Why Mr Reynolds Was Fuming


Unlike the things that normally make me angry, this particular episode was because of something that happened to me.

I had my formal interview for my sickness record. Five periods of sickness in the last twelve months has led to this, for I am only 'allowed'

  • Three periods of absence in a rolling twelve month period.
  • or, two periods of absence resulting in eight or more days being lost, in a rolling twelve month period.

I noticed that I was getting on to breaching this rule so I asked for counselling a to how to improve my sickness (as obviously I must be doing something wrong to be breaching such reasonable guidelines) – I'm still waiting to get such counselling.

I'm also waiting for an occupational health appointment for my foot injury which was aggravated by slipping on some oil at work.

I found myself sitting across the table from two members of my local management team (neither of whom know me) and some Human Resources person in a suit. I'm just in time having done our Control a favour by taking a transfer from one hospital to another.

I asked why the sickness policy is the same for those of us out on the road as for those who sit in an office from 9-5 Monday to Friday. There was a mumbled 'we are looking into it'.

I do rotating shift work – there is plenty of research that points to this having an effect on your immune system as well as making you much more likely to get various cancers (mostly breast, prostate and colon) and increasing your chance of heart disease. I also have the pleasure of sitting in the back of the ambulance with infectious patients who insist on coughing, sneezing, spluttering and sneezing all over me.

“Eat well and do some exercise” was the advice I was given.

I accept what they said, that my absences are more than those of my peers, although if I were a little quicker witted I may have asked by how much. If I were really thinking I would have asked if I fell outside the standard deviation of my peer set, and if so, by how much. Or I could start wittering on about p-values, and is my sickness really that unusual?

If only I weren't the embodiment of esprit d’escalier. Instead I left the room waving goodbye when they have led me up to the hangman's platform.

If I have one period of sickness in the next eight months then I'm up before people several pay-scales above me for a Capability Hearing – am I capable to continue working in the service.

This came as a bit of a shock considering that the local management team have repeatedly missed meeting with me to discuss my absence despite their own policy.

I asked what would happen if I had a case of rampant diarrhoea, should I shove a cork up my backside? I was told that they would 'look into it'.

They did at least have the humanity to tell me that if I were sick because someone assaulted me then it wouldn't count.

Jolly nice.

The next time I'm at the hospital I'm going to get some of their adult nappies – so that should I have diarrhoea I can still work. I look forward to coming to work with 'flu, being sicker than my patients and giving it to them for a change. I just hope I don't come across any patient with a compromised immune system.

I look forward to coming into work and showing my manager a sample of my stool in order to prove that I do have diarrhoea – it may even still be in the uniform I was wearing at the time.

It does make e angry – that I work hard when I'm on duty, I offer up to help out Control, I put myself in front of violent, infectious patients. I wreck my health and social life with shift work for very little reward. I don't get complaints made against me and I don't consider myself a person who 'rocks the boat'. And yet, because my sickness is higher than those who work in an office I'm threatened with the sack.

If I were paranoid I'd say that they are trying to get rid of me.

It makes me…

ah…but that's a post for another day.

54 thoughts on “Why Mr Reynolds Was Fuming”

  1. I'd be pissed off too! I would just call their bluff. I think they use words like 'capability hearing' as a threat but in fact there isn't much they could do even at one of those if they have so far not provided you with the counselling that you requested or proper treatment for the injury that you sustained at work. Even if they did decide that you were not 'capable' on health grounds then they have to make 'reasonable adaptations' to your work to enable you to do your job under the disability discrimination act. My experience of HR type persons is that they have very litte knowledge of the law and make it up as they go along in the hopes that you won't notice! Read up on it and fight back!

  2. That's a good point.Of course they could say that if it's the shift work they'll put me on fixed shifts that means I get a 25% drop in wages.


  3. I share your fury – you work with sick people constantly, yet have a limit on how many times YOU can be sick? Perhaps we're abandoning germ theory, and going back to the Good Old Days, when illness was either a punishment from God, or due to moral laxity.That is BEYOND f**ked up, it's like something out of a satirical novel… but then so are most things these days.

  4. The Occ Health viewpoint.Sick policies are there to help HR manage those that take the piss or are genuinely not well enough to do the job. Neither of these apply to you (as far as I am aware). Having written them for operational staff in a previous role (police mainly!) there was always a difference in the sickness triggers for operational and non-operational staff, doesn't sound like LAS have this (but I know where they can go to get it!!) OH shouldn't take sides but should indicate to HR where there are work issues (e.g. assaults, injuries at work, working environment, etc) that may be contributing to absence. They may also indicate that x amount of absence results from injuries/accidents at work (remember your knee when you do see OH). The trouble is that even a good sick policy can be badly applied – at the end of the day, what they are trying to do is make sure that your colleagues with OPB are dealt with so that there are as many of you as possible to do the job but it doesn't come across that way! Quite why you are still waiting for OH review I've no idea as I aim to at least speak to people within 3 working days of referral! There is no easy answer to this one Tom, other than continuing to be a grown up and if you are ill, advise exactly why you can't come to work (most NHS trusts have a d+v policy which tells you to be off – so if you get one quote it at them as in I'd be at work but I'd be in breach of the infection control policy!!).I presume that you are a union member – get in touch with your rep and DO NOT go to any more meetings without them – just in case things get worse. Good luck sorting it all out.

  5. Can you get this lot down in writing with a friendly manager, so it goes on your record? I can understand your frustration.Do you have doctors notes etc. confirming your illness? If not, perhaps it's worth enquiring with management whether getting them would help your case in the event of another illness?

    The only justification I can think of for such a policy is that too many people are pulling sickies – in which case a doctor's note ought to verify that you're not, and should help your case should it go to a tribunal.

    Not that I think doctors notes are in general a good use of doctors time, but I think these circumstances justify it.

  6. I'm pretty certain that 12 hour shifts also have something to do with it. 8 hour shifts would probably be much kinder to your immune system. You should try suggesting they work 9 till 9. (pm to am that is).Do those morons ever come out with you guys on shift to see what conditions are like? I think I already know the answer to that.Grrrr. You deserve so much better.

  7. You could list every time you have a contagious patient in the back of the ambulance with you who coughs/sneezes/vomits/etc all over you, and try to note it as assault that is likely to make you have to take time off sick?After the first five shifts they'll have so much paperwork, they won't be able to find your sickness record.

  8. Sounds not unlike our sick policy (NHS hospital trust), but even tighter. Hopefully occupational health will be on your side, especially regarding the foot injury.I'm now well over our sickness “targets” but the occy health doctor has told me to ignore it. I broke my leg back in October last year and ended up with an external fixator on it in December. Instead of sitting on my arse at home I came back to work doing reduced hours. Again the policy says your only supposed to do this for 5 weeks (the fixator has been on for 4 months!). I'm probably also upping my risk of MRSA being in the hospital but I'd rather do at least some work. The occy health doctor doesn't seem to think much of the sickness policy, hopefully yours will be the same.

  9. I can see wh you were angryWhat utter bloocks. Sick policies are never the best. I remember, allbeit this is just my PT job while I study, sitting in an office with two managers moaning abot my sick record (well one moaning and the other taking a verbatum account of what was said). In 3 years had 1 day off, because I only had a contract for 5.25 hours a week this meant I had been off more than 3% of my working week in the last 26 weeks (3.84% to be exact). Had I not been 200 miles away from work when I took ill I would have no doubt stugged into work (as I have done on many occassions).

    Management often need a good kick up the arse and it is usually the case when it comes to sick policies.

  10. Stumo…the service I work in does not recognise GPs sick notes.They, the service, prefer to use our own occy health who are next to useless, to determine the health of each individual.

    The Ambulance Service in general is going back to the bad days when you were always presumed to be skiving. Its just dressed up now in such a way that any accusations of bullying or harrassment can be denied.

    Same way as we are now going back to the days of being presumed guilty before innocent when a complaint comes in against us.

    There is an under current of management thinking along the lines of Stalinist policies. We are seeing more and more crews suspended than ever before.

  11. The daftest thing about the LAS sickness policy is that – if TR was the type to “play the system” – he could get a GP to sign him off for six weeks at a time with “work-related stress”, and there is not a damned thing HR or management could do about it!!

  12. Hello Mr ReynoldsNever posted on here before (I've been a lurker mind for quite a while) however my anger at your recent situation has made me raise my head and comment for the first time.

    Until recently I worked for HMRC (aka the Inland Revenue). During the many years I worked for them I worked in a warm, safe and spacious office. The work was physically and mentally undemanding and if I made a mistake nobody died, (in fact nobody noticed but that's another story). The work was in fact frighteningly undemanding – so much so that any moderatly bright indiviudal could have been very quickly trained to complete it.

    What's alarming about that ?

    Well what's alarming is that the sickness regime I was working to was less demanding than yours.

    We were working to :

    four periods of absence in a rolling twelve month period,

    or absences resulting in ten of more days being lost in a rolling twelve month period.

    As it happens my sister has an immune deficient condition and spends half her life avoiding people with all manner of bugs at home and at her work – the fact that due to the idiocy of your senior management she may get picked up by an ambulance staffed by poorly individuals concerned about their jobs and therefore at work when they shouldn't be is not lost on me.

    Quite frankly I'd encourage you to walk away were it not for the fact you seem such an asset to the NHS. So all I can offer is my thanks for doing what you do for what you earn and for your hugely enjoyable blog / book / play . . .

    Love and stuff, Daniel Weir

  13. I was up in front of a disciplinary at one of my past jobs for having a greater than average sickness record. I'd had 20 days in a year, and they only allowed for 12. In short, I'd seen their occupational doctor when I joined, who had said I would probably need more sickness leave than average and they should support me; a large chunk of the sickness leave had been in my probation period (flu with a chest infection) and they'd passed me after probation without mentioning it; and then a few months down the line suddenly it was a disciplinary issue! I got my union rep to come to the meeting and he said he'd never seen anything like it in his life. HR said they believed my sickness was genuine, but they believed that disciplining me for it would help it to reduce. Also that they wanted me to get a certificate for every day of absence in future which they also thought would help (although all my past absences were certificated in any case). They also docked my pay to compensate them for the days I'd had, even though they were genuine, supported by their own doctor, and fully certificated by mine. Absolute bollocks. I was fuming too. I left that company as soon as I could.I'm sorry you're getting the same kind of shit, especially given the nature of your job where you could easily be assaulted or injured, and where you come into contact with all kinds of infectious illness! I think all you can do is put up with it or leave, sadly. If they are unreasonable about it now, they probably won't be any more reasonable later.

  14. Tom,I've spent a while thinking about how to reply to this without severly pissing you off. On balance I doubt it possible but there is another side to the arguement so I'll try and put it without incurring the wrath of you and your many supporters.

    Most jobs are impacted by sickness and therefore need a policy to manage it. Ambulance staff do indeed all deal with sick people all the time, at any one period in time approximately 10% of staff will have triggered the 3 periods rule, 20% will not have had any sickness in the past 12 months and only 1-2% trigger the formal criteria. Clearly the work you do can cause sicknes however a clear majority of people doing the same job as you are not affected to the same degree hence other factors are at play here as well. Maybe you are more vulnerable to sickness or maybe just unlucky. If it is the latter then you should be reassured by the fact that going on the figures quoted above you stand a pretty good chance of reverting to a normal attendance pattern. The former may well be dealt with at your OHD appointment.

    You didn't mention a rep being present at your meeting, I would heavily recomend that you don't attend such a meeting in future without one, the policy is actually more reasonable that you may think and a rep would be well placed to highlight factors that support you.

    Sorry that you have found yourself in this difficult position and I wish you good health for the coming 12 months.

  15. I am really sorry but although I can understand you in a way I don't see why you guys should be treated any different to any other employee in London.I work for a bank in the City and we have got our policy too.

    I too have been taken into a discussion with our manager about my sick leave and we too have to justify ourselves ALL THE TIME.

    It is the same everywhere and it is understandable considering all the people who call in sick just cos they've got a cold and see the necessity to see their GP (who obviously also only works 9-5 hours) or their child is sick or they can't get a babysitter..

    I am not saying that you are like that but you cannot have special rules applied to different people and you should always see the logic and reason behind it without just seeing it from your PERSONAL point of view.

    If you've got a special condition, if you are prone to certain illnesses or you have personal problems there should always be room to talk to you bosses about it or talk to someone in private about what's bothering you but just to think cos you are ill a lot you've got a right to be it's wrong and not really realistic.

    Just get over it and look after yourself. That also means indeed a healthy diet (from what you write about the way you eat and WHAT you eat on here it's no surprise to me you get ill a lot), some exercise (I also remember you mention your personal lack of that once) and find ways to relax and get enough sleep (maybe not spend hours playing WORLD OF WARCRAFT and sitting on the computer which is VERY unhealthy!!;-)) if you know what I mean.

    Find ways to make yourself happy because the mental state and satisfaction is a BIG factor when it comes down to general health but I think you know that.

    I think your reaction is a bit OTT and I can fully understand your employer's procedure, sorry but just get on with it.

    I was also told the other day that if I want this certain contract I mustnt have any period of sickness within the next 5 months. See…

    That's my opinion and I can only hope your bosses dont read this as it's a bit poor…

  16. Oh don't worry, you won't piss me off because I know that you give thought to what you write.I was just a bit surprised at going from 'informal' to 'one sickness in eight months and you could be out of a job', as I mentioned my local management team missed my last few reviews – maybe I can say that if they mis my next review *they* are fired…*grin*

    As the policy goes, I don't need to be put on such a stage, just that I *may*, it's at their discretion – I just think that it's a bit rough to have three people who don't know me decide my 'fate'.

    It might be why one of my local management team was hugely surprised that they handing this sentence down to me.

    OHD are those new lot, ATOS, which is why I'm still waiting – even after asking for help for advice, so I'm getting 'punished' before I get the chance to make amends. As for being unlucky, I agree, but luck swings both ways.

    Do you think that it will do the service any good to give me the sack? I'll tell you something – I think it might do *me* good.

    I don't lie about sickness – never have, but I get the feeling that they think I just take time off when I like, and if I'm not sick in the next eight months – well, I'm just proving them right aren't I.

    Oh yes, I should have had a rep. This just shows how much this caught me by surprise.

  17. Yeah – I'm crap aren't I. Having a run of bad luck when transporting infectious people who don't need ambulances is just asking for the sack.Is your policy the same as ours? Or is it harsher? Because if it's the same then I would doubt your ability to put yourself in my shoes.

    Try eating properly when you are working thirteen hours a day *without* a mealbreak.

    Try having a social life when you work shifts.

    Try getting some sleep when your body is screaming at you at all hours of the day.

    Try going to the gym when your pay ain't briliant and you can't go regularly because of shift work.

    Maybe they'll sack me then I can get a job in a bank where I can do all those things you suggest instead of being jetlagged all the damn time.

    Maybe I can be happy making money for other people.

  18. Well I'm really sorry but there ARE people out there who do the same job as you and who manage, ever thought about that? Ever thought about the rules being the same everywhere? Your last sentence shows that you almost THINK it's something against you PERSONALLY which is obviously rubbish!You chose that job for god's sake so stop moaning all the time. For god's sake GET A 9-5PM OFFICE JOB if you think we are off so much better, this is just ridiculous. I've got a friend who does your job and I know from him what it's like. I also know about your mealbreaks and stuff but have you ever tried:

    – preparing healthy food, put it in a rucksack and take it with you? (I'm sure you'll be able to have it in between!!)

    – It is not that you don't have one minute to go and have a glass of water/go to the toilet (c'mon, it's bad but we're still in Europe here!!)

    – cycle to work or try and get some exercise before you go to work or when you come home, it doesnt have to be a 5-miles-run every day, you see, it's a about generally feeling fitter and more awake!

    – finding people/friends who are flexible or maybe work shifts as well, I happen to live in London and if you want to you can meet people 24/7, this city never sleeps if you go to the right places, if you dont believe me, come with me and I'll show it to you!!!


    For goodness sake don't blame others (HR, your job, the shift work, the missing meal breaks) for YOUR problems, you can CHANGE things and adapt so that you make the best out of it!

    I love your blog, honest, but I am sick of hearing you moan ALL THE TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. *guh* you have my sympathies- how bonkers are sickness policies?! Some people get ill more often than others, you may have this one year when you hit a rough patch, and then not be ill next year at all, does it cancel itself out then??I had a similar dispute a few years back. I had quite a lot of time off as I kept getting ill, I was awaiting my tonsils being removed (which I informed them in the job interview), which would hopefully solve the problem. The day after my op I had a phone call from the 'big boss' to demand I attend work that day, as I had already had too much time of ill, and he didn't remember authorising my operation haha?!?!?! In his opinion if I could *croak* down the phone I was fit to work, I informed him my surgeon disagreed, and as he was medically trained I'd be taking his word for it! Idiots aren't they!

    Chin up, don't let the beggars grind you down. Good luck 🙂

  20. With respect anonymous YOU do not know what it is like.You do not know the pressures of having responsibility for the lives and wellbeing of others who are in pain, frightened, anxious, angry, etc… Add the relatives, Joe public, unsocial hours, silly targets, threats to oneself….

    I work unsocial hours as a nurse – I chose this profession and I thoroughly enjoy it. I try to eat well, exercise, etc… but there are days when there is not enough time to eat properly i.e. slowly so as to avoid indigestion. But my job in comparison to Tom's is sedentary. I don't lift/ move patients around; rush to each incident so as to avoid breaching targets; attend to drunken and beligerant hooligans who see uniforms as fair game for venting their anger on. There are days when one's best is not good enough for managers/ relatives/ media.

    Yes, there do need to be rules regarding sickness but my impression of Tom's post was the unfairness of the application of the system. That is, two unknown suits and a HR representative. No attempt to examine the case by local management and seek ways to reduce the sickness.

    As for Tom's moaning…it is his blog and a way to let off steam. To moan about all those annoying things as well as to redress the balance of other representations of the LAS in the media. I know a scientist who works in artificial intelligence. Does that mean, applying your logic, that I know artificial intelligence? If so I am wasting my time as a nurse and need to applt to MIT for a job.

  21. funnily enough – I've had a similar talking to, but as threat about whether or not I get a job at the end of my training.I was questioned about whether two weeks off sick was appropriate when I was taken by blue lights to the hospital where I work, with ? meningitis!!

    I was confused for days, and called my manager mum on numerous occasions when she came to visit me….yet I was in the wrong for having time to recuperate.

    Bet office workers aren't picked on for RSS!!


  22. Tom, I know you can't work in a HazMat suit, but do you/can you wear a mask of some sort?No, not the Gorilla one.

    (Unless the patient is really drunk.)

  23. Guest blogger, you seriously don't know what you are talking about. I am a midwife in the community and I have an easy life in comparison to Reynolds- I work 9-5, nominally, but yes, you really DO have days where you do not get time to eat or drink or go to the loo. I have the best pelvic floor ever, the number of days I leave home at 7.30 and get home at 6.30 without having been to the loo or drunk anything are too many to mention. And it's not bad time management, it is planning for ten mins for lunch but being called about a social services case, or a postnatal visit, or a million other interruptions. We are not entitled to an uninterrupted break and so we don't get them. The law says that it's ok for us to work for 24 hours with no sleep and so sometimes we do. Mmmm, safe, and really conducive to health, I don't think.Nobody is saying that skivers shouldn't be taken to task but if you have genuine illnesses certified then why should you be called to account and disciplined about them? You sholud be helped not to get ill so much (I had a period at work at one point where I could start at 8am not 7am because I have ME and early mornings were bad for me) but you can't help being ill, if you're ill!

    People do this job on the basis of the work and the theoretical job that you're supposed to do. When the reality is so different, and you are always taken advantage of physically and it ruins your life, it's no wonder people don't find it loads of fun. Nobody should HAVE to work like that and it's the only reason the NHS runs- because people do.

  24. You could always dust down your old A&E nurses uniform Tom ?As you know nurses are undisputed jedhi masters of the “sickie” yet nothing much ever gets done about it.


    I suspect some (nursing) managers probably fear a counter claim for harrassment and bullying if too many questions are asked – although we have introduced a back to work interview which usually consist of a few token questions along the lines of 'viral illness, was it ? bad back ?? that'll do nicely – have a good shift my disease prone friend'.

    Now, I'm not the sort to play devils advocate here but given the insignificant amount of (your) sick leave, and the profile you command in the blogsphere, could “they” be out to …….well, I'm sure you get my point ?

  25. Oh I love the old 'worse than the average' argument. Of course 50% of employees perform lower than average on any one individual criteria. That's the nature of an average. it would be very pertinent to ask if you fall outside the normal distribution for sickness (watch them look baffled by this) and then ask them if the population for EMTs matches that for Dispatchers (I bet as hell it won't).Keep your chin up Sir. It's not easy being on sick report (I have been in the same situation and it stings, I know) but hold your head high, because you know the truth.

  26. Two “lines of atack” spring to mind:1. Any illnesses cought frm a casualty must count as industrial injury and so it should be you inviting them to a meeting top discus how they are going to act to reduce it. It also means that it becomes n otifiable if it lasts longer than 5 days (including weekends).

    2. Your emplyers have a duty of care towards you, and have a legal obligation to provide risk assessments for everything you do as part part of your emplyment. If there is a risk of you getting injured or infected, there has to be a written risk assessment, detailing what stepps are being taken to mitigate the risk. I do not know about your individual case, but generally these do not exist and your employers are in breach of the law.

    Employer in this context means everyone from your immediate manager, all the way up the reporting chain to the head of the trust. Each and every one of them has a legal responsibility your your safety and wellbeing with respect to any duty you perform as part of your employment.

    The general idea is to explain to “the management” that any absense you are experiencing is there responsibilty rather than yours. THe fact that you requested counceling, and this was not forthcoming would be strong evidence that they are failing in their duty of care towards you. If any discplinary action resulted, you would be in a strong position to drag them before an industrial tribunal.

    Of course if it got that far, you probably would not be continuing to work there much longer, but just the threat should give them pause for an attitude adjustment.

    I suggest that you make sure that you have a written record of any councelling requests you make, and also of any “injuries” you sustain as part of your job (blood/vomit/spit/etc making contact with you, etc). Any make sure that you have a rep with you at future hearings.

    Good luck.

  27. That is a seriously tight sickness policy. Three instances in a 12 month period is nothing really, perhaps acceptable if you work is an office somewhere, but not for frontline crews who are exposed to anything and everything that presents itself in the back of an ambulance. It sounds preachy, but keep records of your sickness, if the worst does happen and you find yourself out of a job then i'm sure an employment tribuneral would take interest in it, because surely you can't be fired if you are actually sick, whatever the sickness policy?That said, I agree with Charge Nurse, it might just be time to think about somthing else. Your a bloody smart man, i'm sure people somewhere would pay you plenty of money to take your advice.

  28. I: management has heard of you???? now how to eliminante pest, it has to be legal and not related to their fears.so; use technical means to save tax payer and pension funds money.II ; play the game by complete documents of all life threatening instances to your well being, like each time you get face full of body fluids,Next meeting, have counsel of your choice.You have shone publick opinion on the inner sanctum of the privileged ones and they do not like it.Hope thee can find away to tell them how to do a physically impossibility.

  29. It's all very well saying there are people out there who do the same job and manage – 12 months ago, Tom would've been in the same category; he's had a bad 12 months. These things happen sometimes.If you're sick of hearing him moan, then stop reading – Tom isn't paid to do this, he does it to let off steam – sometimes that'll be by entertaining us all, sometimes by sharing a sad moment so he can cope with it better, and sometimes dealing with the frustrations that life sends his way.

    I've got a lot of respect for the guy – he does a job I know I could never do, because I know I couldn't handle the shifts – or the way the public treat him. And one day I may need his services, or one of his colleagues. Don't you dare try to put him down.

  30. this is besides the point of your post, but i love love love that you made a reference to stats. it kinda made my day, and yes i'm just that much of a nerd ;)but on another note, hope the situation all works out well.

    or, you know, you could just vomit on their shoes? maybe that will result in some more sick days?

  31. Greetings, Guest Blogger *1. As someone who has worked within the health service for the past 21 years, including years of shiftwork, late finishes, lifting heavy people and hurting my back, covering for colleagues when they go off sick/working with colleagues who come in with raging temperatures and viruses when they're too scared to go off sick, coming into contact with sick people on a regular basis, working for 12 hours instead of 8 due to short staffing and generally running around like a blue arsed fly I am quite happy to have more sick leave than my brother who works in a lovely air conditioned office with coffee machine and water fountain and subsidised gym membership. It's not as if we are asking for an extra week sick leave as part of our contract, but a little understanding and leeway would be nice.I am quite serious when I say that we often don't get time to go to the toilet, never mind popping down to Pret for a sarnie and latte. It's not every day but it does happen. Work a 12 hour shift and see if you want to pop down to the gym.

    Tom, I love you dearly but if you ever attend one of these meetings again without a union rep or at least a friend I will wallop you with the stick o'pain. Get it all in writing.

    I sympathise with you. I tend to get sick more than my friends, for some unknown reason I will get bronchitis at least once a year. I'm not a smoker, I'm not asthmatic and I eat green stuff and everything. Flu vaccines don't do much for me either. I had to sit my exams with the following set as I'd lost time due to a back injury in the 2nd year. I am the Queen of the Sickie. Genuine, mind you. Fortunately I haven't been hauled in the office for it yet, but I suspect that if they wanted to make a point about it they could. I would have to wonder whether or not they do have it in for you.

    You could always come back to nursing…………………..you know you want to……………

  32. I work for a Service with some people whose Bradford Score is higher than their salaries and you do get pi$$ed off when you know the same people call in sick and let everyone else down.I haven't had a sick day off in 8 years so i can get all self righteous about it. I just seem to get sick on days off!!

  33. That is just unfair: my advice is to strap them to the side of the ambulance and charge people 3 to cough on them

  34. Tom, I love you dearly but if you ever attend one of these meetings again without a union rep or at least a friend I will wallop you with the stick o'pain. Get it all in writing.IANAL – but if it was a formal warning and he wasn't notified in sufficient time to get a rep (or even a colleague) to sit in with him then it can potentially invalidate or downplay the severity of the warning.

    Best to check policy with someone who knows

  35. Hi there,First time posting but long time admirer. Had to reply as I have just been through a similar thing.

    Had an informal meeting re my sickness as my blessed Bradford score had just tipped over the threshold. Lovely. Made me flamming mad I can tell you. I had 7 days off in April '07 (sinus and chest infection), 1 day off in Oct'07 (stomach upset and I had come into work so went sick on duty), 1 day off in Jan'08 (sick on duty again with bad back strain from lifting a heavy and unco-operative patient) and 4 days off in Feb'08 (again sick on duty with torn thigh muscle due to awkward lift in a ditch, despite struggling through 3/4 of shift with injury).

    So, I was a bit miffed to say the least, especially as 2 of those periods were due to injuries at work. Also, I am not a person that takes 'sickies' or says (openly) that 'oh, I think I'm due some sickness soon', unlike some of my peers.

    I understand why we have the Bradford Score but agree with you in that it is wholly inappropriate for monitoring Ambo staff's sickness. It's a whole different ball game compared to working in a nice, warm office 9-5.


    Keep up the great work, and good luck finding those corks…might have to get some myself.

    All the best,


  36. They gave me plenty of warning – a rep even asked me if I needed him.Like a pillock I thought I'd be alright on my own. So, yes, I've been beating myself with the stick o' pain…

  37. It's all within policy – it's just that they seem to have taken the harshest line possible, which they are totally entitled to do.

  38. They aren't supplied – I'd have to nick them from hospital or open the 'infectious patient hazmat suit' bag each time – and we only have one per ambulance.

  39. Until you have worked shifts you don't know what it's like, you can't begin to understand the many very bad ways it affects your body. I have been working shifts as a nurse for over 20 years, and the last 6 of them on permanent nights due to childcare issues. You have no idea how it grinds you down, ages you, makes doing anything on days off (and a day off is the day you finish work at 8am, so you have worked 8 hours of your day off!!) seem like too much effort sometimes.The research is there to prove how risky shift work is or our health, but it's not like there's the option of running the NHS 9-5 so we get on with it and most of the time smile. Sometimes we vent. You get over that!

    Our sickness policy is that any episode of sickness automatically puts on you a disciplinary pathway. An interview with your manager on your return to work goes towards deciding whether you proceed on that pathway or not. Still pretty offensive though in my opinion. Oh, and when you phone in sick, you have to do it personally, can't get hubby to do it for you. And you can't ring your own manager, you have to speak to the senior nurse. It's just all extra hassle when you may well have your head down the bog or a chest infection so severe you can barely breathe. And non of that is the slightest inconvenience to the malingerers, cos they aren't ill!


  40. I don't know if anyone military reads this, but I'm sure soldiers are supplied with biscuits – one to stop you going, and another to make you go – what with toileting ones' self being a bit inconvenient during a parade lasting three hours or something.Maybe the LAS could introduce this for their staff – “Got the Sh*ts? No worries, eat this packet of biscuits throughout your shift” 😀

    That or they sell anal plugs (non-sexual) as a form of continence control…maybe those could be supplied….

    Maybe these suggestions could be given to your management as options to minimalise your sickness.?!

  41. Those carob bars sold in healthfood shops will stop some diarrhea, they contain something (may be pectin) that kind of binds stuff up.Thing is, our bodies make us have the squits for a reason, so treating symptoms isn't really the answer, and a slow digestive transit is thought to be implicated in all sorts of illnesses, inc cancer….

  42. If there was any justice in this world, all HR people would be shot.And a bonfire then made of all their stupid policies.

  43. Ok Mr Guest BloggerI think until you have worked shifts like this you are unable to comment in such a way, working long shifts really does take it out of you and there are times when it is not possible to have a break because you are so busy. Sickness happens and there are things you can do to limit it but the NHS is there to help people not make people sick and if you call an ambulance and those that come to help you are ill you wouldnt be amused would you.I apologise if I am going off on a tangent here but it infuriates me that people treat the staff who work for the emergency services with so little respect it really does.

    For what it is worth I stand by what Tom is saying.

  44. Could l volunteer my services to come down to London and sneeze splutter or whatever it takes to infect the idiots from Toms actually any HR dept that behaves like that with the virus that has laid me out for the last 5 days of hell and misery.

  45. It sounds to me as if LAS are behaving like the Major Supermarket, with their swivel eyed bean counters and the targets that must never be breached.I took compassionate leave a few years ago, to visit my mum after a major op. First, getting it took threats of constructive dismissal, as it was outside the permitted 2 persons off per shift. When I got back, I was called in for a “return to work” interview, where I was informed it was being treated as sickness. Which of course put me on to the first stage of “Attendance Management”. Got the union in, got it binned. Next, my start time started moving 4 hours each way on a daily basis. This isn't funny if you're driving HGVs; you're always nodding off. I was quicker than they were, and I'd been recording everyone else's starts over the previous month. Cue harassment grievance, and an apology.

    I learned a number of things from this company: never, never be alone with a manager without the mobe set to record, always keep records of EVERYTHING, and if you catch the buggers fiddling the wages your time there is measured in weeks.

    Just a thought Reynolds: Are you a classed as a mobile worker under the Working Time Directive? If you are, you can have a great deal of fun with the management.

  46. Good luck with it, your situation really sucks. I can't believe (OK, I can) that people who deal with sick people all the time get treated like this. And the Trust are seriously heavy-handed getting you in front of a panel for that level of sickness.I used to work for a local authority that had a similarly oppressive policy. The good news was they left it to managers (like me, in them days) to implement. If someone was genuinely chucking sickies you could use its weight but 99% of the time it involved a five minute meeting with me saying “don't worry, I know you were genuinely sick, you've triggered the system, the system's stupid, your work is great, sign this form” Then I'd bung it back to HR marked “Discussed with employee, exceptional circumstances, NFA” and I never EVER got one back.

  47. I have to stick my twopenn'orth in here too, even if it's just to say “I'm not in occupational health but I completely agree.”The one addition I have to make is that the burden of proof is on them, and their is a dichotomy. EITHER they can try to show that you are taking time off disproportionate to the severity of the illnesses you are experiencing OR that you are ill often enough and severely enough that it shows either that your general health is not good enough for the job or that the job is taking an unnacceptable toll on your general health.

    For the former, occupational health is the way to go, and it looks completely like there is no case to answer.

    For the latter, the only thing occupational health should be needed for is to show that there's no background illness connecting all your sick periods, and the rest is pure statistics. Ask them what data they've got from information analysis (ambulance trusts have information analysts, don't they?) to support their heuristics for acceptable levels of sickness for a generally healthy person, and like you say, the p-values; their false-positive to false-negative ratio for assessing whether someone's pattern of sickness is just bad luck or an indicator of poor health; what percentile your sick leave puts you on amongst shift workers in the trust as well as amongst office workers, day shift workers and fixed shift workers. The numbers to support their implicit accusations that they should (but won't) have at their fingertips (or at least, at the touch of a query) that you could ask for are myriad, and I'm sure you can think of plenty more, so when you do see them again, just ask for them, and evidence that they've taken the same procedures with all staff members with more absence than yourself.

    The other suggestion I have is to point out to them in writing that it's impossible to ensure that you won't have any illness in the next 8 months.

    And, one other thing I have to say, it was frankly none of their business to give you advice on how not to get ill, especially advice that banal. (And I've certainly seen the things that clinical staff in the NHS can say when they're given patronising information on how to stay healthy. Acerbic wit is the name of the day.)

    Anyway, I'm sure you know all this, but I just had to write it down in sympathetic anger. Now to see if there's any information analyst jobs featured in my jobs.nhs.uk email.

  48. “as I mentioned my local management team missed my last few reviews”Surely they haven't got a leg to stand on then? I have had some dealings with our office sick policy (council housing – same triggers as yours I think) and I know that managers have to dot every t and cross every i 'cos if they don't then the union rep will declare the process invalid (geddit!) and they have to start again. And managers really do not want to have to be filling in a 9-page sick form twice (or even once in my case).

    Unfortunately the cumbersome nature of it has protected a couple of utter skivers of my acquaintance; on the other hand a couple of people with long-term absence due to genuine industrial injury have had to go through the rigmarole only because they've reached that point on HR's chart. But that's the public sector all over – make sure you fill in the forms, don't worry about whether it actually helps anything or anyone.

  49. what i thought was, it is like a war and you are a front line soldier and the suits are the officersplenty more where u came from, its your job to be broken in the line of duty

    also i think the very high ups won't like your blog, shows them up

    it is very illuminating leaving a job and looking at what you take with you, only the experience and knowledge you have gained from the work and it had better be useful outside the field you worked in

    old people on immune system supressing steriods breathing endless contagious viruses have ruined the health field as place to work, doctors as badly affected as anyone else, brains totally fried

  50. your blog is an indictment of ministerial mismangement, you have already lost your jobyou might think you are to small a fly to attract their attention but you are very readable and significant beyond your salary ;o)

    the russians machine gunned the repatriated russian prisoners at the airport when the british flew them back after the war, the briitish knew

  51. Having read the post and all the comments, I was flabbergasted not so much by your treatment but by the complete absence of your own managers at any point (not just at the meeting).I used to be a senior managerleading teams of 80+ peopleand no one would have got to any member of my team in that way.

    Every member of my teams knew my attitude: “you're my team and my people. If you do your best then I will cover for you, protect you and, if needed, give you a “get out of jail free” card.”

    I had cases like Tom's where HR and higher management wanted to carpet hard-working, valuable members of my team because “they'd deviated from the mean” and were therefore in breach of the sick policy.

    First spanner in the works was to act along the lines outlined by RevBod and Ambrosen. I'd request all the statistics, ask for the specific grounds for taking this path (bearing in mind the stats), compare and contrast with people in similar and dissimilar jobs, and generally tie them up for months. I'd also ask if HR/management had investigated possible industrial causes for the illness/injury. (Rather memorably I pointed the finger at the air-con when several staff went down sick with colds in the space of a few days.)

    If, after several months, HR/management were still persisting I'd throw in the second spannervery casually, as an aside at a meeting. “I don't see what all this fuss has been about anyway, I did tell X to stay home after all.”

    When the fluff and bother died down a bit, I'd pull out a photocopied memo and say “here, I even copied it up the chain. X phoned in to say they had a bug. Given our short staffing I didn't want the rest of the team contracting something contagious, so I authorised a couple of days off on health and safety grounds. Of course, it's down as sick but I did tell to take the time off.”

    This worked particularly well when managers further up from me had very bad filing systems that no one would go near. “Oh, you haven't got a copy. Well, the internal mail is bad as everyone knows but I'm sure Z has a copy. Why didn't I email? Well, given the recent security breaches I don't feel it's sufficiently secure for people's personal information.”

    Third spannerand I rarely had to use this onewas to ask if HR/management had taken legal advice on proceeding any further given that the unions were likely to get involved, that it could look like harassment, given the hassle and cost of the tribunal involving B, and asking whose budget the expert advice (legal and medical) was coming from.

    It amazes me that so few managers look after their people. Even if you're a ruthless, greasy pole climber, it always pays to keep the people below you on side as they're the ones that will deliver the results you need to breach the next bum-licking ceiling. As for me, it's simply the right thing to do (looking out for your team that is, not bum-licking!).

    In the absence of a good manager, Tom, follow the advice given above and remember always push the ball back to them. Make them justify, rationalise, explain, substantiate and cost everything, then query all of that, and get a rep in to help you that. Put it all in writing and, as Trucker says, record if you can.

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