Northampton Borough Council makes u-turn on unpopular sick day pay-docking policy

Chief executive of Northampton Borough Council, David Kennedy.

Chief executive of Northampton Borough Council, David Kennedy.

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An unpopular decision to dock pay for sickness days at Northampton Borough Council is set to be reversed after staff felt the authority was not “valuing” their hard work.

Back in 2015, the authority froze wages and increased the working week to 40 hours in a bid to save £1.5 million over the next few years.

It also introduced a measure docking pay for the first three days of sickness from workers’ salaries.

But a memo sent to the borough’s 600 employees by chief executive David Kennedy, shows this will be scaled back to one unpaid sick day from October 1.

The circular also reveals the move to increase the working week to 40 hours will come under review after a consultation exercise found the extended hours were not “popular.”

Mr Kennedy wrote: “The changes made have enabled the council to maintain a sound financial position and maintain services, and thereby jobs, but also led to many colleagues feeling that the council had not struck the right balance between valuing the hard work and commitment of everyone here and managing service finances.”

The memo states the introduction of no pay for he first three sick days was because absence levels had gotten “far too high.”

A council spokeswoman said the authority had saved £1.2 million by the overall changes to staff terms and conditions.

She added: “We always committed to reviewing these changes and the review has found that the number of sick days taken by staff have reduced by 32 per cent and saved more than £153,000.

“As a result, we are reducing the number of unpaid sickness days from three to one with effect from October.”

However under the rules set to come in every employee returning from sickness will have to report to their manager for a “back to work interview.”

Mr Kennedy continued in the memo: “In the expectation this will help keep short-term absences at their current very low level, we propose to reduce the number of unpaid days at the start of any absence to one day with effect from October 1.”

The sick-pay measures were introduced in 2014 shortly after then council leader David Mackintosh described working for the Guildhall as a “holiday camp” and even said some middle and senior management were “deadwood.”

Leader of the opposition group, Councillor Danielle Stone has welcomed the policy U-turn this week.

She said: “There are still things we want them to do such as re-enter national pay bargaining and reduce the working week back down from 40 to 37 hours. Nevertheless Cllr Mary Markham should be applauded in taking these steps.”