What you need to know…
Absence policies must outline employee’s rights and obligations when taking time off work due to sickness. The policy should:
- Provide details of sick pay terms and sickness benefits;
- Outline processes employees need to follow when off sick and when they return;
- Advise when they need a GP or self-certified sick note and the potential need for medical reports; and
- Include processes for managing short- and long-term absence
UK Fitness for work Statement…
On 1 July 2022 the UK introduce “Fit notes”, that can be digital, that allows wider groups of professionals to certify absences. These professionals included: Therapists, physios, nurses & Pharmacies.
- Under Employment (Jersey) Law 2003, the Health and Safety at Work (Jersey) Law and the Discrimination (Jersey) Law 2013, you need to ensure you are making reasonable adjustments for employees who have a disability, to avoid claims of discrimination.
- You also need to record pregnancy related sickness absence separately to avoid claims of sex discrimination.
What you need to do…
Managing short-term absence
Ensure you follow your internal processes and these steps:
- Investigate the frequency, duration, and reasons for absence.
- Carefully monitor individual, departmental, and overall workplace absence.
- Always conduct a return-to-work interview - discuss problems with the employees concerned.
- Consider requesting a medical report, with the employee’s consent, to establish if there is any underlying medical condition to support the level of absence. There may be a condition or links to disability discrimination which may not be immediately apparent. Support and/or adjustments may be appropriate.
- Work in conjunction with GPs, occupational therapists, and PHI providers for advice on how to support the employee’s return to work.
- If you suspect that the employee’s reasons for the absence are not genuine, investigate carefully, discuss with them and pursue formal disciplinary action where appropriate.
- Consider what can be done to assist employees with personal or family problems - would counselling help?
- If the employee has a recognised illness or medical condition that is not a disability, but their absence rate is unacceptably high, dismissal may be appropriate following the capability process. The employee's length of service and the availability of suitable alternative employment are relevant factors to consider. Where the absence is related to an actual or potential disability, extra care and additional steps will be required and expert HR and medical advice should be sought.
- Consider contractual rights to sick pay and other benefits e.g., PHI.
Deal with persistent short-term absences
Although sickness absence can be a sensitive subject to tackle, it should be dealt with carefully yet robustly before short-term absences become persistent and have an effect on the performance of the business.
Refrain from making snap decisions to avoid the risk of a claim for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.
Deal with sickness issues as early as possible, document conversations and record all absences.
Act reasonably and take into account the following considerations when making any decisions:
- The length and pattern of the absences
- The periods of good health in-between absences
- The likelihood of recovery
- Sick pay entitlement
- The impact that the absences are having on the workforce
- The cost of hiring a temporary employee
- Whether you could make adjustments to the duties or hours of work to accommodate the medical condition of the employee.
Managing long-term absences
You need to have strategies in place to help employees get back to work after long periods of sickness-related absence.
- Ensure contact is maintained with employees in a sensitive manner.
- Use health professionals to evaluate the reasons for absence and carry out health assessments.
- Plan reasonable adjustments to enable their return to work:
- Allow a gradual return to work, from part-time to full-time.
- Change work patterns or management style to reduce pressure
- Enable them to do flexible working
- Accommodate the employee's mobility
- Create a return-to-work plan. Include:
- How the role has been modified
- The time period
- The new working arrangements
- The date on which the plan will be reviewed.
- Agree the plan with the employee, their line manager and anyone else affected
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