Staff at Local Sunday Newspapers group have expressed concern about a tightening up of the rules on sick pay.
One journalist had his pay docked by £75 because he had a day off sick.
But management at the company, whose seven titles include Bedfordshire on Sunday and Luton on Sunday, did later offer to reimburse the money, provided he had a letter from his line manager.
A memo sent out months ago by managing director Mike Richardson said: “No member of staff is automatically entitled to full pay when they are ill. They will revert to statutory sickness pay as laid down by the Government. This is standard policy and will be enforced from now on.
“On the odd occasion of a special case, the matter will be referred for approval to senior management.”
A company insider, who asked not to be named, said: “They’ve instituted a policy where they don’t pay anybody sick pay, it’s as simple as that. Line managers have to fill in attendance forms, like a school register, to say if people have attended or they have not.
“If anybody goes sick they can recommend that the company pays them, but it is discretionary.”
Richardson responded: “There is no change to company policy; we operate a statutory sick pay scheme. If anybody goes sick it’s down to the individual managers and our discretion as a company whether sick pay is paid – it’s pretty standard.”
He added that he felt pay and conditions at the company were competitive, with journalists earning up to £20,000 a year and pay for junior reporters up 20 per cent this year.
A local NUJ spokesman said there had been no problem with sick pay in the past and he was given to understand from management that this would continue in the future.
By Dominic Ponsford