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'I'm ex-military and people need a bit more backbone'.
A scrutiny panel report is urging a constabulary to develop more of a “hardline” take on sick leave.
Cheshire Police and Crime panel has wrestled with the problem of its force’s sickness levels, which equates to at least 11 police officers being off for a full year, almost since its inception six years ago.
Chairman and co-opted panel chairman Bob Fousert along with fellow co-opted member Sally Hardwick, visited Cheshire Constabulary’s Occupational Health Unit in October for background research and were unimpressed to learn some personnel are using the department to circumnavigate long NHS waiting lists or avoid having their problems dealt with by a GP.
“In fact, it was suggested that as employees, some saw it as a right,” the report said.
“Social and economic pressures from outside the workplace appear to represent a growing mental health, sickness problem.
“This raises the question: How much responsibility for dealing with this problem should the constabulary bear?
“It was felt that the culture of the constabulary was possibly moving too much towards the use of a 'carrot' rather than the 'stick' in its dealings with sickness and that a more hard-line approach may achieve what it has been unable to, to date.”
The paper did not make any suggestions as to how the force could do so. Mr Fousert went further at a panel meeting on Friday.
Ms Hardwick said she got the feeling “there was a little too much carrot and not enough stick and no matter what they do they’ll never get on top of sick levels...I’ve been a manager of staff”.
Mr Fousert said he agreed “maybe because of my ex-military background and I’m of an age whereby people need to get a bit more moral fibre and a bit more backbone and put more stick than carrot into the sickness thing.
“It isn’t an easy issue. We found that they are doing what they can under very difficult circumstances.
“The problem is the same sickness levels pertain today then we did when we first started drafting this issue six years ago.”
They later softened the tone of their views after Councillor Mick Warren, who said he served as a police officer with Cheshire Constabulary for 22 years, gave his opinion on the matter.
“The problem is only going to get worse down the line because officers are going to serve for longer and will be older,” Cllr Warren said.
“I can tell you from experience wrestling with someone on a Saturday night at 2am in the morning in your mid 40s.
“You wake up the following day, it’s very frightening because you haven’t got the strength you had in your 30s and you take longer to recover from a knock or a bang but you don’t want to let your colleagues down so you come into work substandard.
“You’re not 100 per cent when you come into work.
“The issue is around the funding of police officers and the increasing of the age of expected service will increase sickness levels will increase.
"There’s no doubt in my mind.”
He also said there is a “real fear” among officers of being referred to occupational health.
Councillor Lynn Riley wondered whether the panel could help the force by investigating sickness hotspots to help the chief constable predict and plan for upsurges in illness levels.
“You can’t be ageist about this some people in their 40s, 50s and 60s are supremely fit,” she said.
“I hear what you’re saying but this is about giving the organisation tools to effectively plan so if more officers in their 40s are ending up in the unit that actually is probably a symptom of rostering, shift patterns and future recruitment.
"It’s a symptom of things that are going on elsewhere in the organisation and if we understood them then we’re putting real information in the hands of the leadership of the police so they can plan effectively so it isn’t a problem and people are getting supported.”
Cllr Warren responded: “I think 20 years ago when there were more staff that was exactly the case because your older staff would work control rooms or work back office. That doesn’t exist anymore.”
Mr Fousert conceded the issue is a complex one and the fact the Cheshire Constabulary has maintained the same sickness levels rather than allowing numbers to rise “is a credit to the force”.
Ms Hardwick agreed there is a morale problem and in many cases “the stress is genuine” but “it’s trying to sort out who’s genuine and who’s not”.
Pathetic and sad, stereotypical, bullying and coercive "military" mindless discourse.
Blame the victims.
Straight out of Charles Dickens.
Hang your head in shame.
Well i was not expecting this kind of article in this day and age. The solution is very clear, having worked with a major Police force for two years, my speciality is organisational transformation through change in leadership, mindset, behaviours, and by looking at how we work together. I was shocked coming into the police - how their officers has improved, from the stone age, to something approaching the Victorian age. There has been some improvement, but the prevaliing understanding of Leadership still completely fails to recognise that which modern managers in all other sectors now understand to be current.
I will never forget siply talking to ordinary officers and sergeants, and how they would begin to get emotional whilst they told me of instances of leadership that pushes them in the direction where it is inevitable that the sickless level will rise.
Sickness is almost always a sign of underlying issues with the culture of an organisation. Search for, identify, and provide fixes for the problems. You can get to a place of motivated and healthy staff. But please, revise your view by simply going and talking to real officers in a safe envirnoment with someone like myself.
I have worked with almost all types of people in the public sector, including the NHS and cosial care. And the Police is hte place that I found in most need of real change, and the place I would like to work the least.