We understand that managing sickness absences can be problematic at times for employers. It is important, however, to manage absences pro-actively, reasonably and fairly
To assist employers we have put together our top 10 tips on managing sickness absence:
1. Sickness Absence Policy
Have a written POLICY in place.
Set out expected standards of attendance and reporting requirements.
Include information on sick pay, evidence of incapacity and the sickness absence management process.
Ensure employees understand the policy.
2. When an employee calls in sick
Provide TRAINING to any person who will receive reports of sickness absence from employees (such as line managers).
ASK the employee the reason for their absence, the likely date of return and if appropriate confirm contact details.
Where different departments are in contact with an employee, ensure that a "joined up" approach is maintained so that the employee does not get contradictory messages.
3. Evidence of incapacity
OBTAIN evidence from the employee of their incapacity to work.
A "self-certification" for absence of seven calendar days or less.
A doctor's certificate for longer absences.
4. When an employee is off sick
Keep in CONTACT with the employee. The amount of contact will often depend on the employee's job and the size and culture of the employer's business. Contact could, for example, be limited to a regular telephone update conversation once a fortnight.
Avoid overbearing or intrusive contact, or any other course of conduct that could cause distress such as to amount to harassment.
5. Sick Pay
Check ENTITLEMENT to sick pay.
Subject to qualification, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is the minimum amount of sick pay that all employees are entitled to.
Employees may also be entitled to receive their full remuneration if their contract of employment or employer's sickness policy specifically entitles them to this.
6. Keep updated on medical condition
ENCOURAGE employees to contact their manager following any update on their medical condition.
Consider obtaining a MEDICAL REPORT – contracts or sickness procedures often specify that medical reports may be obtained.
The onus is on the employer to request updates, not on the employee to provide them.
7. Keep a paper trail
Ensure that accurate and legible RECORDS are kept of all meetings and correspondence.
Retain file notes of telephone conversations with absent employees, as well as records of telephone messages left.
Telephone conversations and messages should be followed up with letters summarising the steps taken to contact the employee and any ACTION PLANS agreed.
Letters should be written in a non-judgmental, factual style as they are likely to be disclosable in any tribunal proceedings.
Records should be stored confidentially.
8. Return to work interviews
INVESTIGATIONS into the reasons for an employee's absence are best initiated by way of holding a return to work interview.
ACAS recommends return to work interviews in all cases.
It is up to the employer whether it decides to hold a return to work interview for every absence or whether it is more realistic to insist on return to work interviews for absences of, say, three days or more.
Keep a written record.
9. Consider reasonable adjustments
A person is disabled for discrimination law purposes if they have a PHYSICAL OR MENTAL impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
Employers are subject to the POSTIVE DUTY to consider and make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees.
Consider any reasonable adjustments to enable the individual to return to work.
10. Sickness Absence Management Procedure
When frequency or levels of sickness absence become a problem, employers will need to consider carrying out a FORMAL procedure.
ENSURE the procedure is applied consistently and employees know what they should expect.
CONSIDER trigger points at which the formal procedure will apply, for example a certain number of occasions of absence within a 12 month period or single absences of more than a certain number of days.
For further information about managing absences fairly, consistently and effectively, please don't hesitate to contact ESP to chat through your specific requirements.
I am the Founder of ESP Group, a very different employment law firm and HR consultancy business, with our own in-house legal and HR experts. The vision for our business was to deliver an exceptionally personal, yet cost-effective service that truly meets the evolving needs of modern and forward thinking HR teams and their organisations. We’ve recruited some of the very best employment lawyers to make this vision a reality.
I have over 30 years' experience in designing and building specialist service-based businesses and products for the corporate market. At the same time as developing our own fast-growing consultancy business, one of my key roles is to ensure we help busy Human Resources professionals make a real commercial difference to their organisations.
Ours is a notoriously fragmented industry, renowned for being somewhat archaic in its approach to providing customer-focussed, innovative, straight-talking and affordable services. But the legal services market landscape is changing and we truly believe that our integrated ABS law firm and HR consultancy business is at the forefront of this movement.