'Nose jobs don't count as sick leave': Cosmetic surgery discussed as Wakefield Council defends new staff policy

Council staff who decide to have cosmetic surgery are not entitled to sick leave, unless it results in medical complications.
Council staff who decide to have cosmetic surgery are not entitled to sick leave, unless it results in medical complications.

Wakefield Council has defended its new sickness policy, which has triggered a ballot for strike action among some workers.

Trade union UNISON publicly criticised the new policy last week, which it said would make it easier to sack staff on long-term sick.

UNISON said that 77 per cent of staff had voted in favour of striking.

UNISON said that 77 per cent of staff had voted in favour of striking.

The union claimed around 77 per cent of its members within the council voted in favour of taking industrial action last week, though further ballots will take place before any strike happens.

But the local authority said the new policy, which was implemented in May, had already slashed long-term absence levels within its workforce.

Speaking at a scrutiny meeting on Monday where the issue was discussed, the council's head of human resources, Jill Clayton, said: "One of the reasons the sickness absence policy was reviewed was because of levels of absence within the council.

"I think ours was the second highest among councils across Yorkshire and the Humber.

"We drafted a policy that we thought reflected the values of Wakefield Council, but also gave a greater assistance framework to managers and support to our employees.

"UNISON did not agree with the changes and the main issue they've put forward is they didn't believe anybody should be dismissed for reasons of sickness, and that we should go about it in a different way."

Ms Clayton said that several new measures had also been put in place to make life better for staff.

She added: "We train all our managers in mental health and we do sessions for our employees in mental health.

"We're introducing a flu jab for everybody, and that will be rolled out at the end of the month.

"We're also doing wellbeing coaching for staff who are struggling, and we offer physio and counselling as well."

The policy will be reviewed in November, six months after it was introduced, in keeping with a pledge the council made to UNISON during the consultation period.

Ms Clayton said that the average number of days off a year being lost to sickness had fallen from 12.3 per staff member to 11.4, since the changes had been made.

UNISON, which represents around 4,500 of the council's 11,000 workers said that the new policy removes scrutiny from the process of managing staff who are off sick for more than three months.

A branch official described relations between the trade union and the council last week as "tense".

The new sickness policy does stress that staff who need elective (non-emergency) surgery for medical reasons will be given time off.

Asked by Councillor Alan Garbutt if she could offer an example of surgery which would not entitle an employee to sick leave, Ms Clayton replied: "If somebody wanted a smaller nose for example, that would be something that's for cosmetic reasons, rather than for medical reasons."

However, she added that if cosmetic surgery was to result in medical complications, staff members would be covered by the sickness policy.

Local Democracy Reporting Service