Random checks on sick workers

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TRAIN WORKERS off sick will face random visits by managers after illness rates doubled at one of the biggest private rail firms, documents leaked to The Independent reveal.

Sick leave is costing English, Welsh & Scottish, which operates 90 per cent of all the rail freight in Britain, nearly pounds 7m a year.

Bernard Reid, a senior manager with the company, has written to all its railway workers in Scotland, saying that sickness rates have doubled since the management negotiated a deal with the workforce.

"It is my belief that not all of this sickness is genuine," Mr Reid wrote earlier this month.

"Anybody reporting sick will be visited at their home that day by a supervisor.

"If the visit is declined, then no hours will be credited for the period."

The new regime will affect those staff who have taken off five days or more in the previous 12 months - more than 40 per cent of the workforce.

Mr Reid also highlighted the detrimental effect of the World Cup on his workforce's apparent health. "The worst period for sickness . . . was during the World Cup."

A similar sentiment was felt by London Underground management in June, when a strike called by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union fell on the same day as the first England game.

Mr Reid, who is the head of the Scottish division of English, Welsh & Scottish, also warned workers not to abuse the current system.

After a visit to a local Job- centre, Mr Reid reminded workers that many are paid pounds 25,000 a year.

"There are loads of jobs out there at pounds 4 an hour . . . It is only a matter of time before someone is visiting the very Jobcentre on a more formal basis than mine."