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  • Writer's pictureFinn Brennan ASLEF Distri

London Underground attendance plans. Going to be ill for more than seven weeks? You’re sacked !

On Tuesday June 27th, ASLEF and the other London Underground trade unions attended a meeting called by management to hear about their plans for a new attendance policy. Although we never expected to like what they would say, we were genuinely shocked by their proposal.

Despite all the warm words about TfL’s values, their plans for attendance management show that the only value senior managers seem to really care about is the value of the bonuses they get for meeting their financial targets.

They want to treat all sickness that lasts more than seven days as “long term”. This triggers a process that, if your manager believes “you are unable to return to your role for the foreseeable future, or you cannot sustain your attendance in your substantive role” you can be sent to redeployment.

There will be no right to have a union rep with you when the manager makes the decision and no right to appeal the decision. It will simply be the manager deciding to do as they wish. Redeployment would only last six weeks, instead of thirteen weeks at present. If you don’t find a new role in the six weeks your employment will be terminated.

That means just seven weeks after informing your manager of a serious illness, you could be given your notice. It is an absolutely heartless proposal that would cause huge stress and despair for people at a time when they are vulnerable.

Of course, in many cases it would be flatly unlawful to act like this. But management seem content to lose cases at employment tribunals if it means they can create a climate of fear where people are terrified to go sick or even tell their manager about a serious medical issue.

You would also lose the right to have a union rep or an appeal, at first stage attendance warnings which are to be rebranded as “Attendance Improvement Plans”. Instead of a warning lasting up to 26 weeks, it would last for 52 weeks. And if you have further absence, even if the Attendance Improvement Plan warning has expired, you can be referred to any later stage of the procedure right up to Stage 4 where you can be dismissed.

This can also happen if at any time, your manager feels “that sustained or significant improvement has not been made or your absence levels are consistently of concern”. There is no onus in the draft policy for the manager to provide evidence or justify their decision. They can simply act on what “is felt”!

The triggers for an Attendance Improvement Plan warning would be;

Three periods of absence (one shift or more or one shift not completed) in a 52 week rolling period or

• Two periods of absence totalling more than five shifts/working days in a 52 week rolling period (for part-time colleagues, the number of shifts/working days will be pro-rated depending on the average number days they work a week) or

• A pattern of absence which causes your manager concern, such as absence from a particular shift pattern such as nights or weekends, public holidays, immediately before, during or after annual leave, or regularly close to the thresholds defined above

• A pattern of frequent long-term absences

All absences whether self or medical cert will be counted (apart from pregnancy related items). No account will be taken of previous good attendance. Managers can choose to include accidents at work, one-unders etc. if they want at their absolute discretion.

Every front line member of staff will recognise immediately the potential for unfair treatment and open discrimination. The senior HR managers responsible for this dreadful proposal either don’t know or don’t care about the realities of a job they have never actually done.

They enjoy the privileges of air-conditioned offices on the two days a week when they actually have to come in instead of working from home, but have no idea of the demands of a seven day a week around the clock shift pattern.

ASLEF left the meeting on Tuesday as we were simply not prepared to give this awful proposal credibility by discussing it further. It needs to be ripped up and thrown in the bin. It is not a serious basis for discussion.

We have a live mandate for industrial action. This proposal shows just how important it is that members vote Yes to renew that mandate when ballot papers are sent out in July so that we keep the ability to strike to stop this and any other detrimental changes to working conditions.

We intend to work with the other trade unions to stop this proposal going any further and we will update members on the next steps as soon as possible.

Best regards,

Finn Brennan.

ASLEF District Organiser.

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