PROCEDURE FOR MANAGING SICKNESS ABSENCE

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1 PROCEDURE FOR MANAGING SICKNESS ABSENCE

2 ORKNEY ISLAND S COUNCIL PROCEDURE FOR MANAGING SICKNESS ABSENCE 1 INTRODUCTION The Council s procedure on the management of sickness absence is outlined below. The objective of the procedure is to provide a fair and consistent means of implementing the Council s policy on the management of sickness absence. In applying the procedure full consideration will be given to relevant conditions of service and other employment policies adopted by the Council. This will specifically include national agreements relating to employees suffering from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). The principal elements of the procedure cover: notification and certification maintaining contact with absent employees return to work interviews medical examinations long term and short term absences. 2 NOTIFICATION AND CERTIFICATION On each occasion of sickness absence, employees must comply with the notification and certification requirements contained in the Scheme of Conditions of Service and any local arrangements.(see Appendix 1). If an employee fails to comply with these requirements, entitlement to Statutory Sick Pay or occupational sickness allowance for all or part of the absence may be lost and disciplinary action may be taken. Whilst some variation may be necessary between services for operational reasons, all notification and certification arrangements must specify the following minimum requirements: named contact points within each department for an employee to notify any sickness absence timescales within which absence must be notified to the named contact point timescales for employees to maintain contact with their service during sickness absence timescales and arrangements for issue and return of self certificates and medical certificates. Managers must ensure that all employees are made aware of notification and certification requirements. New employees in particular must be fully informed of these requirements as part of induction training. 3 MAINTAINING CONTACT WITH ABSENT EMPLOYEES Maintaining contact with absent employees is an essential part of good management practice. It is particularly important in cases of long-term sickness absence. It enables appropriate management action to be taken in consultation with the employee on the basis of up-to-date information, with the interests of the employee as well as the service in mind. In the case of persistent short-term absence contact may act as a reminder of the procedures and the priority placed on good attendance.

3 2 Contact should be handled sensitively and with due consideration to the nature of the employee s illness. Contact by telephone and/or letter will be sufficient in many cases. In cases of longer-term sickness, it may be desirable to meet with the employee. This would normally take place at the employee s place of work or another suitable Council location by arrangement or through a home visit by prior agreement. 4 RETURN TO WORK INTERVIEWS Return to work interviews form an essential part of sickness absence management. As part of the general procedure for managing sickness absence, employees should be interviewed on their return to work following each occasion of sickness absence. The interview should be essentially a constructive dialogue between manager and employee aimed at facilitating the employee s return to work and clarifying any outstanding aspects of his/her sickness absence. It should demonstrate to the employee that their return to work has been acknowledged and that their manager has a genuine interest in their work and their welfare. The approach to be adopted is set out below. In the case of short-term sickness absence, the return to work interview should be used to ensure that the self-certification form is completed accurately and processed within agreed timescales and that any relevant points which the manager and/or the employee wish to highlight regarding the employee s return to work are discussed. In cases of long-term sickness absence, the interview should be used to allow consideration of any particular difficulties or concerns the employee may have relating to his/her return to work following a prolonged absence and to take fully into account any health, safety and welfare issues which may arise. In cases of persistent short-term absence, counselling interviews should be undertaken as provided for in Section 7(7.2) of the procedure. It is essential to recognise that a return to work interview and counselling are different processes. A return to work interview should not, therefore, cross over into the counselling process. All return to work interviews should be conducted sympathetically and in private by the appropriate manager/supervisor. 5 MEDICAL EXAMINATIONS In accordance with the relevant Scheme of Conditions of Service, an employee may be required to undergo an examination by the Council s Occupational Health Adviser. In these circumstances the employee will be advised of his/her rights under the Access to Medical Reports Act The purpose of a medical examination is to obtain an up-to-date medical opinion to allow management to determine, in the best interests of the employee and the service, what further course of action, if any, is considered necessary in the circumstances. Where, in a case of long-term sickness absence, the medical examination reveals an underlying health disorder, the issue will be dealt with as a capability issue and the procedure detailed in paragraphs below will be followed. Where, in the case of short-term sickness absence, the medical examination reveals no underlying health disorder, the issue will be regarded as one of conduct rather than capability and in such cases the Council s Disciplinary procedure will be followed as appropriate.

4 3 6 LONG-TERM SICKNESS ABSENCE 6.1 General For the purposes of the following arrangements, long-term sickness absence will normally be regarded as a continuous absence from work for health reasons of eight weeks. In arranging meetings in accordance with the following provisions, the line manager will inform the employee at each stage that he/she may be accompanied by a Trade Union representative or work colleague. 6.2 Initial Absence Meeting Whenever a case of long-term sickness absence is identified, the employing department will examine the circumstances of the case. Where it is considered that the absence may continue for some time, the manager(s) will arrange to meet with the employee concerned. This initial meeting will normally take place within ten weeks of the commencement of the sickness absence. The purpose of this initial meeting is to consider the employee s current state of health, and the employee s expectations concerning his/her future fitness to return to work. Following the meeting the substance of the discussion should be confirmed in writing to the employee by the manager. 6.3 Medical Referral Following this interview, the employing department, in consultation with Personnel Services may require the employee to be medically examined by the Occupational Health Adviser. Where this is necessary, the employee will be informed in writing of this requirement and the reason(s) for the examination. The employing department will provide Personnel Services with relevant details concerning the employee including the employee s sickness absence record a summary of the employee s main duties, and any information provided by the employee Personnel Services will request the Occupational Health Adviser s opinion on issues raised by the employee s absence, e.g. the likely duration of the current absence, the possibility of a recurrence of the illness, whether the employee is permanently unfit for his/her duties, the nature of any possible alternative employment etc Where the Occupational Health Adviser considers that the employee is permanently unfit to carry out the duties of his/her post an appropriate manager of the employing department will meet with the employee to inform him/her of this opinion. Where no suitable alternative employment can be found from current vacancies, the employee will be informed that his/her services will be terminated on grounds of capability due to permanent ill health. In such cases the ill-health retirement provisions of the Local Government Pension Scheme will apply to eligible employees.

5 4 Where the employee provides written evidence that his/her GP or specialist disagrees with the Occupational Health Adviser s opinion, the case will be reviewed and, if necessary, further independent medical opinion obtained on which a final decision should be based. 6.4 Employee Returning to Work There may be instances where an employee s GP and the Council s Occupational Health Adviser have indicated that a phased return to work would facilitate an employee s return to full normal duties. Such a return, by mutual agreement, may take a variety of forms, including: working only on certain days of the week; working a reduced number of hours; and undertaking restricted duties for a period of time though exceptionally, where the employee has acquired a disability, the adjustment may be permanent, subject to a period of review The Council wishes to facilitate and encourage good practice in appropriate circumstances which may provide the following advantages: assisting the recovery of an employee; minimising the strain on an employee following a serious illness; encouraging a return to work; and maintaining the Council s desire and commitment to give reasonable support to employees following a serious illness When an employee has been absent from work due to a serious illness certified by a medical practitioner and, following advice from a medical practitioner that a phased return to work is desirable, the following arrangements may apply: (a) (b) (c) (d) The proposed phased return must be subject to consideration by the Head of Department, the Council s Occupational Health Adviser and the Personnel Section and agreement reached in principle that the proposed arrangements are feasible and acceptable. Any duties that an employee is unable to undertake should be clearly identified. The individual arrangements agreed will be subject to general monitoring by the Head of Department and if difficulties arise, these should be identified to the Personnel Section and discussed with the employee to enable consideration of any revisions that may be necessary. After three months, further advice will normally be sought from the Council s Occupational Health Adviser if by then it is not proving possible for the employee to return to full normal duties. Where an employee returns to work on a part-time basis, he/she should receive their normal full pay for any day on which he/she works even if he/she works less hours that day than they normally would. For any normal working day on which work is not undertaken due to medical advice, sick pay in accordance with the individual s entitlements shall apply.

6 5 6.5 Dismissals Due to Long-Term Sickness Absence If the stage is reached where an employee s long-term sickness is causing serious concern in relation to the operational effects on the service, the employee will be referred again to the Occupational Health Adviser in order that an up-to-date medical opinion can be obtained. Where, following receipt of the Occupational Health Adviser s opinion, the employing department consider that the expected absence is no longer acceptable, a senior manager/assistant director of the department will arrange to meet with the employee and his/her representative, if any. At this meeting the manager/assistant director will inform the employee of the Occupational Health Adviser s opinion advise the employee that his/her absence can no longer be accommodated and the reason(s) why this is the case, and consider any issues raised or comments expressed by the employee or his/her representative. Where the senior manager/assistant director concludes after considering all the available information that other options, including alternative employment, cannot be pursued, the employee will be informed that a recommendation is being made to the Director of the Department to terminate their employment on grounds of capability due to ill-health. Where a decision is taken to dismiss an employee under these provisions, the dismissal will be confirmed in writing within five working days of the employee being informed. This letter will refer to meetings held to discuss the employee s absence refer to the most recent medical opinion and any earlier relevant medical opinions obtained from the Occupational Health Adviser state the reason for dismissal state the effective date of dismissal indicate that the employee will receive a payment in lieu of his/her entitlement to notice confirm the employee s right of appeal under the grievance procedure and indicate the date by which notice of appeal should be received. 7 SHORT-TERM SICKNESS ABSENCE 7.1 General The following arrangements will be applied in cases where an employee s frequent and persistent short-term sickness absences give cause for concern in relation to the operation of the Council s services. In operating this procedure and achieving its aims, there will inevitably be those employees who genuinely suffer from frequent periods of short-term sickness and from substantial single periods of absence due to more serious sickness. The procedure seeks to ensure fair and consistent treatment of individuals and takes account of the operational needs of Departments. It is for the Manager to determine when it is appropriate to follow this procedure for an employee who is either on sick leave or showing signs of difficulty coping or giving poor performance at work related to health/personal problems. The following trigger points should lead to a manager taking up the matter at an informal level.

7 6 When an individual has: six weeks medically certified sickness absence in 12 months; or three periods of absence in 3 months from work; or any combination of the above forms of absence on at least three occasions; or particular patterns of absences, e.g. regular Friday or Monday, or any day immediately before/following a bank holiday. 7.2 Counselling Interviews Where frequent and persistent short-term sickness absence occurs, the employee will be counselled by the appropriate manager/supervisor who will discuss with the employee the expected level of attendance at work, the employee s level of sickness absence and the reasons for the absences. The manager/supervisor should indicate clearly to the employee the improvement in attendance required and should also consider taking any other action which might assist the employee to achieve this improvement. It will not normally be necessary at this early stage to refer the employee for examination by the Council s Occupational Health Adviser. A sick absence counselling interview form (see Appendix 2) should be completed and signed by both the manager and employee. 7.3 Medical Referral Where the employee s level of absences continues to cause concern following the counselling interview the employing department, in consultation with Personnel Services, may require the employee to be examined by the Council s Occupational Health Adviser. Where this is necessary, the employee will be informed in writing of the requirement and the reason(s) for the examination. The employing department will provide the Occupational Health Adviser through Personnel Services with relevant details concerning the employee including the employee s sickness absence record with particular reference to the frequency, duration and reasons for absences a summary of the employee s main duties, and any information provided by the employee The Service will request the Occupational Health Adviser s opinion on whether there is any underlying health problem, which is contributing to the employee s level of sickness absence. Where the medical examination reveals no underlying health disorder, the matter will be dealt with as a conduct issue and, if necessary, the provisions of the Council s Disciplinary Procedure will be followed. Where the medical examination reveals an underlying medical problem, the matter will be considered to be a capability issue and the following provisions will be applied. In arranging meetings in accordance with these provisions, the employee will be informed at each stage that he/she may be accompanied by a Trade Union official or work colleague. Where the Occupational Health Adviser considers that the employee is permanently unfit to carry out the duties of his/her post, the provisions of paragraph and, where necessary, 6.5 above will be applied.

8 7 7.4 Stage 1 Absence Meeting Following receipt of the medical opinion, the line manager will meet with the employee. The employee will be given reasonable notice of this interview and will be provided with written details of his/her sickness absence record in advance of the meeting. At the meeting the manager concerned will discuss sympathetically with the employee the details of his/her sickness absence record and the report of the Occupational Health Adviser. In particular the nature of the underlying health problem will be discussed and possible ways of responding to this problem explored. At the conclusion of the meeting the line manager may inform the employee that, whilst recognising the underlying health problem, the employee s level of sickness absence is not acceptable in terms of the operational requirements of the service. The employee will also be informed that his/her level of attendance will be monitored and reviewed at regular intervals. These points will be confirmed in writing to the employee and a copy of the letter will be sent to the employee s representative. Where the employee achieves and maintains the necessary level of attendance at work for a period of six months following this meeting, the line manager or other officer will inform the employee accordingly in writing and that thereafter monitoring arrangements will apply in relation to his/her sickness absence record as apply to all employees. 7.5 Stage 2 Absence Meeting Where it is determined, following a review of the absence record during or at the end of the period of close monitoring, that the employee has been unable to achieve and maintain an acceptable level of attendance at work, a further meeting will be arranged between the line manager and the employee. The employee will be given reasonable notice of this meeting and details of his/her sickness absence record since the previous meeting. At the meeting the manager concerned will discuss with the employee his/her failure to achieve or maintain the necessary attendance level and the reasons for recent absences. At the conclusion of the meeting, the line manager may inform the employee that his/her level of sickness absence remains unacceptable and that the monitoring of his/her attendance level will continue. These points will be confirmed in writing to the employee with a copy forwarded to the employee s representative, if any. Where the employee achieves and maintains the necessary level of attendance at work for a period of nine months following this meeting, the line manager will inform the employee accordingly in writing and that thereafter monitoring arrangements will apply in relation to his/her sickness absence record as apply to all other employees. 7.6 Stage 3 Absence Meeting Where it is determined, following a review of the absence record during or at the end of the further period of close monitoring, that the employee has been unable to achieve and maintain the necessary level of attendance at work, a meeting will be arranged between a senior manager of the employing department and the employee. The employee will be given reasonable notice of this meeting and details of his/her sickness absence record since the previous meeting. At the meeting the senior manager/assistant director will discuss with the employee his/her continuing failure to achieve or maintain an acceptable attendance level and the reasons for recent absences.

9 8 At the conclusion of the meeting, the employee will be informed that: his/her level of sickness absence remains unacceptable close monitoring of his/her attendance level will continue, and should the employee fail to achieve and maintain the necessary level of attendance at work, a recommendation is being made to the Director of the Department to terminate their employment on grounds of capability. Where the employee achieves and maintains the necessary level of attendance at work for a period of twelve months following this meeting, the senior manager will inform the employee accordingly in writing and that monitoring arrangements will apply thereafter in relation to his/her sickness absence record as applies to all other employees. 7.7 Further Medical Referral Where it is determined, following a review of the absence record during or at the end of the fourth period of close monitoring, that the employee remains unable to achieve and maintain an acceptable level of attendance at work the employee will be referred through the Personnel Services section to the Occupational Health Adviser for medical opinion. The employing department will provide details of the employee s sickness absence record since the previous referral. The Personnel Services section will request the Occupational Health Adviser s opinion in particular on whether the underlying health disorder has improved, deteriorated or remained unchanged. In addition the Occupational Health Adviser should be requested to consider, in cases where the employee s health has deteriorated, whether the employee is now permanently unfit for his/her duties. Where this is the case, the employee should be informed and the provisions of paragraph or, where necessary, 7.8 will be applied. 7.8 Termination of Employment Due to Persistent Short-Term Sickness Absences Where the Occupational Health Adviser considers that the employee is not permanently unfit, the Director will arrange to meet the employee and his/her representative following consultations with the Personnel Services. The employee will be given a minimum of five working days notice of this meeting and details of his/her sickness absence record since the previous meeting. At this meeting the officer conducting the meeting will: inform the employee of the Occupational Health Adviser s opinion; consider any issues raised or comments expressed by the employee or his/her representative, and advise the employee that his/her absence can no longer be accommodated and the reason(s) why this is the case. Where the Director concludes that other options, including alternative employment, cannot be pursued, the employee will be informed that he/she is to be dismissed on grounds of capability due to ill health.

10 9 Where a decision is taken to dismiss an employee under these provisions, the dismissal will be confirmed in writing within five working days of the employee being informed. This letter will : refer to meetings held to discuss the employee s absence refer to the most recent medical opinion from the Occupational Health Adviser state the reason for dismissal state the effective date of dismissal indicate that the employee will receive a payment in lieu of his/her entitlement to notice, and refer to the employee s right of appeal to the Appeals Sub-Committee and indicate the date by which notice of appeal should be received. 7.9 Recurring Absence Following Satisfactory Attendance It is recognised that cases may arise where, following the period of satisfactory attendance specified at the relevant stage, the employee s absence level again returns to a level which gives cause for concern. In such cases the employee will be referred again to the Occupational Health Adviser for medical opinion. Following receipt of this medical opinion, the line manager will review the employee s general attendance record and will normally hold a further Stage 1 Absence Meeting. Thereafter subsequent stages of the procedure may be followed. However, any case which has previously reached the level of a Stage 3 Absence Meeting will be assessed on an individual basis to determine how the procedure will be applied. 8 ALTERNATIVE EMPLOYMENT Depending on the nature of an employee s illness, the employing department should give consideration to the possibility of an employee being offered an alternative post before a decision is taken to dismiss on health grounds. Where necessary the Occupational Health Adviser should be requested to provide an indication of whether an employee is able to undertake alternative employment and, if so, the nature of any such alternative employment. This consideration will apply equally to cases of long-term and short-term sickness absence. Where alternative employment is identified the employee will be informed in writing of the main duties of the post and the relevant conditions of service. In particular the employee will be made aware that the pay and conditions of service for the alternative post will apply and there would be no protection of existing contractual terms. Where the employee refuses to accept an offer of alternative employment which is considered to be reasonable in all the circumstances, a senior manager of the employing department will discuss the matter with the employee and his/her representative, if any. The senior manager will consider the comments and views of the employee concerning the reasons for refusing the offer of alternative employment. Where the employing department is satisfied that the offer is reasonable but the employee still refuses to accept it, he/she will be dismissed on grounds of ill-health. 9 ABUSE OF SICK ABSENCE SCHEME If an abuse of the sickness absence scheme is suspected at any point, the matter will be dealt with under the Council s disciplinary procedure. 10 GRIEVANCES Where an employee is dissatisfied with any action taken against him/her in connection with this procedure and where an appeal is not specifically provided for under this procedure, the employee will be entitled to raise a formal complaint under the Council s Grievance Procedure.

11 10 11 REVIEW OF PROCEDURE This procedure will be reviewed by the Council and Trade Unions and may be amended by joint agreement.

12 11 Appendix 1 NOTIFICATION ARRANGEMENTS 1 The following guidance should be read in conjunction with the relevant National Conditions of Service. Further guidance on managing teachers sickness can be found in Part 13 of the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee For Teaching Staff in School Education, Scheme of Salaries and Conditions of Service (known as the Yellow Book). 2 The sickness reporting procedure (for a permanent or temporary employee absent due to personal sickness) to enable the employee to obtain sickness payment allowances is as below. (a) (b) (c) (d) Notification to the supervisor/manager as early as possible and by am on the first day of the sickness. It is essential that the department immediately completes the Staff Sickness or Absence Notification and sends this promptly to the Payroll Section, Finance Department. At this stage the employee should indicate, if possible, the nature of the illness, how long he/she may be absent and whether he/she intends to consult a GP. If unable to return to work on the fourth day of absence, notification must be given to the supervisor/manager as soon as possible on that day of the continuing absence. As far as reasonable, an indication should be given of the nature of the sickness and the anticipated date of return. If the employee returns to work within seven days, including Saturday and Sunday, he/she will be asked to complete the Council s Self-Certification Forms. Payment from the Occupational Sick Pay Scheme may be withheld if the employee fails to complete this form or knowingly provides false information. The latter can potentially be a disciplinary offence. If a sickness absence continues for more than seven calendar days (including a weekend and/or bank holiday), the employee will be required to provide a doctor s medical statement to cover any continuing period of absence from the eighth day due to sickness irrespective of the length of time involved. A Self-Certification Form will also be required to cover the first seven days unless the doctor s statement is backdated to day one. 3 Should an employee become ill whilst on leave, he/she must contact their supervisor/manager as early as possible. Sickness absence during leave must be supported by a medical certificate from the first day if the leave is to be cancelled and taken at some future date. 4 If an employee intends to return to work before expiry of a doctor s medical certificate then a medical certificate indicating fitness to resume duties will be required. Supervisors/managers are responsible for the monitoring of absence levels within work groups for the identification of areas of high absence and the development of systems of work which help to minimise absences, good health and safety standards, effective communications with employees and a reasonable working environment.

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