SICKNESS ABSENCE POLICY. Version:

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1 SICKNESS ABSENCE POLICY Version: V4 Policy Author: Shajeda Ahmed Designation: Senior Human Resources Manager Responsible Director of Strategy and Business Support Director: EIA Assessed: 22 November 2012 Target Audience: All Trust Staff Approved By: Policy Review Group Approval Date: Ratified By: Policy Review Group Ratification Date: Review Date: If printed, copied or otherwise transferred from the Intranet, Trust-wide Corporate Business Records will be considered uncontrolled copies. Staff must always consult the most up to 1

2 1. Introduction 1.1 This Sickness Absence Policy sets out the Trusts procedures for reporting sickness absence and for the management of sickness absence in a fair and consistent way. This policy has been written with the Guidelines on Prevention and Management of Sickness Absence (November 2012) document in mind as issued by NHS Employers. 1.2 The Trust will seek to ensure that the reasons for sickness absence are understood in each case and investigated where necessary. In addition, where needed and reasonably practicable, measures will be taken to assist those who have been absent by reason of sickness to return to work. 2. Purpose 2.1 The aim of this policy is to provide guidance to managers to ensure a fair and consistent approach to managing sickness absence. In addition, the Trust will ensure that, through this policy, all staff understand their own responsibilities in relation to sickness absence, including the person to whom they should report on the first day of absence. 3. Definitions The main types of absence can be described as follows: Long Term Sickness This can be defined as a continuous period of absence of 4 weeks or more. See paragraph Short Term Sickness This can be defined as one or more relatively short periods of absence which occur and can be either uncertified or certified. See paragraph Unauthorised Absence This occurs when a member of staff does not provide a reason for absence and / or fails to follow the reporting procedure or the sickness absence is not covered by a Statement of Fitness to Work (Fit Note) from a qualified Medical Practitioner. See paragraph Medical Exclusion This is a short term intervention where it is believed that a staff member is not fit to be at work and that their presence at work constitutes a risk. 2

3 4. Duties / Responsibilities 4.1 Chief Executive The Chief Executive has ultimate accountability for the Trust s Sickness Policy. Operational responsibility has been delegated to the Director of Strategy and Business Support. 4.2 Director of Strategy and Business Support The Director of Strategy and Business Support has lead responsibility for Human Resources, including the Sickness Policy. 4.3 Directors / Executive Team Directors / Executive Team will have a Trust overview of sickness absence by regularly reviewing the sickness absence data that is published in the Trust Board reports. 4.4 Line Managers / Supervisors It is the line manager s responsibility to ensure; That sickness absence is reported in line with this policy and any local procedure and that Sickness Absence Notification Forms are completed. Arrangements are made, where necessary, to cover work and to inform colleagues and clients (while maintaining confidentiality). A record of all absences is made and review these records regularly and discuss areas of concern with the individual staff member. Must carry out the return to work meeting at the earliest opportunity and no later than 5 working days on the staff s return to the workplace and should be documented accordingly. That they consult the Sickness Toolkit to ensure a good understanding and consistent application of the policy. 4.5 Staff Side / Trade Union Representatives The appropriate Staff Side / Trade Union Representative will provide help, advice and support to members. 4.6 Human Resources Human Resources will provide help, advice and support to staff and line managers in accordance with the policy. Equally they will be responsible for maintaining the Sickness Toolkit and ensuring that it is available and up to date. 4.7 Occupational Health The Occupational Health Department will assist with the understanding of the reasons for absence and provide advice on the management of absence. 3

4 4.8 Staff Responsibilities Staff have a responsibility to: - Telephone their line manager or nominated deputy to report their absence as soon as is reasonably possible if they are unable to attend for work at the agreed times. This communication should be verbal where possible and texting or ing are not acceptable in the norm. Staff should communicate the nature of the absence, the expected duration and a telephone number on which they can be contacted on. Notification of sickness absence for shift employees should normally be as follows: DAY SHIFT No later than commencement of shift. LATE SHIFT No later than two hours before commencement of shift. NIGHT SHIFT No later than 4.30pm before commencement of shift. At this point the following details should be provided: The nature of your illness or injury. The expected length of your absence from work. Contact details. Any outstanding or urgent work that requires attention. Complete a self certification form for up to the first seven days of the absence. This should be submitted to the manager by post or on the return to work. If absent for more than a week a Fit Note from a qualified Medical Practitioner should be provided. Attend a medical examination by the Occupational Health Department at the request of the Manager at any time in operating this policy. Appropriate time should be given to staff to attend Occupational Health (and associated) appointments providing evidence for these is provided. Where possible this should be arranged for rostered days off or at the beginning or end of a shift. Any time off during work hours should be recorded as special leave. In the event that a member of staff fails to attend an Occupational Health appointment then there may be implications under the disciplinary policy. Attend any meeting associated with managing their sickness absence. 5. Process 5.1 Evidence of Incapacity For sickness absence of any period of up to seven calendar days the member of staff must complete a self-certification form. For absence of more than a week (e.g 8 calendar days) a Fit Note from qualified medical practitioner stating that the reasons for absence should be provided. This should be forwarded to the line manager or nominated deputy as soon as possible. If your absence continues, further Fit 4

5 Notes must be provided to cover the whole period of absence continuously. Where the member of staff provides a certificate stating that they "may be fit for work" this should be discussed with the line manager. The line manager will then discuss with the member of staff the additional measures that may be needed to facilitate a return to work, taking account the medical advice. This discussion may take place either before or following the scheduled return to work depending on the complexity of the individual circumstances. If appropriate measures cannot be taken, the member of staff will remain on sick leave and a date will be set to review the situation. 5.2 Timeliness of Fit Notes All medical certificates must be forwarded by the staff member to their line manager as soon as they have obtained them. Backdated medical certificates will not be accepted without good reason, such as hospitalisation. Non provision of medical certificates could lead to the absence being classed as unauthorised and possible disciplinary action. To help assist with service provision staff should inform managers of their pending GP appointments and if they anticipate that they will remain absent from work or return to work. Equally where staff anticipate a delay in submitting the Fit Note or have been issued with a further note staff should contact the manager to share the details with them in advance so that services can be planned accordingly. 5.3 Unauthorised Absence Absence that has not been communicated according to 4.8 of this policy will be treated as unauthorised and will be unpaid. Cases of unauthorised absence will be dealt with under the Disciplinary Procedure. Where staff do not report for work and have not telephoned the line manager to explain the reason for the absence, the line manager will try to make contact by telephone and in writing if necessary. This should not be treated as a substitute for reporting sickness absence. As such, poor or non communication of sickness absence will be dealt with under the Disciplinary Procedure. Pay will be stopped at an early stage as a result of the unauthorised absence to ensure that an overpayment situation does not arise. If, at any time, it is considered that a member of staff has taken or is taking sickness absence when they are not unwell, this matter will be dealt with under the Trusts Disciplinary Procedure. 5.4 Keeping in Contact during Sickness Absence During sickness absence staff should expect to be contacted by their line manager and other support services in order to discuss their 5

6 wellbeing, expected length of absence from work and may include reference to urgent work related matters. Such contact is intended to provide reassurance and will be kept at a reasonable level and the frequency and method of this contact should be agreed at an early stage of the absence. Where staff have concerns while absent on sick leave, whether about the reason for the absence or their ability to return to work, they should contact their line manager at an early stage. 5.5 Return-to-work Meetings / Sickness Absence Meetings Following any sickness absence the line manager, will arrange for a return-to-work interview. A return-to-work meeting enables confirmation of the details of the sickness absence, makes the member of staff aware of any changes and identifies any support needs. It also gives the opportunity to raise any concerns or questions the member of staff may have. A return to work meeting pro-forma is available from the Sickness Toolkit should be used and completed within 5 workings days of the return to the workplace. To help achieve this the return to work meeting can be delegated within the team to team leaders / supervisors or can be done via phone where staff work remotely or night shifts. At the return-to-work meeting the manager will advise the member of staff if they already have or are at risk of triggering the formal sickness absence triggers as set out in paragraph 5.8. Once the sickness absence triggers are breached, the formal sickness absence process will be followed as per Progression to the formal stages of the procedure should not take place without the return to work meeting(s) having been undertaken. Unless it is impractical to do so, staff will be given 5 working days written notice of the date, time and place of a sickness absence meeting. The concerns regarding sickness absence will be put in writing where possible. Where timescales do not allow for this the member of staff will be otherwise informed. The meeting will be conducted by the line manager. Staff may bring a Staff Side Representative, friend or work colleague to the meeting. A member of the Human Resources team will be in attendance at this meeting from stage 2 onwards. Staff must take all reasonable steps to attend the sickness absence meeting. Failure to do so without good reason may be treated as misconduct. Where staff are unable to attend at the time specified they should immediately inform the line manager who will seek to agree an alternative time. Confirmation of any decision made at a meeting, the reasons for it, and of the right of appeal will be provided in writing as soon as is practicable. 6

7 5.6 Long-Term Sickness Absence The Trust is committed to helping staff return to work from long-term sickness absence. As part of the sickness absence procedure, the Trust will, where appropriate and possible, support returns to work by: Obtaining medical advice; Making reasonable adjustments to the workplace, working practices and working hours in line with the Equality Act 2010; Consider redeployment; and/or Agree a return to work programme with everyone affected. Where staff are unable to return to work from long-term sickness absence and are a member of the NHS Pension Scheme, the Trust will discuss the potential to make an application for ill-health / early retirement or any temporary / permanent injury allowance. The decision as to whether you are entitled to these benefits is taken by the NHS Pensions Agency. In the event of terminal illness the Trust will together with the member of staff on agreeing the most suitable approach on a case by case basis. The Trust recognises that there will be times when an illness, injury or condition means that a staff member will require a long period of absence from work. Where it is clear that over a period of time staff are likely to return to work and will continue to perform their job to the required standard, then the Trust will do all it can to support them during their absence. However, the Trust is unable to support an individual s long term absence for an indefinite period of time due to the impact on the service. Where staff have had three or more episodes of long term sickness absence within two years this will be deemed to be detrimental to service delivery. When dealing with a long term absent employee, managers should aim to make a decision using one of the options outlined below; Fit To Return To Existing Post in the Foreseeable Future In these circumstances: Line manager and staff member must have ongoing contact and sickness reviews with Human Resources. The staff member should be advised that he/she can be accompanied by a friend, colleague or Staff Side representative. Occupational Health or the staff members GP must declare the individual fit to return to work. If reasonable adjustments are needed, the line manager should consult with Human Resources to facilitate this. Occupational Health may recommend that the staff member return to work on a phased basis following a long period of sickness. See Phased Return to Work below. 7

8 Staff member not deemed permanently Unfit but No Return can be anticipated In the Foreseeable future In these exceptional circumstances: The manager and a member of the Human Resources Department will meet with the member of staff together with a colleague, friend or Staff Side Representative in order to explore the situation. The member of staff will be given the opportunity to comment on the medical opinion; give their view of their health; or provide further medical evidence and alternative course of action. The Trust will consider the possibility of holding permanent posts open, even when a member of staff has exhausted their full pay entitlement to allow them to return to work when fully recovered. The use of temporary cover may facilitate this arrangement. Having explored and exhausted all other options a final stage hearing will be convened where there is the potential for dismissal on the grounds of ill health. Staff member Unfit to Return to Existing Post In these circumstances: Line manager and staff member must have ongoing contact and sickness reviews with Human Resources. The staff member can be accompanied by a colleague, friend or Staff Side representative. Occupational Health should have declared that the individual is unable to continue in their current role, and advised on what roles the individual can undertake. The line manager/human Resources will explore whether reasonable adjustments can be made to the existing role, or whether redeployment is an option. There is no obligation to create a job. Pay protection does not apply to any redeployment into a lower graded or lower paid post in these circumstances. Training for redeployed roles will also be considered. Advice will be sought from the local Access to Work Advisor at the Job Centre where appropriate. A three months timescale will be applied in order to explore redeployment opportunities. Phased Return to Work The Line Manager may, in consultation with the staff member, and Occupational Health or the staff member s GP, determine an appropriate phased return for the staff member after a period of long term absence. During the agreed period of this phased return staff will be paid their normal rate of pay for their contracted hours. Staff will not be required to use their annual leave entitlement unless the phased return is extended beyond four weeks or they are in a no pay situation. A phased return should not normally exceed 4 weeks. Therapeutic Return to Work Managers should consider a therapeutic return providing this is consistent with the advice available from Occupational Health or the GP. Staff will need to continue to supply a Fit Note and therefore will 8

9 still be classed as absent for recording purposes. Staff should not work in excess of 16 hours during a therapeutic return to work. 5.7 Managing Short Term Persistent Absence Procedure This procedure will be applied when: The Sickness Absence triggers have been reached; and / or The line manager has discussed matters at a return-to-work meeting that require investigation such as establishing a pattern of sickness absence. HR representation will be available at Stage 2 onwards of the short term procedure. Managers are reminded of the following absences that should be excluded from formal management under this policy. They include sickness absence related to; Pregnancy Work place injuries where the member of staff has not been negligent Notifiable diseases or medical suspension Planned absence as a result of health related surgery 5.8 Short-Term Sickness Absence Triggers Cases will be treated sensitively and sickness absence triggers may be adjusted in light of the surrounding circumstances. Where staff consider they are affected by a disability or any medical condition which affects their ability to undertake their role, they should inform the line manager. The Trust is aware that sickness absence may result from a disability. At each stage of the sickness absence meetings procedure particular consideration will be given to whether there are reasonable adjustments that could be made to the requirements of a job or other aspects of working arrangements that will provide support at work and / or assist a return to work. This procedure should be used by managers when the following Triggers have been reached: 3 episodes of absence in a 6 month period. 6 or more working days absence in a 6 month period. Where there appears to be a pattern in short term absence. A consistently high level of absence over two years (which is just below those that trigger formal action as set out above). For part-time staff triggers and targets relating to numbers of days (not episodes as these will remain the same) should be worked out on a pro-rata basis. For example: 9

10 Stage One Trigger 6 days of absence in 6 months Contracted days at work Working days of sickness absence Stage 1: first formal sickness absence meeting Stage 1 will be invoked where the sickness absence triggers as set out in 5.8 have been met. Staff will be invited to this meeting in writing and reminded of their right to representation in the form of a work colleague, friend or staff side representative. The outcome of this meeting should be confirmed in writing. The purposes of a first sickness absence meeting may include: Discussing the reasons for absence. Determining how long the absence is likely to last. Where you have been absent on a number of occasions, determining the likelihood of further absences. Considering whether medical advice is required and whether there is an underlying medical condition, Considering what, if any measures might improve your health and/or attendance. Agreeing a way forward, which can include alternative duties. Action that will be taken and a time-scale for review and/or a further meeting under the sickness absence procedure. An improvement plan should be issued and a review date of 3 months set. Normally this would consist of 96% attendance or higher. If over the three month review period a satisfactory improvement has been achieved, this should be confirmed to the staff member in writing, advising that attendance levels will continue to be monitored, and if another attendance target needs to be set within the 12 months following the achievement of the target, then this will be at Stage 2 of the procedure. If a satisfactory improvement is not achieved within the review period the staff member may be referred to a stage 2 monitoring meeting or the stage one monitoring period could be extended. In making this decision the manager will review the sickness record and take account of factors 10

11 such as levels of absence, frequency of absence and any patterns of absence that may have formed. Guidance from HR will be sought to ensure fairness and consistency Stage 2: Further Sickness Absence Meeting If further periods of absence trigger the policy as set out in 5.9 above, a Stage 2 monitoring meeting will be conducted. Arrangements for meetings under the second stage of the sickness absence procedure will follow the procedure set out in paragraphs 5.9 regarding the right to be accompanied. The outcome of this meeting should be confirmed in writing. At a stage two monitoring meeting an improvement plan should be issued and a review date of 3 months set. Normally this would consist of 96% attendance or higher unless. If over the three month review period a satisfactory improvement is achieved this should be confirmed by the line manager to the staff member in writing, advising that attendance levels will continue to be monitored, and if another attendance target needs to be set within the 12 months following the achievement of the target, then this will be at Stage 3 of the procedure, where a staff member may be dismissed. If the improvement target has not been reached staff will either be: Referred to Stage 3 of the policy, or; The review period will be extended for a further three months. The manager will review the employee s sickness record and take account of factors such as levels of absence, frequency of absence and any patterns of absence that may have formed. Guidance from HR will be sought to ensure fairness and consistency Stage 3: Final Stage Sickness Absence Hearing If a satisfactory improvement has not been achieved from Stage 2 the staff member will be required to attend a formal hearing with a Director or a delegated deputy with HR support and they maybe dismissed. They must be advised that they may be represented by their Staff Side / Trade Union Representative or work colleague at this hearing. The outcome of this hearing can either be: Dismissal, or The review period will be extended. In the event that the outcome is that an improvement plan should be issued a review date of up to 3 months will be set. Normally this will involve achieving 96% attendance or higher. If the review period is extended and a satisfactory level of attendance is not achieved then a 11

12 further Final Stage Hearing (stage 3) will be held, where an employee could be dismissed. If over the extended review period a satisfactory improvement is achieved this should be confirmed by the line manager to the staff member in writing, advising that attendance levels will continue to be monitored, and if another attendance target needs to be set within the 12 months following the achievement of the target, then this will be at Stage 3 of the policy Appeals A member of staff has a right of appeal against any formal sanction applied during this process as per the table below; Stage Appeal to Time scale 1 General Manager 7 days from date of issue 2 General Manager 14 days from date of issue 3 Dismissal Head of HR 21 days from date of issue The appeal letter will be acknowledged within 5 working days of receipt of the letter Using the stages to manage long-term absence On return to work, an employee deemed to have been on long term absence may be managed using the stages outlined in point of this policy. Managers need to exercise some caution when applying this and should seek advice from Human Resources appropriately. Where an employee becomes absent long term, has a history of sickness absence and is already subject to an improvement plan/caution, there is the potential for that employee to be moved to the next stage of the process. Where the employee is not subject to an improvement plan or caution they would start at the first stage of the process (the exception to this is where the employee has a history of being managed at the first stage as outlined in the First Stage guidance and there is the potential for the employee to enter the process at stage 2). Managers should not set any improvement plans or cautions while the employee remains on long term and this should be done on their return. Any improvement plans set as a result of a long-term sickness absence should be viewed as a measure of support to ensure a smooth transition 12

13 back into the workplace and may be accompanied by a phased return to work (see 5.6) Leave and Sickness Absence There are very often implications to annual leave when staff are absent due to sickness absence. With this in mind the following should be acknowledged; Where staff are ill or injured during a period of pre-arranged annual leave it is permissible to treat the days of incapacity as sickness absence instead of annual leave, subject to the provision of a medical certificate which covers the full period of sickness. It is only on receipt of a valid medical certificate (which will be reimbursed upon production of a valid receipt) for the full period of incapacity that will allow for annual leave to be substituted for sickness absence. Employees will continue to accrue annual leave at their normal rate whilst on sick leave. Under normal circumstances employees may carry forward annual leave equivalent to one working week from one leave year to another (at their manager s discretion). Where, as a direct result of long term sickness absence, employees have been prevented from taking their minimum holiday entitlement the normal carry forward rules may not apply. With advice from the HR department it may be possible for an employee to carry forward the statutory amount of 28 days of leave (less any leave taken already) into the next annual leave year (pro-rata). This is based on the known legal precedent at the time of writing this policy and therefore subject to change. 6. Consultation This policy has been developed in consultation with Staff Side, HR Policy Group and Trust staff via the intranet. All Trust staff have had the opportunity to comment via consultation on the Intranet. 7. Implementation This policy will be available to staff via the Trust s Intranet. Notification will be sent to staff via the All User Bulletin and Core Brief. 8. Training and Support Managing Sickness Absence training is available for all managers and provides knowledge and skills in relating to applying this policy. Human Resources will provide support for line managers to manage absence effectively and appropriately. 13

14 9. Review This policy will be reviewed at least every three years by the Policy Author or earlier if there are any changes to legislation or national/local requirements. 10. Monitoring Compliance Aspect of compliance or effectiveness being monitored Monitoring method Individual department responsible for the monitoring Frequency of the monitoring activity Group/Committe e which will receive the findings / monitoring report Group/com mittee / individual responsible for ensuring that the actions are completed Process for maintaining contact with absent employees Planning and facilitating return to work plans Planning and undertaking workplace controls or adjustments As identified in this policy ESR service self Individual basis Line Managers Line Managers, Occupational Health/HR Line Managers, Occupational Health/HR Weekly after first 4 days N/A N/A Individual basis N/A N/A Individual basis N/A N/A Process for analysing sickness absence data Performance Report HR Monthly Operational Managers Meetings Operational Managers Meetings 11. References Agenda for Change, NHS Terms and Conditions Handbook Equality Act 2010 Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 NHS Pensions Scheme, NHS Pension Agency Guidelines on Prevention and Management of Sickness Absence (November 2012) - NHS Employers 12. Trust Associated Documents Disciplinary Policy, CWPT Disciplinary Appeals Procedure, CWPT Leave and Time Off Work Policy, CWPT Career Break Policy, CWPT 14

15 13. Version Control Version Date Author (name and designation) Status (Draft/Approved) Comments V JNCC Approved Ratified by Trust Board Discussed with JSS Updated to take V2.0 Dec 08 Rena Reeves Draft account of NHSLA requirements and JSS comments Discussed with V2.0 May 09 Rena Reeves Draft JSS. Revisions made V Rena Reeves Approved Approved by JNCC V Rena Reeves Approved Ratified by OD/HR Committee V Becky Keough NHSLA Co-ordinator Draft Format Changes V Rena Reeves, HR Manager Draft Minor amendments Rena Reeves, HR Manager Amendments from V Becky Keough, NHSLA Coordinator Approved Policy Review Group CCHS V Kate Hughes Draft Harmonisation Amendments V Amendments from Andrea Gay, Family Care Approved Policy Review Co-ordinator Group Comments V Shajeda Ahmed, Senior HR Making the policy fit Manager / Jag Sidhu, HR Draft for purpose Manager 14. Equality Impact Assessment DOCUMENT / PROJECT NAME: Sickness Policy Yes / No Comments 1. Does the document affect one group less or more favourably than another on the basis of: - Race No Human Rights No Gender (inc gender reassignment) No Religion or Belief No Sexual Orientation No Age No 15

16 Disability No (learning disabilities, physical disability, sensory impairment and mental health) 2. Is there any evidence that some groups No are affected differently? 3. If you have identified potential No discrimination are there any expectations valid, legal and / or justifiable? 4. Is the impact of the document / guidance No likely to be negative? 5. If so, can the impact be avoided? N/A 6. What alternative is there to achieving the document / guidance without the impact? 7. Can we reduce the impact by taking different actions? 8. How has the consultation taken place and who with? N/A N/A JNCC and on intranet for 2 weeks Who with: intranet JNCC and all staff via the 9. EIA Team: 3 people who contributed to this assessment 1. Rano Bains 2. Jag Sidhu 3. Andrea Gay 10. Date of the Assessment: 22/11/12 If you have identified a potential discriminatory impact on this procedural document, please refer it to the author / Lead, together with any suggestions as to the action required to avoid / reduce this impact. For advice in respect of answering the above questions, please refer to the EIA guidance notes on the Equality and Diversity Intranet Page. Please return to the Equality and Diversity Department 16

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