In the news

The story
A prison officer at Holloway prison who was on sick leave for more than a year had emigrated to New Zealand unbeknown to bosses.

The employee, who was sacked without compensation after failing to attend a meeting with the jail’s new managers, continued to provide doctor’s sick notes from her new home.

According to a report by the Public Accounts Committee, prison managers have little, if any, contact with many employees who are on long-term sick leave for more than a year. In some cases, this has lasted for more than two years before being uncovered.

The response
Brian Caton, general secretary of trade union body the Prison Officers’ Association, said that the Prison Service rarely contacts employees who are on long-term sick leave.

“The Prison Service is absolutely abysmal at caring for their staff. If it wasn’t required to inform the prison [when someone dies], people could be dead, let alone emigrated, and the Prison Service wouldn’t even know. The union does the vast majority of welfare work.”

He added that long-term absence is a particular problem due to the nature of prison officers’ work and the increasing number of incidents such as assaults on staff.

Insufficient resources may have contributed to the issue. “I can understand it because they haven’t got enough staff to do their duties,” said Caton.

The Prison Service refused to reply to trade union accusations.