MANAGING SICKNESS ABSENCE PROCEDURE

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1 MANAGING SICKNESS ABSENCE PROCEDURE 1 Purpose The purpose of this procedure is to assist with the management of employee sickness absence and to encourage a culture of attendance throughout Gosforth Federated Academies. It also provides appropriate procedures to deal with individual cases of sickness absence and ill health during the course of their employment. 2 Policy Statement The Gosforth Academy governing body values the contribution of our staff in the delivery and maintenance of quality services to the community and is working towards an attendance culture. We are therefore committed to improving attendance and managing sickness absence. We believe that it is the responsibility of management, trade union representatives and employees to work together to promote the management of sickness absence and ill health appropriately and this procedure is designed to facilitate this. We will work with staff to achieve these aims through: providing a working environment that promotes attendance; introducing and supporting modern working practices which allow employees to achieve a work life balance; promoting the health, safety and well being of all employees, including the use of risk assessments to identify and manage hazards impacting on health in the workplace; recognising and acknowledging good attendance; and treating ill health and disability with dignity and compassion. The Principal and managers should make every attempt to manage sickness absence informally and support staff to return to work by: holding informal review meetings; offering Occupational Health or other appropriate support; and making regular, appropriate contact with staff on long term sick leave. 3 Legal Considerations The Equality Act 2010: Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for employees with a disability. The definition of a disability is a mental or physical condition which has a substantial and long-term adverse affect on the employee's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Long-term means that the condition must last, or be likely to last, for more than 12 months. Reasonable adjustments must always be specific to the individual concerned but might include: 1

2 making changes to an employee's duties, working hours or place of work; the provision of auxiliary aids and services; and physical alterations to buildings. Dismissal on grounds of capability: Employers need to act reasonably when dealing with issues of incapability due to ill health. Capability is one of the five potentially fair reasons for dismissal in employment law but the decision needs to be reasonable based on the facts and the employer needs to have followed a fair procedure. The Education (Health Standards) (England) Regulations 2003: Employers need to ensure that teachers and support staff who work with children have the health and physical capacity to carry out relevant activities. These include planning and preparing lessons, delivering lessons, assessing and reporting on progress, assisting teaching, supervising or supporting a child, administration or organisation that supports education and an activity which is ancillary to education. If an employer is concerned that a person no longer has that capacity they can require the employee to be reviewed by a qualified medical practitioner appointed by the local authority. 4 Roles and Responsibilities Local Authority (LA): Providing that academies buy into the appropriate service level agreement, it will support academies to monitor sickness absence levels by providing robust systems and accurate data. Advice on managing absence and promoting an attendance culture is also provided through this service level agreement. Occupational Health provides advice and guidance on the impact of ill health on work and what steps the academy and/or employee may take. Services provided by Occupational Health include physiotherapy and face-to-face counselling for appropriate cases. Employees must be referred to Occupational Health via the Managers Self Service (MSS) system. The postholder designated as the Chief Education Officer or their representative has a right to attend a hearing and give advice where dismissal is considered. It is the duty of the governing body to consider this advice. Governing Body: The governing body has overall responsibility for ensuring that there are appropriate procedures for managing sickness absence in place and that all staff are aware of them. The governing body has specific responsibilities under the School Staffing (England) Regulations 2003 for deciding whether to delegate the responsibility for dismissing staff (except the principal) to a group of governors, an individual governor with or without the principal or the principal. Statutory guidance is that governors should delegate the responsibility for initial dismissal decisions to the principal. Where the governing body has not done so, governors are responsible for making decisions that could result in the dismissal of an employee for the reason of misconduct. 2

3 The governing body is responsible for considering an appeal made by an employee against the decision to dismiss. The dismissal appeals panel must comprise of at least three governors. Where exceptionally there are not enough governors available, the appeal may be heard by two governors but there should be no fewer than the number of delegated person(s) that made the initial decision. No person or persons who made the original decision should sit on any appeals panel. Principal: Where the governing body has delegated the responsibility for dismissal to the principal, s/he is responsible for making decisions that could result in the dismissal of an employee for the reason of incapability due to ill health. The principal is responsible for maintaining contact and managing employees through this procedure. Where they feel it is appropriate to do so, they may delegate this to the employee s line manager or another member of the management team. Where there are concerns about the principal s own health or attendance record, these roles will be undertaken by the governing body and the postholder designated as Chief Education Officer should be kept informed. The principal is also responsible for ensuring that the local authority is provided with the relevant notification to enable notice to be issued to an employee who is dismissed and that all formal outcomes of this procedure are recorded on Managers Self Service (MSS) for the purposes of equalities monitoring. Employee representatives: Where an employee has the right to be accompanied to a meeting or hearing, s/he can be accompanied by a fellow worker or trade union representative. The recognised trade unions in Newcastle are ASCL, ATL, NAHT, NASUWT and NUT for teaching staff and GMB and Unison for support staff. All trade union officials, regardless of whether the union is recognised, may represent their members individually. The representative can put the employee s case and confer with the employee during the meeting. However, they should not answer questions that are put to the employee. A representative who is an employee is entitled to paid time off during working hours to accompany the employee. If the employee s chosen representative is not available at the date/time proposed for the formal review or hearing and an alternative is proposed that is reasonable and falls within five working days (or seven consecutive days out of term-time) of the original date, the academy must rearrange the meeting to the alternative date/time. Employees: All employees are expected to: attend work unless unfit to do so; raise concerns with their principalor other line manager if they believe that their job is making them ill or contributing to their illness; report sickness absences promptly; ensure that the appropriate certificates are completed; communicate regularly with their manager during periods of sickness absence; 3

4 co-operate fully with Occupational Health and other organisations that provide medical support to the council and its employees; and not abuse the sickness absence procedures or sick pay schemes. 5 Work related ill health or injury If an employee or the principalbelieves that ill health or injury has arisen out of or in connection with work, the employee should complete an accident report form as soon as possible. If an employee has not completed an accident report form and subsequently believes that their ill health or injury is caused by work, they should report this in writing to their principal, setting out the reasons why they believe that work has contributed or caused their ill health or injury and the reason why they did not complete the form at the time. The principalwill then make a decision, taking advice where necessary, on whether an accident report should be completed retrospectively. 6 Notification of sickness The employee must contact their line manager on the first day of absence before they are due to begin work. The employee must provide their line manager with details of their illness or injury, their anticipated length of absence and any work commitments that need to be covered by a colleague or rearranged. Exceptionally, if the employee is unable to telephone in person, they must arrange for someone else to telephone on their behalf. The employee must make direct contact with their line manager as soon as possible afterwards. 7 Certification The employee must complete a Self Certification of Absence Form, which is available from the academy office, from day one of the absence. If the absence is for less than 7 days the form can be completed when the employee returns to work. However, if the absence continues for longer, the form should be sent to the employee to complete. If the employee continues to be absent for more than seven consecutive calendar days, regardless of whether or not these are working days, they must consult a doctor and obtain a statement of fitness to work or fit note. It must be forwarded immediately to the principal. Where there is continuing sickness absence, the employee must submit GP statements regarding their fitness for work to cover the whole period of absence to their principal including when they are no longer receiving sick pay. The principal must ensure that appropriate and timely statements are received from the employee. 4

5 If an employee falls ill during working days and remains ill during non- working days (for example, periods of academy closure), they must still provide the relevant selfcertificate or statement of fitness for work to ensure that their absence is properly recorded and they receive the correct salary. If an employee falls ill during non working days (for example, a period of academy closure), they must notify the academy of this period of absence as soon as practicable. The employee must still provide the relevant self-certificate or statement of fitness for work to Employee Services who will administer the required changes to the employee s absence record and, where necessary, salary. If an employee recovers from a period of illness during non working days (for example, periods of academy closure), they must notify the academy of this period of absence as soon as practicable. They must also inform Employee Services of their recovery and provide a fit for work statement from their GP confirming that they are fit to return to work. Employee Services will make any appropriate adjustment to their salary. If the employee is a teacher, they must physically return to work on the first day of the next term otherwise the authority has discretion to require them to repay any sum up to the difference between the sick pay due and the full pay received. In all cases the principal must ensure that Employee Services are notified of the absence and the information is recorded on the Managers Self Service (MSS) system. MSS will send an every time an employee hits a trigger point 8 Maintaining contact When an employee is absent from work due to sickness it is important that there is regular contact between the academy and employee during the early stages of sickness absence, and throughout the entire sickness absence period. Contact should be maintained by phone, or text message so that the employee does not feel isolated, vulnerable or out of touch. 9 Monitoring sickness absence Staff attendance should be monitored regularly. Where an individual s sickness absence level meets one or more of the following trigger points, the principal should consider whether an informal attendance meeting is appropriate: 8 days in any 12 month period; 3 or more days absence in 3 months; 3 or more separate absences in 6 months patterns of absence, or particular concerns regarding any absence. 5

6 10 Return to work after sickness absence of any length The principal or line manager should discuss an absence with an employee every time they return to work. The nature of this discussion will depend upon: the length of the absence period; the reason for the absence; whether the employee has hit a trigger point; the employee s sickness absence history; and the employee s work location. The most appropriate way to carry out this discussion could be; a brief chat in person; a brief chat on the telephone; an informal attendance meeting a formal attendance meeting 11 Informal Attendance Meetings This is a meeting(s) between the principal or line manager and the employee to discuss any of the following: the employee s return to work following sickness absence; any trigger point the employee has hit; any advice received from the GP/Occupational Health Unit (OHU) following a referral. a period of sickness absence which is causing some concern. The employee does not have to be offered the opportunity to bring a trade union representative or fellow worker to the meeting as it is not part of the formal procedure. However, this should not be refused if requested and can often facilitate discussions. A record of the discussion should be kept and any actions agreed should be confirmed in writing. The employee should be given a copy of the record Possible outcomes of an informal attendance meeting to action any recommendations from the GP; to refer employee to the Occupational Health Unit and/or ask them to consult their GP; to deal with any domestic or work issues; to inform the employee that a formal attendance meeting will be arranged because their absence levels are causing concern; to take no further action other than routine sickness absence monitoring. 6

7 11.2 Arranging a formal attendance meeting A formal attendance meeting is the first formal stage in the Managing Sickness Absence Procedure. It must be conducted by a principal or manager who is authorised to issue a formal caution. A formal attendance meeting should be organised when an employee s level of sickness absence is considered to be causing concern. A formal attendance meeting should normally be arranged after: an informal attendance meeting(s) has been held in the first instance to discuss the employee s absence record and reason(s) for absence; and you have taken Occupational Health advice; the employee s absence levels have not improved (or appear unlikely to improve) following your informal attendance meeting; and it may be appropriate to issue the employee with a formal caution. The purpose of a formal attendance meeting is to discuss the employee s absence and any concerns there may be, explaining the impact their absence(s) has on the academy and their colleagues. It is also to consider giving an employee a caution that unless their attendance improves, consideration may be given to ending their employment on the grounds of capability. Before holding a formal attendance meeting make sure the following information is available: details of absence record and trigger points; Occupational Health or other medical reports; details of any support provided; and information about informal attendance meetings that have been held. Notice of a formal attendance meeting must be in writing and at least 5 working days before the meeting is scheduled to take place. The letter must specify: the reason for the review; that a formal caution may be issued; the employee's right to representation. A copy of the Managing Sickness Absence Procedure must be enclosed. Staff may be accompanied by a trade union representative or fellow worker during any meeting/hearing in the formal procedure. It is the employee s responsibility to arrange this. 7

8 11.3 Possible outcomes of a formal attendance meeting The outcome of the formal meeting may include: a formal caution that unless there is a significant and sustained improvement in their attendance, a sickness hearing will be arranged to consider ending their employment. This caution will be on their file for 12 months; no formal caution is issued, and there will be no further action; or appropriate action and support provided to facilitate the employee s return to work e.g. phased return to work programme The decision must be confirmed in writing. If a formal caution is issued, this will be confirmed in writing within 5 working days (or 7 consecutive days out of term time) of the formal meeting and will explain: the reason for the caution; the timescale for improvement and/or level of future attendance required; and the employee s right of appeal Monitoring attendance during a formal caution period The employee s attendance must be continually monitored during the 12 month period of a formal caution. It may be appropriate to set monitoring periods of up to 3 or 6 months etc. and formally review at the end of these. If the employee hits another trigger point during the caution period or monitoring period, then it may be appropriate to arrange a sickness hearing Right of appeal against a formal caution If an employee is given a formal caution as a result of a formal attendance meeting, they have the right of appeal. The employee must write to the Chair of Governors, stating in detail their grounds of appeal, within 5 working days (or 7 consecutive days out of term time) of receiving their written caution. The employee will normally be notified of a date for the appeal within 5 working days (or 7 consecutive days out of term time) of receipt of their appeal letter. Any papers that are to be considered at the hearing and a list of any witnesses being called must be circulated to all parties at least 3 working days (or 5 consecutive days out of term time) before the hearing. The arrangements for hearing appeals are set out in the Procedure for Conducting Appeal Hearings. The result of the appeal will be confirmed in writing within 5 working days (or 7 consecutive days out of term time). There is no further right of appeal. 8

9 12 Sickness Dismissal Hearing Before deciding to arrange a sickness absence dismissal hearing, the principal or appropriate line manager should determine that: the employee s attendance has not improved to an acceptable level during the period of the caution or monitoring period; there is no reasonable prospect of a sustained improvement in the health of the employee; the employee has not returned to work in the timescale specified in their formal caution all reasonable adjustments and support, where appropriate, have been made in order to help the employee return to work or improve attendance; or there is no suitable redeployment to another post within the academy. The employee s sickness absence record over the preceding 3 year period should be considered together with their length of service with the employer when making a decision. Notice of a hearing must be in writing and at least 5 working days (or 7 consecutive days out of term time) before the hearing. It must specify: the reason for the hearing; that ending the employee s employment is being considered; the employee s right to representation. Any papers that are to be considered at the hearing and a list of any witnesses being called must be circulated to all parties at least 3 working days (or 5 consecutive days out of term time) before the hearing. Possible outcomes of a sickness absence hearing: to extend the period of the formal caution; to end employment. The outcome of the sickness hearing will be confirmed in writing within 5 working days (or 7 consecutive days out of term time) of the hearing. The academy must write to the employee explaining the reason(s) for the decision. The employee has a right to appeal against the decision made. Employees notified of dismissal who have the required period of continuous service should be offered access to the local authority-wide redeployment search under the Redeployment Procedure. This must be without prejudice to the employee s right to appeal. 9

10 13 Right of appeal against ending employment If an employee is dismissed at a sickness absence hearing, they have a right of appeal. The employee must write to their Chair of Governors, stating their grounds of appeal, within 10 working days of receiving written confirmation of the decision. The employee will normally be notified of a date for the appeal within 5 working days (or 7 consecutive days out of term time) of receipt of their written appeal. Any papers that are to be considered at the appeal hearing and a list of any witnesses being called must be circulated to all parties at least 3 working days (or 5 consecutive days out of term time). The appeal hearing can take place during the employee s notice period. If they are successful in their appeal, notice will be rescinded. If the appeal takes place after dismissal and the employee is successful in their appeal, they will be reinstated from the original date of dismissal. The arrangements for appeals are set out in the Procedure for Conducting Appeal Hearings. The result of the appeal will be confirmed in writing within 5 working days (or 7 consecutive days out of term time). There is no further internal right of appeal. 14 Notice If the decision of the sickness absence hearing is that the employee should be dismissed, appropriate notice must be issued to the employee The period of notice to which employees are entitled is as follows: Support staff: the greater of statutory notice of one week per year of continuous service up to a maximum of 12 weeks OR contractual notice; Teachers: the greater of statutory notice of one week per year of continuous service up to a maximum of 12 weeks or contractual notice of two months if ending on 31 December or 30 April or three months if ending on 31 August; Principal: the greater of statutory notice of one week per year of continuous service up to a maximum of 12 weeks or contractual notice of three months if ending on 31 December or 30 April or four months if ending on 31 August. Where an employee is already under notice, for example because they have a fixed-term contract and notice was provided in the original appointment letter, there is no requirement to issue additional notice unless the contract will end earlier than expected. Where an employee is dismissed and no appeal is received or the appeal is rejected, the principal must ensure that this is entered into Managers Self Service (MSS) for the purposes of equalities monitoring. 10

11 15 Relationship with other policies and procedures Redeployment Procedure: Should an employee be dismissed through this procedure then the Redeployment Procedure must apply. Procedure for Conducting Staff Appeal Hearings: If an employee wishes to take up their right of appeal, this procedure sets out the procedure for the hearing Grievance Procedure: This procedure should be used if the employee wishes to formally raise a complaint regarding the misuse of this procedure. Where the action taken by the academy is dismissal then the grievance procedure does not apply. Redundancy Procedure: Sickness absence information may be used as part of redundancy selection criteria. Conditions of Service for Academy Teacher in England and Wales (Burgundy Book) 16 Monitoring the procedure Feedback is encouraged from governing bodies and principals on the effectiveness of this policy and procedure. It will be reviewed on a periodic basis to ensure it is appropriate in light of recommended best practice, Council policy and complies with statutory regulations. In the event of any conflict with statutory regulations, the legal provisions will have precedence over this procedure in all cases. Governing bodies should monitor the application of this policy and procedure, particularly to ensure that their practices comply with it and are not discriminatory. Revision Record of Published Versions Author Creation Date Version Status HR Services October Consulted Trade Unions 11

12 Annex 1: Suggested Format of the Sickness Dismissal Hearing The normal format of a sickness hearing is described below. The chair of the hearing has discretion to vary the order of proceedings. At the hearing requests for an adjournment by any party should not be unreasonably refused. 1 Introduction The chair introduces the person(s) hearing the case, asks others in attendance to introduce themselves, explains the order of proceedings and checks that everyone has the relevant documents. 2 Management Case Statement of case: The management representative puts forward any relevant points that they wish to bring to the attention of the delegated person(s). Presentation of witnesses: If the management representative wishes to present witnesses they may do so at this point. Witnesses will only remain at the hearing for so long as they are giving evidence or being questioned. Questions to witnesses: All parties shall have the opportunity to ask questions of witnesses. This begins with the management representative followed by the employee and/or their representative and finally the delegated person(s) and their adviser. Questions to management representative: All parties will have the opportunity to ask questions of the management representative. This begins with the employee and/or their representative and finally the delegated person(s) and their adviser. 3 Employee Case Statement of case: The employee (or their representative) puts forward any relevant points that they wish to bring to the attention of the delegated person(s). Presentation of witnesses: If the employee or their representative wishes to present witnesses they may do so at this point. Witnesses will only remain at the hearing for so long as they are giving evidence or being questioned. Questions to witnesses: All parties shall have the opportunity to ask questions of witnesses. This begins with the employee or their representative, followed by the management representative and finally the delegated person(s) and their adviser. Questions to employee: All parties will have the opportunity to ask questions of the employee. This begins with the management representative and finally the delegated person(s) and their adviser. 12

13 4 Questions to both sides from delegated person(s) and adviser The delegated person(s) and their adviser may ask questions of both parties. 5 Summing up by Management Representative The management representative should provide a summary of their case, highlighting the keys points that they wish the panel to consider. 6 Summing up by Employee (or Representative) The employee or their representative should provide a summary of their case, highlighting the keys points that they wish the panel to consider. 7 Adjournment The delegated person(s) (with their adviser in attendance) consider in private the information put forward at the hearing and reach a decision. 8 Decision Where practical the parties should be informed of the decision directly by the chair of the hearing. This must be subsequently confirmed in writing within 3 workings, with sufficient detail to enable all parties to understand the decision and the rationale behind it. Date approved:.. Signed:.. Date to be reviewed:.. 13

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