Branch Secretary :

Catalyst housing: harsh new sick policy


Is Sports Direct really a model for housing associations?

Catalyst housing association have introduced a harsh new sickness policy without bothering even to give the impression of consultation. 


Catalyst derecognised trade unions some time ago and appear determined to stamp on widespread staff concerns about unsustainably high workloads, bullying and poor management.  This move marks a continuation of a worrying trend in which some housing associations have launched attacks on the pay and conditions of their staff. 


Recently Clarion Housing took steps to restrict sick pay for their staff but retreated following an energetic campaign by Unite.  Is Sports Direct really the model for treating their staff that housing associations should be adopting?


Unite engages positively with employers in the housing sector around absence management in a positive manner but this policy marks a new departure in taking an arbirary and punative approach to sickness to a new level. 


Unite execuitve member and LE1111 branch secretary commented, "Housing associations wont solve their problems by bullying their staff.  Catalyst should think again about its mamangement style and withdraw its unreasonably harsh sickness policy.  Management should meet with Unite to negotiate a fair sick policy"


For full details see a leaflet circulating in the organisation below – and click here to join Unite.



Exposed: Harsh new sick policy


What is it? From November 2016, Catalyst have put in a new sick policy called the ‘Attendance and Wellbeing Policy’. This policy sets out what happens when you are off sick from work, what is expected of the employee and what the company will do in response. Not been told about it? No, most people have not been told about this. It’s only because of disciplinary action being taken that Unite have become aware of this policy.


What’s in it and what does it mean? Here is a brief summary and explanation of the sick policy and what has changed. These are big changes that take away a lot of our rights as employees, the policy gives Catalyst a lot of power to discipline people.


  • The policy tries to make company sick pay effectively discretionary. This means that Catalyst can choose to pay you statutory sick pay only (much less than your normal salary) if you are ill. Unite believe this is a change of contract, which we are going to challenge (see overleaf).
  • The amount of days you are allowed to be sick before being disciplined has been cut by over 75%. Previously the limit was 30 days in a 12 month period, it is now 7 calendar days (or 3 occasions over 6 months). So if you are off sick for 1 week and 1 day, you can be disciplined.
  • The policy gives management the power to discipline you over almost any absence issue, even if it does not meet the above criteria. The policy says 'intervention' (i.e. possible disciplinary) could be necessary if management have 'any other concerns relating to the nature of your absences or general attendance level.'
  • The policy does not say you have a right to representation at formal meetings. This means you could be sacked without having access to a union or friend’s advice or representation.
  • The policy does not mention the rights of disabled workers anywhere. It also does not mention those staff who have underlying medical conditions. For this reason, we are concerned that this policy could be discriminatory.
  • If you are injured or made sick at work (industrial injury) then this sickness contributes to your sickness tallies. This means that if you are injured at work and if it takes you past a trigger point it could result in a disciplinary.
  • There is no longer paid time off for a reasonable amount of medical appointments.
  • You can be disciplined for not 'doing everything you can to maintain good health'. Catalyst has no right to police our private lives.
  • You can be disciplined if your symptoms are aggravated by something outside work.
  • You can be disciplined if Catalyst don't believe your symptoms 'appear to warrant taking time off work'. No mention of medical advice. No understanding of medical conditions that cannot be ‘seen’ such as mental illnesses.
  • You can be disciplined 'if you don't act in a way considered conducive to your recovery'. It doesn't say who makes this consideration. This, and the previous few examples, seems to give Catalyst new powers to police your lifestyle choices.



What are Unite members doing about this new sick policy?

Supported by our union, Unite members at Catalyst are going to reject the change to our terms and conditions. A change of contract has to be agreed either collectively or individually, no such agreement has been granted by employees of Catalyst.


We are going to send in letters to say that we reject the change to Company Sick Pay.


Please contact Unite activists at Catalyst Housing on if you want to join us.


No worker should be penalised for being ill.


We also call upon Catalyst management to negotiate a proper and fair sick policy, which properly looks after the wellbeing of staff.


Unite are supporting staff who are being ruthlessly targeted by this new policy.


Is this policy more unfair than in other companies?

Yes. We have compared this policy to others in Unionised workplaces.

  • The amount of sick days you can have in other workplaces is over 40% higher.
  • Other policies do not allow workers to be disciplined for vague things such as ‘any other concerns’.
  • No other policy that Unite has seen gives the employer the power to discipline staff for lifestyle choices. This is unique to catalyst.
  • No other policy makes the Company Sick Pay discretionary in the same way that Catalyst have.



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