Jac Roper warns about treading carefully when it comes to staff absences and a reader recommends a car-wash solution

Ft - Jac Roper - Service Centre

Staff might often be cited as your greatest asset but they can also be a liability when it all goes wrong.

An anonymous retailer got in touch over a member of staff that he suspected had been “pulling a sickie” largely because she wanted to watch Wimbledon. He couldn’t of course prove this and now it’s all over anyway and she is back at work, right as rain.

However, summer is here along with the likelihood that staff might find other distractions. You need to tread carefully. There was a recent tribunal which decided that an employee had been unfairly dismissed because he had been spotted at a local social club while he was supposed to be off sick with a lung condition.

According to the Employment Advice Bureau, the judge found that there was no evidence that the employer’s disciplinary rules had been breached. The tribunal also held that there was no medical evidence to show that going to the club had either made his poor health worse or delayed his return to work. The Bureau said there were also several procedural errors in respect of the disciplinary process as well. For example, the person chairing the hearing should not have done so, the explanation from the employee that other members of staff had done the same thing and not been subjected to disciplinary action was not given proper consideration and the dismissal was not deemed to be reasonable.

It adds: “The key thing to remember when dealing with sickness is that employees are too unwell to work, this doesn’t mean that they are under house arrest…

“In this case though, the employer was right to question the employee and consider formal action, they just went about it in the wrong way.”

So what is the right way to go about it? The Bureau says that first of all you should ensure your staff are aware of the correct absence reporting procedures, Secondly you should ensure you are enforcing those rules around absence reporting.

You should also be consistent – don’t allow different rules for some staff because this is a sure-fire way to end up with an unfair disciplinary procedure and high absenteeism.

And finally, make sure you take advice from the experts before taking disciplinary action or withholding payments – remember statutory sick pay is a statutory payment, so you have to have justifiable reasons for not paying it.

A tip from a network

I got an email from Michael Bloxham with a recommendation after he read about some retailers’ experiences with a dirty-dealing agent of car wash company Ehrle.

Michael, who is UK project manager from Ready2Wash, says: “If your contact is still looking to develop a multi-bay jet wash centre can I recommend that they have a look at www.adriateh.hr who produce some stunning jet wash buildings with exceptionally good equipment. They are a part of the same group as Ready2wash. The contact at Adriateh is Zoran Svraka (zoran@adriateh.hr).”

I duly sent Michael’s email on to my source for the original story who says he will check them out.

Could the Post Office be in danger of going bust?

Yet another shocking statistic from Post Office Ltd over the Horizon IT scandal has been revealed. Reporting in his ‘secret’ email, journalist Nick Wallis says, thanks to the tireless work of reader Eleanor Shaikh, a document released under the Freedom of Information Act shows the total amount of compensation being claimed by 2,200 applicants to the Post Office’s Historical Shortfall Scheme has been revealed as £311m.

The scheme was set up as a condition of the Bates v Post Office settlement agreement. It isn’t open to the claimants in Bates v Post Office nor to any who have or had criminal convictions. “The application window was only open from May to August 2020. By 2021 the Post Office had confirmed to parliament the final number of claimants accepted onto the scheme was 2,400, which means the final compensation bill could be commensurately higher,” says Wallis. “The document also reveals that when announcing the scheme, the Post Office had privately budgeted £35m to cover it.”

Now that it is nine times that figure, the document apparently states: “There is a risk that this would impact POL’s ability to operate as a going concern.” The government, sole owner of POL, has stepped in to underwrite the Historical Shortfall Scheme. Which means, we, the tax payers, will be funding it.


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