Royal Ordnance Factories (Paid Sick Leave)

Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Supply – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th October 1949.

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Photo of Sir John Mellor Sir John Mellor , Sutton Coldfield 12:00 am, 24th October 1949

asked the Minister of Supply what has been the cost to the Exchequer of the sick pay scheme in Royal Ordnance Factories since it was introduced in September, 1948; what was the rate of sickness in the 12 months before and after introduction of the scheme, respectively; and what action he has taken to prevent abuse.

Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough

asked the Minister of Supply if he will make a statement on the working of the National Health Service in the Royal Ordnance Factories where claims for sickness benefit increased by 20 per cent. since the insurance scheme began in July, 1948; and when he will publish the results of the official inquiry into the increase of absenteeism and benefit claims.

Photo of Mr Sidney Shephard Mr Sidney Shephard , Newark

asked the Minister of Supply if he will give the details of the sickness benefit scheme operating in Royal Ordnance factories; what steps are taken to avoid abuse of the scheme; and what action is taken when it is abused.

Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth North

As the answer contains a number of figures, I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Photo of Sir John Mellor Sir John Mellor , Sutton Coldfield

Does the Minister agree with the statement made by his Parliamentary Secretary on 17th August that cases of sickness have doubled since the scheme began and that there has been Oaring exploitation?

Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth North

The amount of absence through sickness has increased substantially in most of the Royal Ordnance factories and there has been, no doubt, a certain amount of abuse, but disciplinary action has been taken wherever abuse has been found.

Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough

What suddenly happened to cause the position to deteriorate so badly that the right hon. Gentleman's Parliamentary Secretary had to give up his summer holiday to go and "pi-jaw" the workers about it?

Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth North

I do not understand what the hon. Member means. It is part of the duties of the Parliamentary Secretary to visit the Royal Ordnance Factories and to see that the work there is carried out efficiently. I should have thought that the fact that he did it during the summer months was no reason to abuse him.

Photo of Mr Louis Tolley Mr Louis Tolley , Kidderminster

Will not my right hon. Friend agree that the best way to stop abuse would be to see that in every case a doctor's certificate has to be obtained by the worker concerned before he can go home sick?

Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth North

He has to have a doctor's certificate under the present arrangements.

Following is the answer:

The paid sick leave arrangements operating in the Royal Ordnance Factories for industrial employees are those laid down in the scheme which applies to all Government industrial employees, and which was agreed between the Treasury, the Departments concerned and the trade unions represented on the Joint Co-ordinating, Committee for Government Industrial Establishments.

The scheme, which is due for review in September, 1950, provides that after a qualifying period of six months employees may in any period of one year be granted sick leave with full pay, up to a maximum of 13 weeks, less the amount of any National Insurance benefit. Full pay means the employee's ordinary time rate, and the first three days are not paid for unless absence extends to five days. After five years' service a further period of 13 weeks sick leave on half-pay is given. Grant of paid sick leave is conditional upon the production of medical certificates of unfitness obtained from a medical practitioner who is normally the National Health Service doctor.

The cost of the scheme in the Royal Ordnance Factories for the 12 months from its introduction in September, 1948, was £296,959. The following table shows the percentage of working days lost by industrial employees in the Factories on account of absence covered by medical certificate in the 12 months preceding and following its introduction:

Month1947–481948–49
September2.53.5
October2.85.1
November2.96.0
December2.76.1
January3.27.6
February3.18.1
March2.79.0
April2.47.1
May2.55.8
June2.14.9
July1.83.9
August2.23.9

I am concerned by the increase shown in these figures and this is being thoroughly investigated. Appropriate disciplinary action is, of course, taken by my Department in cases of abuse.