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					                        GWENT POLICE AUTHORITY
                  Diversity and Human Resources Committee

Date:                16 April 2007                                    Item No: 5e

Heading:             Police Officers – Extended Sickness after Maternity Leave

Report Author:       Chief Constable



SUMMARY

This report addresses a problem, which has been identified in relation to police
officers taking extended sickness after maternity leave. There are suggestions for
addressing this problem and a preferred option has been identified.


RECOMMENDATION

That the report is noted and decisions made on the proposals and preferred option.


BACKGROUND

1.      The Corporate Planning and Performance Committee meeting on 25 October
        2006 discussed sickness absence levels. The Committee asked that
        consideration be given to the presentation of a report to the Diversity and HR
        Committee on the review of maternity leave as there had been a number of
        incidents of maternity leave being extended by officers going on to sick leave.

2.      The HR and Diversity Committee on 11 December 2006 received an interim
        report on this subject and it was noted that the issue of extended sickness
        after Maternity Leave was being addressed through the Attendance
        Management Action Plan. The Personnel Manager responsible for attendance
        management issues was taking the issue forward with the Divisional
        Personnel Officers and staff in the Occupational Health Unit. It was noted that
        care would need to be taken to ensure that whatever steps proposed to
        address this matter do not place the authority open to challenge under
        discrimination legislation. The Attendance Monitoring Committee has also
        suggested that Gwent Police be benchmarked against other forces and
        employers. The target date for the completion of this work was 31 March 2007
        and it was proposed to present a final report on this matter to the Diversity and
        HR Committee on 16 April 2007.

3.      The Personnel Manager responsible for Attendance Management issues met
        with representative Divisional Personnel Officers and the OHU Manager in
        January 2007 to consider this issue. The following points were noted:-

4.      Territorial Divisions do not have many police staff. From the DPO’s point of
        view the problem which had been identified involved female police officers
        who go on sick leave following 13 weeks maternity leave. Attempts had been
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     made by one of the DPO’s to find out from Finance Department how many
     police officers this involved, but it was difficult to establish exact figures.
     However, as far as the divisions were concerned the problem was significant.

5.   The main cause of illness in such circumstances was stated as post-natal
     depression. Breastfeeding does not appear to be an issue.

6.   The DPO’s had attended an employment seminar at West Mercia
     Constabulary in October 2006 and they had raised this issue with the other
     forces present. The other forces had not found this to be a problem and a
     reasonable conclusion is that this seems to be a cultural issue for police
     officers within Gwent Police. This question was also raised by a Personnel
     Manager at the quarterly meeting of the Police National Attendance Forum.
     The Police Service of Northern Ireland believed they had a similar problem
     and would be looking into the matter. South Wales Police have advised our
     Personnel Manager that they too have a problem with sickness absence
     following maternity leave. Neither of these forces was present at the West
     Mercia event.

PROPOSALS FOR CONSIDERATION BY THE AUTHORITY

7.   In the light of the background information set out above, the following solutions
     to the present problem have been suggested:

     a) Consideration to be given to enhanced maternity pay. Rather than just
        extending maternity leave and pay this could be done as an incentive e.g.
        by saying that if female police officers return to work following 13 weeks
        maternity leave, then they would receive another 2 weeks full pay.
     b) Consideration could be given to pro-active Occupational Health
        intervention i.e. as soon as a problem is identified after birth the individual
        could be asked to make contact with the OHU.
     c) There is a possibility that new mothers are anxious that they will not be
        able to keep appointments with health visitors once they return to work.
        The force could consider providing paid time off for such visits. Another
        suggestion is to issue a pack of vouchers for time off as part of the overall
        benefits package.
     d) West Mercia Constabulary issue a letter when the individual has stated
        they will be returning to work at the end of 13 weeks stating that they
        understand that child care arrangements are in place. If this turns out not
        to be the case and they don’t return, the officer stays on maternity leave
        and not sick leave.
     e) More information could be given to individuals once they have notified the
        force that they are pregnant, to encourage to staff to better plan for their
        return in terms of finance, child care and flexible working. South Wales
        Police are going down this particular route and have nominated Maternity
        Champions in each division to act proactively on such matters.
     f) If officers return to work after 13 weeks, provisions could be made for them
        to return on automatically reduced hours for a period of time, to encourage
        a return to work rather than going on extended sick leave.

8.   As the above points relate to maternity leave and pay provisions rather than
     attendance management issues, it has been agreed that the matter will be

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       taken forward by the Personnel Manager who deals with gender rather than
       attendance management issues. The Personnel Manager concerned has
       ascertained that South Wales Police have trained 29 Maternity Champions on
       their policies and procedures to assist in reducing sickness absence following
       maternity leave. She has spoken with the Equal Opportunities lead for the
       Gwent Police Federation who supports this idea. The Personnel Manager also
       reviewed two of the territorial divisions and noted that 50% and 33% of police
       officers have taken sick leave following their maternity leave with postnatal
       depression. This is higher than national figures, which state that approximately
       10% of women will suffer from postnatal depression.

STAFFING/PERSONAL ISSUES

9.     There are no staffing issues. Personnel issues are as stated in the report.

FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS

10.    If the initiatives, which are being contemplated, have the effect of reducing
       sickness absence levels this will be beneficial in resource usage terms and will
       also generate non-cashable efficiency savings.

CONSULTATION

11.    The Police Federation has been consulted on this subject and their views are
       contained in the body of the report.

CONCLUSION

12.    Paragraph 7 of this report sets out various options for consideration of this
       committee. The preferred option, initially, is option 7 e).

PROJECT/PROPOSAL ASSESSMENT

13.    This project/proposal has been considered against the general duty to
       promote equality, as stipulated under the Force’s Race Equality Scheme and
       Disability Equality Scheme, and has been assessed not to discriminate
       against any particular group.

RISK ASSESSMENT

14.    The Force’s sickness absence levels may be adversely affected if steps are
       not taken to reduce extended sickness absence following police officer’s
       maternity leave.

LEAD OFFICER

15.    Assistant Chief Constable

BACKGROUND PAPERS

16.     Attendance Management Action Plan 2007/08
      http://intranet/support/uniform_ops/human_resources/

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