Branch Secretary :

Catalyst sick pay mass grievance: staff still waiting

Catalyst dont recognise unions and appear not to recognise their own staff


Two hundred and forty staff at Catalyst housing are still waiting for a serious response to their grievance which challenges the draconian sickness policy at the association.


We reported on 13 June that members wrote to the board of the organisation as earlier letters to management had received no response (see here).   Catalyst is an anti-union employer which does not recognise trade unions; now it appears they do not recognise two hundred and forty of their staff either!


Channel Four dispatches


The recent Channel Four dispatches programme ‘Getting Rich From the Housing Crisis’ has left housing association CEO’s attempting to refute the charge that they have become unaccountable commercial corporates which have lost sight of a social mission but many housing professionals believe there is much substance in the charges both from their experience of how associations treat tenants and from how they themselves are treated. 


A Guardian survey found that 60% of housing professionals felt their employer had lost its social purpose.  The way in which Catalyst has introduced it's grotesque new sickness policy and then ignored staff concern is a clear example of unaccountable governance.


On July 5th Richard Brown, the board Chair, responded to staff saying that health and safety concerns would be investigated but the equality issues have been ignored and staff await an update on the health and safety issues.  Unite reps have clarified that Unite members are in fact employees and they would like the grievance to be investigated in line with the organisations’ policy.


Written warnings for staff with doctors sick note


The sickness policy was introduced without consultation and has resulted in managers being forced to issue formal written warnings to staff who have been signed off as unfit to work by their doctor and has resulted in staff reporting for work despite being sick or using up annual leave.   


Research by the HR professionals organisation CIPD this year shows that ‘presenteeism’ has more than tripled since 2010.  The survey also found that ‘leaveism’, such as people using annual leave to work, is also a growing problem.


Unite has called on catalyst management to engage positively


Increased presenteeism is associated with increases in reported common mental health conditions as well as stress-related absence, which are among the top causes of long-term sickness absence, according to the survey.  Only one in ten of those employers taking action to  “challenge these unhealthy workplace practices” said “presenteeism” and “leaveism” are viewed as a priority by the board, and less than six in ten (58%) say their organisation is currently meeting the basic legal requirements for reducing stress in the workplace.  Unfortunately the action taken by Catalyst seems designed to make the problem worse! 


Unite has repeatedly called on Catalyst management to engage with us positively on staff sickness and morale.  It is notable that Unite has been called on to support a disproportionate number female staff and staff from BAME backgrounds.  At a time when the trade press is featuring extensive discussion of how the housing sector can do more to address its disgraceful lack of progress in improving diversity the refusal of management and board at Catalyst to address the concerns of their staff is particularly disappointing.


Housing associations assets have been built up over many years of public investment and they play an important role in local communities.  Unite believes that treating stakeholders such as residents and communities in an accountable and reasonable way is essential for associations and that the two go together.  Pointedly ignoring very reasonable staff concerns points to a serious governance failure at Catalyst.  Unite will continue to support Catalyst staff.


Catalyst worker 19 July 2018



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