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Disabled staff 'victimised' by sickness policies

DISABLED staff are being “victimised and terrorised” by company bosses using draconian sickness policies, public-sector workers warned yesterday.

Far too many workplaces are applying the same attendance management policies to all staff regardless of whether or not they have a disability, Unison conference heard.

This is leaving disabled workers feeling guilty for having a disability, delegates said, with many companies using it to get rid of them “through the back door.”

Highlighting employers’ obsession with sickness absence, Newport’s Steph Davies said: “I’m not alone in witnessing members being interrogated about their absence.

“But many managers don’t understand disability and mental health is an area that particularly worries me. Employers have no empathy and are afraid to approach them. 

“They need to become more aware of the complexities of their conditions.”

Some employers are still using draconian sickness absence policies such as the Bradford Factor, which argues that shorter more frequent absences — hitting disabled workers most — are more disruptive than longer ones, delegates said.

Employers are obliged to make “reasonable adjustments” for disabled workers under the 2010 Equality Act.

But Dundee’s Margaret McGuire highlighted that because a reasonable adjustment is not clearly defined, disability leave tends not to count.

She stressed that absence of work due to a disability should be treated differently and recorded separately from general sickness leave.

This is particularly important during a time of cuts and redundancies when many employers use sickness absence to inform their decision, delegates heard.

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