MANAGEMENT OF SICKNESS ABSENCE POLICY AND PROCEDURE

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1 1. INTRODUCTION MANAGEMENT OF SICKNESS ABSENCE POLICY AND PROCEDURE This procedure applies to all school based staff employed by Walsall MBC Education Service. It is important that suitable rules and procedures are in place within schools which will promote fairness and consistency in the treatment of individual employees and which reflect the relevant policy on equal opportunities, and legislation covering health and safety issues and the avoidance of discrimination. The provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act may also apply to some cases. This procedure should be followed when dealing with absences(s) due to sickness. Leave of absence for maternity, or other non-sickness related reasons, is dealt with under separate procedures. Cases involving lateness or unauthorised absence should be dealt with in accordance with the Disciplinary Procedure. The procedure will be initiated by the Headteacher, who may then delegate to an appropriate Team Leader/Manager within the school. If a Headteacher is subject to this procedure, then the role normally undertaken by them will be carried out by a nominated Governor, usually the Chair of Governors. This procedure aims to ensure that any sickness absence is dealt with promptly, in a fair and supported manner. Governors should be aware that their involvement in the early stages of this procedure is likely to prejudice their involvement at a later stage. Headteachers should show understanding and exercise discretion towards employees who are genuinely absent for reasons of ill health or injury. Care needs to be taken in handling cases of sickness absence in order to ensure that action taken is not construed as harassment of the employee, particularly if there is an indication that the absence may be linked to work related issues. All absences should be recorded and monitored accurately and regularly by schools and appropriate documentation forwarded to the Employment Support Section for salary calculation and absence monitoring purposes. Headteachers should make employees aware that they have the right to be accompanied/represented throughout the procedure by a friend who may be a representative of a trade union/professional association. No action will be taken under the formal review stage in respect of a trade union or professional association representative until the circumstances of the case have been discussed with a senior representative or paid official of the trade union or professional association. 1

2 2. REPORTING OF ABSENCE Employees who are going to be absent must notify the school as soon as possible on the first day of absence, other than in exceptional circumstances. The school would expect to be notified as early as possible, but at least 30 minutes before the employee s normal start time, in order to make the necessary arrangements for cover etc. The employee must speak to the Headteacher, Deputy or other designated representative at the school and has the right for information supplied to be treated in strictest confidence. In cases of serious illness someone on behalf of the employee must contact the Headteacher, Deputy or other designated representative. The employee or the person who is calling on their behalf should supply the following information: The reason for the absence How long they expect the absence to last The expected date of return, as soon as this is known or indicated If the employee is not able to return on anticipated date, school should be informed as soon as possible, but no later than 30 minutes before the start time The employee is expected to keep the school informed regarding any prolonged absence so that cover can be arranged in a timely way. All short term absences for sickness longer than 3 days must be supported by a self certification form available from the school office. If absence extends beyond 7 days, a doctor s note must be provided from the 8 th day onwards and notes should be submitted directly to the school at the earliest opportunity to ensure that pay is calculated correctly. 3. FREQUENT SHORT TERM ABSENCE Short term absences should be dealt with when an employee returns to work. The Headteacher (or their designated representative) should meet informally with the employee as soon as practicable following their return. The purpose of the meeting is to check on the employee s welfare and demonstrate that the absence has been noted. Any notes of the meeting should be kept by the Headteacher and copied to the employee, and the appropriate self certification documentation should be completed. It is important that Headteachers have a trigger which alerts them to the fact that an employee is having frequent time off. This enables the Headteacher to look in to the absence record and decide what further action may be needed. For consistency, the following trigger points are recommended: 5 periods of absence within a rolling period of 12 months, or 15 days absence (cumulative) within a rolling period of 12 months 2

3 When one of these trigger points is reached, the Headteacher or nominated Team Leader/Manager should check the accuracy of the sickness absence record and investigate promptly. It is more difficult to deal with absences after a period of weeks has elapsed. If the Headteacher concludes that further action is appropriate, then a formal absence review meeting should be arranged. It is important to remember that a series of related short term absences may indicate a persistent or underlying medical condition. The Formal absence review meeting will be arranged as soon as possible, but no earlier than four working days following return to work. The Headteacher may wish to seek advice from a human resources advisor prior to the meeting. The employee should be advised of the meeting in writing, including their right to be accompanied by a friend or trade union representative. The meeting will be confidential and the following matters are likely to be covered during the meeting: discussing the cause(s) of absence and considering options to help improve attendance; discussing a possible referral to the Occupational Health Advisor; reinforcing expectations regarding attendance levels with targets for improvement; setting a date to review progress; advising that a possible consequence of insufficient improvement could be further formal action. A record of the meeting will be placed on the employee s file and copied to the employee who may give the Headteacher a written response to be placed on file along with the formal record. If satisfactory progress has been made, the process will end. If progress has not been satisfactory, a further formal absence review meeting will be arranged to explore the reasons for this and consider what further action should be taken. This could involve additional support and advice, a further period of monitoring or issuing a warning in accordance with the following procedure. 3.1 Formal Recorded Verbal Warning Where the Headteacher is satisfied that attendance has not reached a satisfactory level, a formal recorded verbal warning may be issued. The record of this warning will be retained on the personal file and expunged after a period of 6 months satisfactory attendance following completion of the prescribed period. Attendance will not be deemed to have been satisfactory if a further warning has been issued within the 6 month period. 3.2 Formal Written Warning In more serious cases, or where one or more recorded verbal warnings appear not to have had the desired effect, a formal written warning may be issued. The record of this warning will be retained on the personal file and expunged after a period of 12 months satisfactory attendance following completion of the prescribed period. Attendance will not be deemed to have been satisfactory if a further warning has been issued within the 12 month period. 3.3 Formal Final Written Warning A formal final written warning may be issued after more than one formal warning. The letter to the employee must make it clear that any further unsatisfactory 3

4 attendance could result in dismissal. The record of this warning will be retained on the personal file and expunged after a period of 2 years satisfactory attendance following completion of the prescribed period. Attendance will not be deemed to have been satisfactory if a further warning has been issued within the 2 year period. 4. LONG TERM SICKNESS ABSENCE Sickness is considered to be long term when an employee has been absent for a period of 6 weeks. If there is no prospect of an early return to work, a welfare visit should be arranged which will normally take place after 2 months, unless special circumstances indicate that an earlier visit may need to be made. Welfare visits undertaken in accordance with this procedure will be pre-arranged with the employee and will normally take place at their home, but can be arranged to take place elsewhere. The employee should be advised that they may ask a friend or trade union representative to be present. Advice and/or assistance in undertaking such welfare visits should be sought from your human resources advisor, particularly if there is an indication that the absence may be linked to work related issues. If appropriate and requested by the Headteacher, the human resources advisor will arrange and carry out the welfare visit on behalf of the school. The following should be discussed during the visit: The cause of the absence and relevant details of the diagnosed illness How long the absence is likely to last Any other factors at work or at home which might be contributing to the absence Any suggestions that could be considered in order to help the employee return to work (this will need to be discussed later with the Headteacher if they are not present) A referral to the Occupational Health Advisor, if appropriate in the circumstances (Referrals will not be made unless this has first been discussed with the employee) Possible outcomes if the employee feels unable to return to work (i.e. transfer to reduced employment, stepping down of responsibilities, retirement through ill-health, voluntary resignation, redeployment, dismissal) After the initial visit, further visits/formal absence reviews may be arranged as appropriate in order to monitor and re-evaluate the situation. If an employee refuses a welfare visit, a referral will be made to Occupational Health Advisor. 5. OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH ADVICE Referrals to Occupational Health can be made through your human resources advisor and may be appropriate for a variety of reasons as already indicated. The Occupational Health Advisor will need to be provided with details of the absence(s) including any relevant background information and details of the job/duties normally undertaken by the employee, and can advise on the following: 4

5 The current/future ability of an employee to carry out the duties of their post at the school The ability of an employee to undertake duties of a different nature Support that may be given to the employee to enable their return to work and/or their attendance to improve Whether further information from the employee s doctor/consultant is needed in order to properly assess their condition (In these circumstances, written permission must first be obtained from the employee and this will normally be sought through the Occupational Health Advisor) In the case of non-teachers who contribute to the Pension Scheme, whether ill-health retirement allowing access to benefits from the Local Government Pension Scheme can be supported A confidential written report will be returned to the originator of the referral (usually the human resources advisor) and will be retained on the employee s personal file. The content will be discussed with the employee and Headteacher and all recommended courses of action will be explored. Every effort will be made to accommodate any recommendations of the Occupational Health Advisor in relation to supporting a return to work. Referral to an additional independent medical advisor may be considered appropriate in certain circumstances. 6. REDEPLOYMENT/REHABILITATION Health related redeployment is difficult and in the first instance should be explored by the Headteacher within their own school. If this is not possible, other redeployment options will be explored through your human resources advisor, with advice from the Occupational Health Advisor. Rehabilitation measures can assist and support a successful return to work and may include the following on a temporary or permanent basis: reduced hours of work (pay may be adjusted accordingly however in certain circumstances this may be accommodated without a reduction in pay); provision of specialist equipment; additional support or training; limited duties or responsibilities. 7. LEGAL FRAMEWORK Termination of employment on the grounds of ill health constitutes dismissal for employment law purposes, except where the employee has resigned voluntarily. This is the case, even where the employee receives pension benefits as a result of being retired on the grounds of permanent ill health. However, prior to termination of employment, an employee may receive confirmation from the Pension Scheme that retirement on the grounds of permanent ill health has been granted. In these circumstances, advice should be sought from the human Resources Team. Dismissal on the grounds of ill health (defined as capability) could result from action taken in any of the types of absence described. Previous cases have shown that 5

6 dismissal on these grounds is fair provided that the employer has handled the case in a reasonable and considerate manner. This generally means being able to demonstrate the following: a) That agreed procedures have been followed and that these procedures are equitable b) That the employee has been kept fully informed throughout the process c) That the decision to dismiss is based on sound, recent medical advice d) That the employee s need for time to recover their health is not compatible with the need for work to be done e) That all possible alternatives to dismissal (e.g. redeployment) have been explored and discounted for good, demonstrable reasons f) That dismissal has taken place after the employee has been allowed their normal sick pay entitlement, concurrent with the appropriate notice period Possible application of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 needs to be considered, in particular the duty of care to provide reasonable adjustments in the workplace. The employer is required to consider what support is required to enable a disabled employee to carry out their duties, or any reasonable adjustments that could be made. External funding may be available to assist with the provision of special equipment and/or alterations to the workplace. Reference may need to be made to the provisions of The Education (Teachers Qualifications and Health Standards) Regulations 1999 which deal with the health standards of teachers and the powers whereby in certain circumstances a teacher may have their employment suspended or terminated on medical grounds. 8. DISMISSAL PROCEDURE This may be implemented following either a series of warnings relating to frequent short term absences, or one or more long term absences normally with no reasonable prospect of a return within the paid period of sick leave. A Final Absence Review Meeting should be arranged to ensure that all options have been fully considered and explored. Following discussion, if it is the view of the Headteacher advised by a representative of the Managing Director of Education Walsall that consideration is to be given to dismissal of the employee, dismissal proceedings will be initiated. The Education Act 2002 provides for dismissals to be undertaken by the Headteacher with effect from September However in order to demonstrate a fair and objective procedure, schools are strongly advised to refer potential dismissals to a sub committee of the Governing Body, i.e. the Staff Dismissal Committee. This is particularly important in smaller schools where the Headteacher is likely to have implemented, monitored and reviewed the various stages of the Sickness Absence Management Procedure and it would therefore be inappropriate for them also to take decisions regarding dismissal. Referral to the Staff Dismissal Committee shall normally be initiated by the Headteacher, advised by a representative of the Managing Director of Education Walsall, and the Headteacher shall notify the employee in advance in writing, giving the reasons. The employee shall be entitled to put their case to the Staff Dismissal 6

7 Committee, the composition of which shall comply with the appropriate Regulations in relation to school government. The decision shall be one of the following: To determine that the employee should continue to work at the school and that no further action under this procedure is required To extend the period of time allowed for improvement, supported with a warning that if improvements in attendance are not achieved, Governors may reconsider dismissal Determine that the employee ceases to work at the school The decision shall be given to the employee in writing by the clerk to the Governing Body, and a copy shall be sent to the Managing Director of Education Walsall or their representative. Notification of the decision only shall be conveyed to the Governing Body. In cases where the period of time for improvement has been extended, at the end of the prescribed timescale the Headteacher shall submit a report to the Staff Dismissal Committee giving details of progress made. The Staff Dismissal Committee will then reconsider the matter as described above. Where a committee has determined that an employee should cease to work at the school, the employee should be notified of their right of appeal and simultaneously written notification should be sent to the Managing Director of Education Walsall. The dismissal will then be actioned on behalf of the LEA within 14 days of the notification being given. The employee will be given notice, or pay in lieu of notice, in accordance with their contract or with the statutory minimum, whichever is the greater. In the event of an employee exhausting in part or in full their entitlement to occupational sick pay and being given notice of the termination of their contract (without returning to work) on the grounds of permanent incapacity or some other reason related to the sickness absence, the employee shall be paid full salary for the notice period with normal deductions only. The Headteacher and a representative of the Managing Director of Education Walsall shall be entitled to attend, for the purpose of giving advice, all proceedings of the governing body relating to a determination that an employee should cease to work at the school. 9. RIGHTS OF APPEAL An employee may appeal against a formal warning or a determination that they should cease to work at the school by giving notice in writing within five working days to the Chair of the Appeal Committee, setting out the grounds for their appeal. A copy shall be forwarded immediately to the Managing Director of Education Walsall or their representative and a meeting of the Appeal Committee shall be convened at the earliest opportunity, but within 15 working days. All concerned shall be advised 7

8 in advance of the date, time and venue. The composition of the Appeal Committee shall comply with appropriate Regulations in relation to school government. 10. ARRANGEMENTS FOR MEETINGS OF THE STAFFDISMISSAL/APPEAL COMMITTEE Following a decision to initiate dismissal proceedings, or notification of an appeal, the Clerk to the Governing Body shall arrange a meeting of the relevant Committee as soon as possible, but within 15 working days. An employee subject to the dismissal procedure shall be entitled to: a) Be represented by a friend who may be a trade union/professional association representative or legal advisor b) Be accompanied by an observer who shall not speak or take any part in the meeting c) Receive advance notice of the date, time and venue of the meeting d) Before the meeting, receive details of specific concerns regarding attendance level, including sufficient detail to enable the employee to prepare a response e) Be given a copy of any written material which is to be presented at the meeting f) Be advised of the name of the presenter of the case and of any witnesses to be called The time periods set out in this procedure may be varied by mutual agreement. The decision of the Appeal Committee is final and there is no further right of appeal within school/lea procedures. 8

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