||Com along to support Lee Rock, a trade union activist in the PCS Union, in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP - Jobcentre Plus). He was sacked for ‘unsatisfactory attendance’, on 22 February 2013. In the period 27 September 2011 to 26 September 2012 Lee was absent on sick leave for 11 days. This was exactly his sickness absence limit. This is supposedly the reason he has been dismissed. The facts are:
Lee has two long-term underlying health conditions. Both are accepted by the employer and OHS as being covered under the Equality Act 2010 as disabilities. He had successfully completed a six-month Written Warning and was in the backsliding period for sickness when he hit his consideration point of 11 days. He was then referred to a Decision Maker (DM) for consideration of dismissal. In this referral to the DM mention was made of trade union activities. There were a number of procedural issues regarding being denied the opportunity to present a grievance in person concerning the referral. On 1st January 2013 Lee took Partial Retirement on health grounds to help him manage absence levels. The employer agreed to this.
Lee was then dismissed by the employer. At the time of receiving his dismissal letter he had in the previous six months been absent due to sickness for a mere 2 days. He had in fact had no absences for the previous 3 months. In 27 years of representation the union have never come across a dismissal where someone with only 2 absence days in 6 months has been dismissed on sickness grounds.
Since then, Lee’s case has been ongoing. DWP management have banned Lee from all DWP premises nationally, with no reason given – there is no knowledge of this having ever happened with another sickness related dismissal. Management were clear that Lee would no longer be allowed to represent union members. A recent tribunal case was settled in favour of Lee and against DWP, and Lee is now allowed to represent members (though he is still banned from DWP sites) – this will form part of the case that it is victimisation.
DWP have now said that even if the case falls in Lee’s favour, they will not reinstate him. PCS believe this is unacceptable and will be challenging this. They are clear in the view that Lee would not have been dismissed for this level of sickness if he was not a well-known TU rep who has been a thorn in management’s side. Their concerns are supported by the fact that his trade union activity was unnecessarily and inappropriately referred to in the recommendation for dismissal.