LRB piece here: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/a-postmans-lament-all-this-belligerence-bullying-and-cajoling-we-are-being-provoked-1802237.html Read the comments and you’ll discover that I’m not a real person at all, certainly not a postman, but I’m a PR company. It’s new to me!

  7. nicolamary says:

    Three years ago, my father was 55 when he was knocked over by a Range Rover whilst on his postal round – a round he had done for over 20 years. The driver of the vehicle was at fault and my father needed a hip replacement and shoulder surgery as a result. He loved his job and was loved by the local community and the ‘granny smiths’ he delivered to. Despite this being an accident at work he received no support from the Royal Mail and was disgarded, tossed aside like a piece of old scrap metal. He feels let down and rightly so, the Royal Mail care not one jot about their employees, they are a disgrace!

    • Roy Mayall says:

      Hi nicolamary, well this story is typical of the RM and its attitude to its employees. Someone at work just told me that a guy in hospital having a triple by-pass operation was sent a disciplinary letter and threatened with the sack. A disgrace indeed!

  8. criticalbill says:

    London Underground has similar sickness procedures – see this article from Prospect (by me!) from a few years ago

  9. maclyn says:

    Hi Roy,

    This kind of sickness procedure is totally rife in the ‘public’ sector. Illness is no longer a normal part of life which you need to take time to recover from; it’s a crime.

    I’m a former civil servant (worked in an HMRC contact centre) and when I was there I was in generally poor health. I was there for about ten months, had two viruses which had me vomiting every two seconds, and then my mother was a witness in a very high-profile, extremely stressful defamation action brought by perma-tanned chump who will not be named. My doctor, against my protestations, insisted that he sign me off work for two weeks with stress, depression, nervous exhaustion, whatever you want to call it.

    And despite having a sick line from a GP, when I returned to work I was threatened with disciplinary action and several attempts were made at bullying me into seeing a Capita doctor. I asked why they needed me to go to a private doctor when my GP had already diagnosed and treated me. All I got was some vague guff about how “Well, if this is going to affect your work we need to know exactly what’s wrong and how severe it is.”

    The barely concealed subtext is, of course, that I was to be sent to Capita so they could dismiss my mental health problems and rule me absolutely fit to work.

    I refused to go to Capita as under the terms of my contract they couldn’t make me. They were raging, but there was nothing they could do.

    I then left to pursue full-time education, but as we were all supposedly granted a “reasonable hearing” for requests for flexible working, I asked to be put on part-time hours. My request was denied, and I was told that it might be best that I was leaving voluntarily anyway as “You might have been about to have some disciplinary problems because of your sickness.”

    On my last day, my boss told me she was sorry to lose someone who was “excellent at her job”.

    Folk who slag civil servants and other public sector workers need to clean out their ears and actually listen to our experiences. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter that I was great at my job and consistently performed well in performance reviews; I got sick, and in the eyes of public sector bosses, that’s a heinous offence.

  10. Thorby Bislam says:

    What Roy hasn’t mentioned is that the sickness procedure counts days as well as absences. Two absences or one of 14 days off will trigger a stage 1. A further absence in the next 6 months will trigger a stage 2.
    OK, fair enough, there has to be a sickness procedure of some sort. In any job there’s a minority that will work the system, throw a sickie if they’ve had a few beers too many the night before but RM’s procedure is blatently unfair for three reasons.

    1. They count Sundays when counting days off. For delivery postmen, Sunday is not and never has been a working day. Yet RM count them toward the total of days off. Say for example, one catches a cold and is off work Saturday, Sunday and Monday. That’s counted as 3 days despite the fact that you were only unavailable for work on the Saturday and Monday.

    2. There is no right to appeal against a stage or 2. Only against a stage 3 and by then a worker is halfway out of the door already. If one feels he has been issued a stage 1 or 2 unfairly, there is nothing that he can do. And even if he does not progress further (which is usually the case) it still remains on ones record.

    3. Accidents on duty, which can be anything from a RTA to slipping on a icy path, are counted into the procedure. They never used to be but sometime in the past few years the rules have been changed.

    Finally I’ll leave Roy to tell you about ATOS. If I start to talk about ATOS I’ll get angry and I dont want to be angry right now.

  11. clashcityrocker says:

    One of my colleagues was sacked because the Sunday was counted although he could not actually return to work on the Sunday.Re-instated on appeal.

  12. Roy Mayall says:

    What gets me is the lack of flexibility in these procedures. Management are always going on about flexibility, but it’s all one way.

  13. misterbryn says:

    Had an incident not too long ago where a local postie was taken down the attendance procedure.
    Our area rep went in with him, and read the ATOS report, that the individual ” should not be put into a position of stress, or likely to cause stress, as it could push him over the edge.
    Rep asks manager to stop the interview…he refuses,
    Rep repeats request to have interview stopped ” No(reps name withheld) I’m going to continue”
    Rep asks for a third time that the interview be stopped….manager refuses.
    The postie, a grown man is meanwhile sitting crying his eyes out, and eventually runs from the room, leading to a stand up argument between manager and furious rep.
    This is the contempt RM show their employees, and their own doctors advice.
    When it comes to your welfare and health it is becoming increasingly apparent that they really don’t give ATOS (sorry for the pun.

  14. franceslaing says:

    Thank you for writing this blog, Roy, it’s brilliant.
    I have linked to it on mine.
    See: http://www.franceslaing.co.uk

  15. silky says:

    hi
    a little help needed from you guys.
    i phoned in sick on monday and then inform my gov on friday that i will take my rest day as usual on saturday. that is 5 days off sick,so i go back to work on monday. my manager says i was off for 8 days.
    again after 2 months had to come home becaus of flu on tusday and again i phoned him to tell him that after taking my rest day saturday i will start duty on monday. this time he says i took 7 days off work.
    so he wants to issue me 1st stage warning. what do i do ?
    thanks in advance

  16. Roy Mayall says:

    Silky, you need to talk to your Union rep. You mustn’t go in and see the gov without a witness, either a work mate, or your rep. Best of all your rep. Even if you aren’t in the union, you should find out who your rep is. If there’s isn’t a rep in the office, you need to find your district rep. You definitely need to talk to the union. Stage 1 isn’t too bad. I’m currently on a stage 2. I’m not sure how they work out how many days off you’ve had, but this sounds like typical Royal Mail. As we say in our office: “This job is all about give and take. We give, they take.” Hope things work out OK for you.

  17. silky says:

    thank you mate that was really helpfull.
    i think floor manager was reponsible to inform Dom that i have resumed, but he did not do so on time on both occassions but now he realised that he made mistake and Dom (there is a rift going on between them two)wants to punish him by asking him to give me 1st stage which he knows i would not take cos i have a strong case. i showed him the phone bills that show that i did make call to resume. bottom line is those two idiots want to make me a sandwich between them.

    i will keep u posted. thanks again

  18. Roy Mayall says:

    OK Silky. Just make sure there’s always a witness to any conversation. If they say it’s informal, then anything that is said can be disregarded. If anyone is taking notes it means it’s not informal and you need a witness present. Good job you had the evidence, but it shows how absurd the whole procedure is that we have to go to such lengths to defends ourselves for being ill. I am actually wondering if the procedure might not be illegal as being against natural justice, and am considering whether to fight my own stage 2 warning.

  19. silky says:

    can u appeal agaist a stage if it is issued ?

  20. Roy Mayall says:

    No, you can’t appeal against a stage 1 or a stage 2. However it’s worth lodging a disagreement if you’ve been issued with a stage as it might help you with an appeal later on, at stage 3, if it ever gets that far. Have you spoken to your rep yet? That’s the most important thing, to make sure you have a witness at every point.

  21. the abbot postie says:

    Roy,
    I have experience of being “triggered”, and have noticed the change in how the experience was dealt with.
    I have over 20 years service, and in the late 90′s one year i was ill culminating in a stage 3 interview, i would like to point out that the reason for my sickness absences was due to the same-medially certified-illness.
    When i had my meeting with the manager concerned-accompanied by my union rep-i explained the reasons for my absences and was listened to sympathetically.He then spoke to me in private and made the decision NOT to issue the dismissal he could have done.
    3 years ago i was again triggered and this time dealt with by an acting manager-a postman from another office-who listened to my reasons for sickness-one absence with flu, one after a dog attack, and another occasion when i had been injured at work. I say he listened, he told me that my work related injuries were my own fault and issued the stage 1.
    The truth is that all line managers have now been instructed to use the attendance procedure as a tool to get rid of staff, and it works.
    Only 2 months ago a colleague was dismissed on the attendance procedure.He had gone sick after injuring his foot whilst on delivery, he returned to work but after a day went to see his doctor who informed him he had actually had broken his ankle and was signed off for 4 weeks. Unfortunately this meant 2 sick periods and was the final nail.
    It did, however, mean that another duty in our office was disposed of without having to pay any redundancy.

  22. Roy Mayall says:

    abbot postie: this is really shocking. I knew it was happening, but I didn’t realise it was so blatant. This is the trouble, the union aren’t fighting this properly. They must have negotiated this procedure. I think we should go on strike till it is removed. It is an abomination. I need to write about this.

  23. the abbot postie says:

    Roy,the “stage” procedure has always been one of my biggest gripes about working in the business (as we are called these days). let’s remember that a total of 4 DAYS of sickness can put your career in jeopardy.
    I have never understood why the union agreed to this, however as you say they obviously must have done, and what’s more they must have agreed to it back in the days when we had some influence over our working conditions!

  24. Roy Mayall says:

    Hi AP, yes the union certainly agreed to this and it goes to the heart of the problem as I see it, that they are so out of touch with our needs that they don’t even recognise that it is an issue. I think we need to bombard the union with demands for a change as soon as possible. If you want to write to me directly you can via my hubpages site here: http://hubpages.com/profile/Roy+Mayall

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