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8.8 Sickness - Absence From Work

AMENDMENT

Significant amendments were made to this chapter in June 2014. The entire chapter must be read by all staff.


Contents

  1. Unauthorised Absence
  2. Recording Attendance
  3. Sickness Absence
  4. Notification of Absence
  5. Self Certificates
  6. Medical Certificates
  7. Statutory Sick Pay
  8. Company Sick Pay
  9. Company Medicals
  10. Unsatisfactory Sickness Record
  11. Sickness Monitoring: Trigger Points and Stages
  12. Sickness Absence Disciplinary Procedure
  13. Short Term Monitoring Diagram


1. Unauthorised Absence

An employee's contract of employment requires that they attend regularly and punctually for work. If the employee needs to be absent for any reason other than genuine sickness they must obtain consent of their Manager. Absence without permission and without good reason will not be paid for and persistent unauthorised absence and lateness will result in disciplinary action, which may ultimately lead to dismissal.


2. Recording Attendance

The Manager will keep a record of staff absences and advise the HR Department of this information. This information should include the start and end dates of the absence and the absence reason.


3. Sickness Absence

Staff sickness affects not only the individual who is not well but the rest of the team and the wider company. For this reason, it is imperative that when reporting sick, thought is given to allowing as much notice as possible in order to minimise effects on others.

For absence due to sickness or injury the Manager should be advised of the reason for absence, e.g. Influenza, sprained ankle. If the person who is ill does not wish to disclose to their Manager the reason for their sickness absence they may advise the Office Manager.

For absence that may require notification to the HSE under RIDDOR the Manager should consult with the Designated Manager.

Managers will conduct return to work interviews when staff return from sick leave.


4. Notification of Absence

As soon as possible or on the first morning of absence, at least two hours before the start of a shift or, where possible, the night before, if on shift the next day, the employee must notify their Manager, (or delegated person) that they will be absent from work and state the reason for this absence. Some indication of expected return date should be given and, if this changes, notification given as soon as possible. The delegated person may be the shift leader. In cases where, for whatever reason, notifying the Manager has not been possible, absence notification may also be made to the HR Department Monday to Friday 9.00 am - 5.00 pm.

Notification should be by telephone and may be made in person or by a representative for that person. Notification via text message is not acceptable.


5. Self Certificates

For absence of seven consecutive days or less (inclusive of weekends and public holidays) a self certificate must be completed by the employee and given to their Manager on the first day they are no longer sick, or the day they return to work, whichever is the soonest. A Return to Work Interview should be completed on return to work. Copies of the Forms should then be sent to the HR Department.


6. Medical Certificates

For absence in excess of seven days (inclusive of weekends and public holidays) consecutive medical certificates, completed by a doctor, are required to cover each day of absence until the employee returns to work. This/these should be sent direct to the HR Department.

Evidence of incapacity is an essential requirement for making SSP payments. If the Company does not receive such evidence and/or feels that the evidence is not genuine, SSP payments may be withheld.

Failure to comply with the above procedure may result in disciplinary action being taken.


7. Statutory Sick Pay

Providing that the employee qualifies under the Government's rules for payment of SSP, they will be entitled to SSP for the first 28 weeks of sickness in any sick leave year.

SSP will be paid at a flat rate, which is set by the Government and reviewed each new tax year.

SSP is paid on the usual pay day and is subject to both PAYE and NI deductions.

When SSP payments have been exhausted, the employee may be able to claim sickness benefit from the DSS. The HR Department will forward the appropriate forms to the employee to complete and give to the DSS.

Please note that employees claiming sickness benefit must still send a copy of their sickness certificate(s) to the HR Department.

If an employee does not qualify for SSP, the Company will issue a form explaining the reasons for not qualifying. The employee should then claim sickness benefit from the DSS.

For care workers the qualifying days for statutory sick pay purposes are: any day in the week that you have been rota'd to work.


8. Company Sick Pay

There is no company sick pay scheme.


9. Company Medicals

We reserve the right to call for an independent medical examination to determine the employee’s fitness or capability for work.


10. Unsatisfactory Sickness Record

The following are examples of unsatisfactory attendance:

  • Long term absence due to injury or sickness;
  • Frequent short term absence due to minor ailments.


11. Sickness Monitoring: Trigger Points and Stages

Trigger Points

  Trigger Points
Short- term sickness (including persistent absence)
  • 3 Occasions or more sickness absence in any 6 month period; or
  • A definite pattern to the sickness becomes clear.
Long-term Sickness
  • Absence in excess of 4 weeks.

11.1 Short-Term Absence Procedure (including persistent absence)

Informal Meeting-Stage 1

If the Manager has cause for concern at the level of sickness absence based on the trigger points, an informal stage 1 meeting must be arranged.

The Manager should discuss the level of absence with the employee and to seek to jointly determine any underlying cause. The Manager may request medical certificates be produced in respect of all future absences, regardless of their length. The Manager may set realistic informal targets for future attendance, over a reasonable period (e.g. 3 months) which is reviewed every 4 weeks with the employee.

The employee must be informed if these targets are not reached, formal proceedings may be instigated.

In determining targets for attendance, the Manager should take into account any medical advice that states that the employee is likely to be absent from work during the specified period because of the effects of a disability or long term condition. It is expected that reasonable adjustments are made in such cases in determining target levels of attendance. It will be regarded as a reasonable adjustment to make reasonable allowances for an additional level of sickness absence in determining targets for attendance. However, broad expectations of an employee being able to fulfill their contract of employment through regular and effective attendance apply to all staff.

The Manager will set a reasonable review period for assessing the effectiveness of any adjustments made to the employee's duties or working arrangements. The main points of such discussions must be confirmed in writing to the employee and a copy placed on the personal file. The action plan must also be completed and saved on personal file and copy must be given to the individual.

Formal Meeting-Stage 2 - Welfare and Planning Review Meeting

A formal meeting will be convened by the Manager at the end of the agreed period. Employees must be given 7 calendar days notice of the formal meeting and informed of their right to representation. Each employee has the right to be accompanied by a fellow employee of their choice or trade union official, and should they wish to exercise this right then, it is their responsibility to make the arrangements.

The Welfare and Planning Review meeting is to:

  • To address any issues arising from the absences;
  • Monitor targets set;
  • Review any further developments since the last meeting;
  • Arranging for Occupational Health input when necessary;
  • Support the employee if there are any underlying medical problems i.e. all absences are due to one overriding health issue;
  • Discuss options such as a change in working practices/duties;
  • Deal with absence level which is unacceptable;
  • Explore what reasonable adjustments may be necessary;
  • Deal with employees who do not co-operate with the policy.

The Manager can set further targets for future attendance, over a reasonable period which is reviewed every 4 weeks under Stage 2. The employee will be informed that if these targets are not reached, the matter may proceed early to Final Stage 3 which may result in dismissal. The Manager will take into consideration any underlying medical condition or disability, fully exploring all the options available before referring to the final stage. At each Review meeting, a record of discussion must be written capturing the main points arising during the discussion including any agreed actions. The record must be written by the Manager and retained on the employee's personal file. The main points of the meeting will be confirmed in writing by the manager and a copy placed on the employee's personal file. There is no pre-determined number of Review meetings that must take place before proceeding to Formal Stage 3. Each 4-weekly review meeting must ensure all areas within Stage 2 have been considered before referring to Formal Stage 3.

Formal Meeting - Stage 3: Final

If targets are not met and all options available have been fully explored, the employee will be referred to the Occupational Health Service for a medical report prior to convening a final stage meeting with a Senior Manager and a Human Resources Representative.

Employees must be given 7 calendar days notice of such a meeting and informed of their right to representation. At this stage, the Senior Manager must take into consideration the report prepared by the Manager/HR dealing with Stage 2. The report must include:

  • Overall absence record;
  • Employee's length of service;
  • Occupational health advice;
  • Reasonable adjustments;
  • Needs of the service;
  • The prospects of an improved attendance record with or without adjustments;
  • What appropriate support the employee has received;
  • Opportunities to improve their attendance level;
  • The representations made by the employee and their representative at the previous stages.

If the Senior Manager, in consultation with Human Resources, assesses that the absence level is unacceptable, your Contract of Employment may be terminated on the  grounds of incapability due to ill health or some other substantial reason in accordance with the Disciplinary Procedure or decide upon an alternative course of action. The Senior Manager may set further targets over a reasonable period which is reviewed every 4 weeks if dismissal is not appropriate.

11.2 Long Term Sickness

Informal meeting: Stage 1

Where absence exceeds 4 weeks, the Manager must assess whether they need to arrange an informal meeting with the employee. For example, if an employee is off work due to stress it is essential an informal meeting is arranged to see what support can be offered. If, however, an employee is off work for example as a result of planned surgery or a long term illness then the Manager should make contact with the employee to see how they are and what appropriate support can be offered

Formal Stage 2 - Welfare and Planning Review Meeting

If an employee is absent for more than 8 weeks, Welfare and Planning Review Meeting must be arranged by the Manager. Employees must be given 7 calendar days notice of the meeting and be informed of their right to representation.

The Welfare and Planning Review meeting is to;

  • Support individuals to return to work;
  • Explore what reasonable adjustments may be necessary;
  • Plan the employees return to work;
  • To address any issues arising from the period of absence;
  • Establish the likely duration of the illness/absence;
  • Discuss phased return;
  • Monitor any targets set;
  • Review any further developments since the last meeting/contact;
  • Involve Occupational Health when necessary;
  • Deal with employees whose absence level is unacceptable;
  • Deal with employees who do not co-operate with this policy.

It may be clear that a return to work is not possible/appropriate and therefore one of the following may need to be considered:

  • Termination of Employment;
  • Reduced hours /amended job responsibilities.

If however, there is likelihood of continuing absence but at this stage, one of the above is not considered appropriate by the Manager, a further Welfare and Planning Review must be arranged with the employee within 4 weeks, in order to review the situation and respond to any developments that may have occurred. The Manager, in consultation with Human Resources, must write to the employee giving their decision following consideration of the above, identifying any course of action to be taken. If continued employment is no longer considered feasible at the next Welfare and Planning Review meeting, the employee should be informed that unless there are any positive developments in the present circumstances which may change the decision of the Manager, within a reasonable period, proceedings will be commence for the employee's dismissal. The Manager will take into consideration any underlying medical condition including terminal illness, fully exploring all the options available before referring to the final stage. The main points of the meeting will be confirmed in writing and a copy placed on the employee's personal file to inform future monitoring and management of sickness absence. A Welfare and Planning review meeting must take place every 4 weeks. There is no pre-determined number of Welfare and Planning review meetings that must take place before proceeding to Formal Stage 3. Each 4 weekly review must ensure all areas within Stage 2 have been considered before referring to Formal Stage 3.

Formal Stage 3 - Final

If the options of returning to work are not pursued and/or applicable and all other options available have been fully explored, the employee will be referred to the Occupational Health Service for a medical report prior to convening a final stage formal meeting. The employees consent may be sought to seeking an opinion from their GP.

Employees must be given 7 calendar days notice of the meeting and be informed of their right to representation. At this stage, the Senior Manager must take into consideration the report prepared by the Manager dealing with Stage 2.

The report which must include:

  • Overall absence record;
  • Employee's length of service;
  • Occupational health advice;
  • Redeployment possibilities;
  • Reasonable adjustments;
  • Needs of the service;
  • The prospects of a likely return to the previous employment with or without adjustments;
  • A phased return with or without a need for adjustments;
  • The employee has received appropriate support;
  • Opportunities to improve their attendance level;
  • The representations made by the employee and their representative at the previous stage.

If the Senior Manager, in consultation with Human Resources, assesses that the absence level is unacceptable, he/she may dismiss the employee on the grounds of incapability due to ill health or some other substantial reason in accordance with the Disciplinary Procedure or decide upon an alternative course of action. The Senior Manager may set further targets over a reasonable period which is reviewed every 4 weeks if dismissal is not appropriate.

If the employee is dismissed, they have a right of appeal against dismissal to the Managing Director within 7 calendar days of the decision.

11.3 Additional Information

Phased Return to Work

In order to successfully rehabilitate employees back into the workplace following long-term ill health, a "phased return to work" is often recommended. To ensure a more successful outcome, phased returns to work following sickness absence need prior assessment and appropriate planning. Whenever a phased return is to be implemented, the programme must be agreed between the manager and the employee, in liaison with Human Resources. The programme should be planned with reference to these general guidelines and any specific advice or recommendations from the Occupational Health/G.P:

  • The aim is not only to achieve an earlier return to work but also to ensure that the return has the best chance of long-term success, both of which reduce unnecessary time loss;
  • A phased return will lessen both the physical and psychological pressures of a full return to work. Rehabilitation is an important factor to be considered;
  • A flexible yet controlled approach should be adopted. The commitment of the manager and employee, and the support of Human Resources are integral to the success of the program.

The phased return to work should ideally not exceed a period of four weeks, unless there are exceptional circumstances and the appropriate Senior Manager has given approval. This period would be on normal shift pay. The manager will monitor the employee throughout the phased return. Managers must ensure that the employee adheres to the agreed reduced shifts/hours. The employee and line manager should officially review the individual's progress and the suitability of the timetable on a weekly basis, until a full return to work has been achieved. All reviews must be documented. If, due to health reasons, the employee is experiencing difficulty continuing with a phased return, they should be referred back to their GP or Occupational Health. The period of the phased return will not be treated as sickness absence.

Taking annual leave as part of a phased return

Employees can use their untaken annual leave as part of their phased return if they wish. Employees will need to be aware if they have been absent for under a year and do not wish to take their annual leave when they return to work or as part of a phased return then they risk losing their entitlement.


12. Sickness Absence Disciplinary Procedure

In appropriate circumstances, the Company may require you to be:

  • Give authority for the Company to contact your Doctor to obtain details of your medical condition;
  • Examined by an independent medical practitioner of its choosing. In this event, you agree to co-operate with such a request and to permit the medical practitioner to discuss with the Company the findings of his examination and his prognosis for your future recovery; and/or
  • The findings of the medical practitioner and/or the Line Manager will be taken into account when the Company considers the kind of action, if any, which it will take against you in respect of your absence from work;
  • If appropriate, after such examination/interview, you may be given a first warning by your Manager which will be confirmed to you in writing. This warning will specify a period, the length of which (usually, between 1 and 6 months) will depend upon your particular health or welfare difficulties:
    • Over which your attendance will be monitored by the Company and a specified measure of improvement will be required of you; or
    • At the end of which you will be expected to have returned to work;
    • If appropriate at the end of such period, you may be required to undergo another examination and/or interview the results of which the Company will take into account when it considers the kind of action, if any, which it is appropriate to take against you;
    • Such action may include:
      • The issue of a final warning by your Manager which will be confirmed to you in writing and will specify a further period over which your attendance will be monitored and the level of improvement expected of you during such period. This warning will state that failure to show the necessary improvement within the specified period will result in your dismissal; or
      • Your dismissal on notice if the Company concludes, following your medical examination, that you are not likely to be fit to return to work in the foreseeable future and that, in all the circumstances, the needs of its business render it impracticable to await further your return to health or fitness;
      • The decision to dismiss you will be taken by a Director or more senior management. Dismissal will be notified to you in writing.
  • Subject to satisfactory performance and conduct any warning under these procedures will be removed from the Company's records after 12 months;
  • If, following any disciplinary procedure, a complaint against you is upheld, the Company may impose any one or more of the following penalties on you instead of a first or final warning or dismissal with or without notice:
    • Demotion: The Company may demote you by notice in writing of details of any consequential changes to your terms and conditions of employment arising from such demotion. In particular the notice will give details of any reduction to your pay and/or any loss of benefits and/or privileges consequent upon such demotion;
    • Suspension: The Company may suspend you with or without pay by notice in writing to this effect. Such notice will specify the dates of your suspension and the conditions applicable to your suspension. Suspension will be limited to not more than (5) working days.


13. Short Term Monitoring Diagram

Click here to view Short Term Monitoring Diagram

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