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Sickness absence policy

Introduction

‘Sickness Absence’ is defined as an incapacity to carry out the duties and responsibilities which a member of staff is contractually obliged to do because of his or her own illness or injury. This policy does not apply to the need to take time off work because of the illness or injury of others, for example, dependants or agreed compassionate leave.

Aim

The aim of this policy is to:

  • provide a standard process and consistent approach for managing sickness absence

  • Treat everyone in a way that is sensitive, fair and balances the needs of the member of staff with that of the organisation;

  • provides support for the absent member of staff to return to work as soon as their condition allows whilst sustaining a required level of attendance;

  • identify and eliminate any potential workplace risks to the member of staff’s health & wellbeing;

  • promote a positive culture of attendance.

Notification of absence

You must notify a director by phone personally or through a relative or friend, as soon as possible on your first day of absence. If a relative or friend makes contact because you are unable to do so, you should personally make contact as soon as you are able.

It is your responsibility to also keep your chapter lead informed of the reason for absence, possible length of absence and likely return date.

If you are unsure of the possible length of absence, then it is your responsibility to contact your chapter lead at agreed intervals and submit the relevant medical certificates as soon as possible.

Failure to notify may result in the absence being recorded as unauthorised, and may result in disciplinary action and pay being withheld for the period of illness.

Self-certification and medical certificates

If you are absent due to illness for four to seven days, you should submit a self-certification form to a director on your return to work.

If you are absent for eight or more calendar days then you must obtain a medical certificate from your GP (Fit Note), covering the eighth day of absence onwards and send it to a director. Subsequent medical certificates are required as soon as the current certificate has expired.

You must keep a director informed of your progress, with an indication if possible, of a return to work date. You are responsible for ensuring that medical certificates are submitted on time and cover all periods of absence.

Taking holidays whilst off sick

In some cases it may be appropriate for you to take a holiday/period of leave away from home during a period of sickness absence, eg for convalescence purposes. Before taking such leave you must inform a director of the proposed dates and reason for the request. The period of leave will still be counted as sickness for the purpose of recording sickness absence and calculating pay for this period.

Conduct during sickness absence

In all cases of sickness absence it is expected that you’ll act in a way that will help to ensure a timely return to work. For example, it would not be expected for employees to:

  • take part in sports, hobbies, or other avoidable activities that could aggravate your condition or delay your recovery. This excludes specific activities recommended by a GP or other medical adviser to improve your health as part of a therapeutic/ convalescent programme;

  • undertake any other employment, whether paid or unpaid, unless this has been approved by a director. Employees should also note that it can be a criminal offence to claim Statutory Sick Pay from an employer whilst undertaking paid employment elsewhere. These matters would be pursued as a disciplinary matter.

Return to work interviews

A director will meet with you following every period of sickness absence of more than one working day to discuss the reason for absence and any relevant issues arising from it. The return to work interview gives the opportunity to:

  • check that you are fit to return to work and agree any actions, such as short-term changes to working arrangements;

  • review the attendance record of the employee;

  • Ensure the appropriate certificates have been submitted covering your absence;

  • Discuss any medical, work or domestic problems that have prevented you from attending work.

If there is no acceptable reason for absence then the matter will be treated as a conduct issue and dealt with as a disciplinary matter.

Short-term absence – first review

A short-term sickness absence is considered as one or more episodes of sickness, each lasting less than four weeks. Short-term absence can be disruptive to the smooth running of an organisation and therefore it is important that it is managed consistently with all employees.

Frequent and persistent short-term absences will be investigated promptly. The trigger for a first absence review is three or more episodes of sickness in a 26 week rolling period or five days total sickness absence in a rolling 26 week period.

We will inform you in writing, of the date of any meetings under this section and include the following information:

  • Advance warning will be given of meetings.

  • Meetings will be conducted during normal working times.

  • Reason for the meeting.

  • Reminder of your right to be represented by a colleague not acting in a legal capacity.

  • Detail of your sickness record over previous six and twelve months.

You may be asked as part of the meeting process to be seen by an occupational health professional to establish the cause of absence, whether the underlying reason for the absence is work-related, whether work is impacting on your ability to consistently attend work and if any reasonable adjustments or modifications to the role would assist in you attending work in the future.

You will be told in the meeting what improvement in attendance is expected and warned of the likely consequences if this does not happen. If there is no improvement, your length of service, performance, the likelihood of a change in attendance, the availability of suitable alternative work, and the effect of past and future absences on the company, will all be taken into account in deciding appropriate action

At the conclusion of the meeting, a letter should be written advising you of the discussions and at what stage further action would be taken.

Short-term absence – final review

If you have not been able to meet the improvement in attendance that is expected from the first review and recorded in the letter after the first review meeting, we will invite you to a final review meeting.

We will inform you in writing, of the date of any meetings under this section and include the following information:

  • Advance warning will be given of all meetings.

  • Meetings will be conducted during normal working times.

  • Reason for the meeting.

  • Reminder of your right to be represented by a colleague not acting in a legal capacity.

  • Detail of your sickness record over previous twelve months.

Your length of service, performance, the likelihood of a change in attendance, the availability of suitable alternative work, and the effect of past and future absences on the company will all be taken into account in deciding appropriate action. Excessive absence may result in termination of employment on grounds of capability.

At the conclusion of the meeting, a letter should be written advising you of the discussions and what further action would be taken.

Long-term absence

Long-term sickness absence can be defined as any period of sickness lasting over four weeks. Each employee who is absent due to long-term sickness will have individual needs and so consideration should be given to the following:

  • Agreeing the intervals of when contact with each other will be made.

  • Consideration of obtaining a medical report/referral to occupational health (with employee’s consent) for advice on return to work or potential adaptations/modifications to enable a return to work.

Action cannot be generalised in these cases as a range of actions may be appropriate:

  • No further action.

  • Further investigation/action at a later date.

  • Change in working conditions/rehabilitation

  • Redeployment.

  • Enforced medical leave.

  • Early retirement.

  • Formal warning, followed by termination of employment on health grounds.

Long-term absence interviews

When we need to have a formal long-term absence interview about ill health problems, these guidelines will be followed:

  • You’ll be given notice of the meeting in writing, together with the reason for the meeting and your rights to be accompanied. In order to allow you sufficient time to seek adequate representation should you want this.

  • The meeting should be held at a location convenient to you, if necessary away from your normal place of work and with consideration to your physical condition.

  • Home visits should only take place with your express consent and where it is not possible for you to attend a meeting at work.

At the interview the following will be covered:

  • The situation to date will be reviewed.

  • Existing medical advice will be discussed, and whether there is a need to obtain further information.

  • The effect on pay and benefits of your situation.

  • Future outcomes will be discussed, including possible effect on employment and formal warnings about possible future termination of employment (if a return to work is not possible within a reasonable period).

  • A further meeting arranged as necessary.

The outcome of the meeting including any formal warnings, will be confirmed in writing.

Obtaining medical reports

If Deeson is considering obtaining a medical report or an occupational health opinion, then we will discuss this with you and explain the reasons why this is required. Deeson will secure your consent before making a referral for opinion.

If Deeson is writing to a medical practitioner directly for a report, Deeson must provide full written consent of the employee and let the physician know if the employee would like to see the report first when making the application. The employee must then contact the GP within 21 days of the date of application to make arrangements to see the report.

If you consider the report to be incorrect or misleading, you may make a written request to the GP to make appropriate amendments. If the GP refuses, you have the right to ask the GP to attach a statement to the report reflecting the your view on any matters of disagreement. You may withhold consent to the report being supplied to Deeson. The GP would be unable to change his/her written opinion in the report.

We will review the information supplied within the medical report and will consider if adaptations/modifications or an alternative role is required/available. Consideration of adjustments should include any adjustments that may be considered ‘reasonable and practicable’ where you may be considered as disabled for the purposes of the Equalities Act 2010.

Where you refuse to cooperate in providing medical evidence, or to undergo an independent medical examination, you will be told in writing that a decision will be taken on the basis of the information available and that it could result in dismissal. Where your job can no longer be held open, and no suitable alternative work is available, you will be informed of the likelihood of dismissal during the long-term sickness meetings.

Phased returns

In some ill health cases it may be deemed appropriate for you to return to work on a phased basis, increasing your hours gradually to ensure that you are rehabilitated back into the workplace.

The period of the phased return will be based on advice from either a general practitioner from a fit note or from an occupational health assessment. It should be for an agreed timeframe and reviewed towards the end of the timeframe, to ensure that the employee is able to undertake the majority of the role/contractual hours. If this is not the case, then a decision will need to be made about future ability to do the role. Further guidance may be required from an occupational health service.

Reasonable adjustment

When discussing your future role, Deeson needs to consider whether any reasonable adjustment could be made to enable you to continue in your current role.

Reasonable adjustment can include alterations to fixtures and fittings to enable greater access, acquiring special equipment or modifying existing equipment, altering existing working arrangements, supplying additional training and/or supervision.

In some cases reasonable adjustments may include an acceptance following advice from occupational health, that you may have a higher than usual absence level as a result of your disability. Deeson will decide if such a level is acceptable to the needs of the business.

Termination of employment on grounds of incapacity

Where you are incapable either permanently or for the foreseeable future of undertaking the duties of your post and where redeployment has been investigated but is not possible, Deeson will have the option to terminate employment. Full regard will be taken of all the medical evidence concerning your incapacity before such a decision is made.

In these cases, we will arrange a meeting with you. You will be notified of your right to be accompanied at this meeting.

Notice of termination of employment on grounds of incapacity can only be given by a director. The date of termination of employment will be confirmed in writing, together with confirmation of any notice pay period or payment in lieu of notice.

Appointments for dentist, doctor and other medical reasons

Appointments made to see a dentist, doctor or other medical professional should be taken in your own time where possible. This can normally be accommodated within our flexible working scheme. Where possible, appointments should be made at the start or end of the normal working day, urgent appointments may be made if this is not possible during work time.