SICKNESS ABSENCE MANAGEMENT PROCEDURE. With effect from xxxxxx

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1 SICKNESS ABSENCE MANAGEMENT PROCEDURE With effect from xxxxxx Purpose The purpose of this policy is to provide guidelines on how to manage and support staff through absence due to ill health. When is this procedure used? This procedure is to be used to control absence and promote a healthy and safe working environment and for ensuring effective monitoring. 1. Types of Absence There are two types of sickness absence, short term and long term absence, each of which requires a different type of approach. Absenteeism due to sickness and incapacity might be either short, intermittent episodes or infrequent long term sickness or a combination of the two. 2. Short Term Absence 2.1 Line Managers are responsible for ensuring that sickness absence reporting procedures currently in force are communicated to and complied with by staff for which they are responsible. 2.2 Line Managers are responsible along with the relevant HR Lead for monitoring absence in order to offer support and ensure that any work related or environmental issues affecting health are resolved. 2.3 Informal approach Whilst all cases must be considered and dealt with appropriately on an individual basis, an informal review of absence with the line manager should be carried out in all cases when the following trigger points are identified during any rolling twelve month period: an employee has been absent on 5 separate occasions of any length and/or 1

2 2.3.2 has had a single absence totalling 8 working days or more (working days are defined as days that the employee is contractually required to work) and/or Absences, which regularly precede or follow rest days and bank holidays or appear to be in a regular pattern. 2.4 A referral to Occupational Health should be considered at this stage, especially if the absence has been diagnosed by the GP as stress related or is considered to be a work related injury. All referrals should be managed by the line manager in consultation with the relevant HR lead contact for the Service Area. 2.5 The Line Manager must explore whether the absences may be due to a work related injury; a disability defined within the DDA; or pregnancy, and take advice from the HR lead as appropriate. 3. Procedure of Short Term Absence Monitoring and Control 3.1 Stage 1 Once one of the trigger points below is reached within a rolling twelve month period then the employee will be required to attend a Sickness Absence Review Meeting an employee has been absent on 8 separate occasions of any length and/or has had a single absence totalling 10 working days or more (working days are defined as days that the employee is contractually required to work) The Line Manager should undertake the following assisted by the relevant HR Lead a) The employee should be notified in writing of the meeting. The letter should include a copy of their absence record and remind them of the right to be accompanied. b) The meeting will be held by the Line Manager accompanied by the relevant HR Lead. Employees may be accompanied by a trade union representative; a colleague; or a friend or relative (who cannot act in a legal capacity). 2

3 c) The purpose of the meeting is to fact find and where possible establish the cause of any absence and to offer assistance based on individual circumstances. d) The Line Manager during the interview will cover the following matters as appropriate: i) identify the frequency and reason for the absences and ensure that the employee is aware that their absence record may be giving cause for concern, ii) iii) advise the employee to seek medical attention to determine if there are grounds to consider that there might be an underlying medical problem, give consideration to personal problems which may be causing the absences and offer possible ways of helping the employee to resolve them, iv) explore whether the absences may be due to a work related injury; a disability defined within the DDA; or pregnancy, and take advice from the HR lead as appropriate, v) agree a reasonable time within which the employee s attendance can be assessed over the following 3 months, vi) vii) indicate that the next step may be to Stage 2 if attendance does not improve, indicate that if sickness absence continues at a high level then the employee may be excluded from participating in any additional hours/overtime e) The Line Manager must confirm in writing, within 7 days, the outcome of the meeting, copy all attendees and place a copy on the Personnel file. The letter must include details of who attended the meeting, when the meeting was held, what was discussed, the actions agreed for both employee and line manager and who is responsible for the actions. 3.2 Stage Where the attendance has not improved in Stage 1 the line manager will convene a further meeting with the employee (under the same conditions as a and b above) Again the line manager will carefully review the reasons given for the absences, and consult their HR 3

4 3.3 Stage 3 Lead prior to the meeting if they require further advice or assistance In addition to the points noted in d the interview will: - a) determine whether the employee may qualify as having a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, b) consider, if the Line Manager and employee decide there may be an underlying medical condition, a referral to Occupational Health (Once an employee has been absent with short term absences totalling 15 working days the employee will be referred to Occupational Health), c) consider if any temporary or permanent redeployment or reduction of duties/reasonable adjustment is required, d) inform the employee that if attendance does not improve then dismissal may be considered Following the meeting a formal letter will be sent to the employee, within 7 days, confirming expected improved attendance for a period not exceeding 3 months. This will be copied to all attendees and a copy placed on the Personnel file Further formal review meetings may be required, especially following an Occupational Health referral prior to moving to Stage 3. Advice on this may be gained from the relevant HR Lead If there is no improvement following review meetings held within Stage 2 then the Line Manager, after advice from the relevant HR Lead, should move to Stage If there continues to be no improvement, the employee will be notified in writing that the Line Manager will be preparing a report for consideration at a dismissal meeting. The reason for dismissal will be some other substantial reason and will usually be incapability due to persistent intermittent absence as a consequence of ill health. 4

5 3.3.2 The employee will be notified of the meeting as before (3.1.a and b) and will be forwarded a copy of the report. They will also be informed that as a result of the meeting their contract of employment may be terminated on the grounds of incapability as detailed in The meeting must be held and chaired by either a Head of Service or a manager with the authority to dismiss and they must be accompanied by a member of the HR team The purpose of the meeting is to consider all information in relation to the absences, including Occupational Health advice. If appropriate, the hearing manager may ask for further medical advice The hearing manager should consider whether or not alternative employment, reasonable adjustments to the current role or ill-health retirement could and have been recommended prior to the decision to terminate employment If it is decided that following the meeting that the contract of employment will be terminated then the employee must be given due notice/pay in lieu of notice and any other additional outstanding payments e.g. annual leave The outcome of the meeting must be communicated in writing, within 7 days, by the hearing manager to the employee and their representative as appropriate and the employee must be informed of their right of appeal The appeal should be submitted in writing, with full reasons for the appeal, to the Chief Executive for consideration by the Appeals Panel within 21 days of the receipt of the written notification of the dismissal. 4. Long Term Absence 4.1 Long term absence due to sickness is defined as a period of medically certified sickness which is continuous for at least four weeks. However, Line Managers should be monitoring any absence which is more than two weeks in duration as in Short Term Absence. 4.2 When an employee is suffering a long term illness, Line Managers are expected to exercise judgement in respect of the appropriate timing of Occupational Health referrals and the scheduling of meetings 5

6 based on the individual circumstances (e.g. it may not be appropriate to make arrangements if the employee is seriously ill or could not reasonably be expected to attend). The HR Department can advise as appropriate. 4.4 Stage Once an absence extends beyond four weeks it is defined as long-term At this stage the employee will be invited to a meeting as soon as possible by the Line Manager together with the relevant HR Lead. The employee may also have a representative present. The meeting must normally be prearranged with the employee. However, if the employee does not respond to the request then every effort must be made to contact the employee via either a Trade Union Representative, a member of the HR Team, a family member or other intermediary e.g. Occupational Health. The meeting will: i) help to gain further information relating to the absence, ii) inform the employee that they will be referred to Occupational Health to establish the likely length of the absence and the long-term effect on capability in relation to job performance and attendance at work, iii) address, where possible, any needs or concerns of the employee, iv) determine whether the employee may qualify as having a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, v) consider offering appropriate alternative work if this would enable the employee to return to work On receipt of the Occupational Health report a further meeting with the employee must be arranged by the Line Manager and the HR Lead. The purpose of the meeting should be to discuss the report and to give consideration to the options available which may include: - i) phased return to work ii) making reasonable adjustments within the workplace iii) reduced duties iv) part time working (temporarily or permanently) v) re-deployment vi) ill-health retirement 6

7 4.5 Stage Following Stage 1 of this procedure the Line Manager will be responsible for maintaining contact with the employee directly or via the people stated in depending on the employee s medical condition and advice. The employee is expected to maintain contact with their line manager keeping them informed of any changes in their condition as appropriate. The employee must provide a contact point during the absence. If an employee refuses to maintain contact sick pay may be withheld The employee may not be allowed to return to work until the Occupational Health Physician has declared them fit to return. Where declared fit an employee must return to work If the absence continues beyond twelve weeks a further formal meeting will be convened. At this meeting all the options will be considered together with consideration of a further opinion from the Occupational Health Adviser unless a return to work is anticipated within four weeks. 4.6 Stage Unless referred for a medical report after twelve weeks, where the absence continues beyond sixteen weeks, the employee must again be referred to Occupational Health to gain a medical report to establish the likely length of the absence and the long-term effect on capability in relation to job performance and attendance at work On receipt of the Occupational Health report a further meeting with the employee will be arranged by the Line Manager and relevant HR Lead. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the report and to give consideration to all the options available including dismissal Where it seems likely that the employee has become incapable by way of ill health to undertake their duties, the Line Manager will discuss dismissal by reason of incapability and the preparation of the relevant management report to move to Stage 4. There is no requirement to exhaust contractual sick pay before the consideration of a move to Stage 4 of the procedure During Stage 3, given the advice from Occupational Health, it is important that the Line Manager and the appropriate HR Lead have considered whether or not the employee is a 7

8 member of the Local Government Pension Scheme and whether or not a retirement on the grounds of ill health is to be considered and supported by Occupational Health. 4.7 Stage The employee will be notified in writing that the Line Manager will be preparing a report for consideration at a dismissal meeting. The reason for dismissal will be some other substantial reason and will usually be incapability due to either permanent or non-permanent ill health (depending on the illness and advice from Occupational Health and the membership of the LG Pension Scheme.) The employee will be notified of the meeting as before and will be forwarded a copy of the report. They will also be informed that as a result of the meeting their contract of employment may be terminated on the grounds of incapability as detailed in The meeting must be held and chaired by either a Head of Service or a manager with the authority to dismiss and they must be accompanied by a member of the HR team The purpose of the meeting is to consider all information in relation to the absences, including Occupational Health advice. If appropriate the hearing manager may ask for further medical advice The hearing manager should consider whether or not alternative employment, reasonable adjustments to the current role or ill-health retirement could be recommended prior to the decision to terminate employment If it is decided that, following the meeting, the contract of employment will be terminated then the employee must be given due notice/pay in lieu of notice and any other additional outstanding payments e.g. annual leave. The outcome of the meeting must be communicated in writing, within 7 days, by the hearing manager to the employee and their representative as appropriate and the employee must be informed of their right of appeal The appeal should be submitted in writing, within 21 days of the receipt of the written notification of the dismissal with full reasons for the appeal, to the Chief Executive for consideration by the Appeals Panel. 8

9 5. Redeployment and Support for Employees in Recovery Any redeployment will be in line with the Council s Redeployment policy 6. Working during Absences Employees should not undertake any work paid or otherwise during their absence unless this is agreed by the HR Department and the relevant Head of Service. If therapeutic work is recommended the Council should be informed and will provide it where possible. Unauthorised working whilst on sickness absence may be considered a disciplinary issue and dealt with under the Disciplinary Procedure. 7. Disagreement with Medical Opinion In the event that the employee and the GP disagree with the medical opinion secured by the Council, in relation to either short or long term sickness absence, arrangements may be made for a further referral to an Occupational Health Adviser if agreed by the Council. The Council are not obliged to obtain a second medical opinion. 8. Postponement of formal meetings for reasons including the purpose of securing representation 8.1 It must be recognised that in cases of long term ill health in particular there may occasions when the employee may be too unwell to attend a proposed meeting. Any such request for postponement will therefore be dealt with sympathetically based on the individual circumstances. 8.2 The onus for securing staff representation rests with the employee. Where an employee requests the postponement of a formal sickness review meeting due to difficulties in securing representation, the employee or their representative must suggest an alternative time, within 5 working days of the original meeting, where possible. 8.3 Where the request is judged to be unreasonable the Line Manager may, in conjunction with the relevant HR Lead, decide to proceed with the meeting as arranged and, if necessary, in the absence of the employee. Confirmation of the decision to hold a meeting will be communicated to the employee in writing at least 5 days before the meeting date 9. General 9.1 At all times throughout this procedure, employees may be represented by their trade union or other representative of their choice when attending meeting or interviews with their managers. 9

10 9.2 Where an employee has an on-going grievance or has reason to believe they are being victimised they may request that any part of this procedure be carried out by an alternative senior manager. 9.3 A minimum of five working days notice will be given for all meetings that are arranged, unless a shorter period is mutually agreed. Where the employee is on long term sickness, they should be able to decide whether the meeting is held at their place of residence or in the workplace. 9.4 Where an employee returns to work at any stage of the Absence Management Procedure but becomes absent due to sickness within a 26 week period consideration should be given to the procedure being resumed at the stage previously reached, taking Occupational Health reports into consideration. 9.5 Where an employee is being managed within the Short Term Procedure and then becomes absent Long Term and vice versa the procedure will continue from the stage reached within the relevant procedure i.e. an employee at Stage 2 of the Short Term Absence Procedure who becomes Long Term sick will continue from Stage 2 of the Long Term Procedure. Responsibilities Line Managers are responsible for:- ensuring that there is full and appropriate communication with their staff and ensuring that staff feel appropriately supported through periods of absence. initiating both formal and informal action in cases where absence falls short of acceptable standards and trigger points are reached and for maintaining accurate records of actions taken in this respect. implementing clear action plans in their area which aims to minimise the causes of absence. ensure that staff within their area understand the rules, policies and procedures relating to absence. undertaking risk assessments for their staff. where absence is due to an injury sustained at work, that the Accident Reporting Procedure is followed. Employees are responsible for: reporting their absence as close as possible to their scheduled start time if not before. maintaining a healthy lifestyle to help achieve good attendance at work. completing self certification forms. providing doctors certificates as required. participating in any absence review meetings as required. reporting any injuries or near misses. 10

11 reporting any second jobs outside of the Council. attending Occupational Health when required. Human Resources Department will give advice and guidance to line managers, supporting them in taking action in accordance with the agreed policy and procedures. They will also assist in the provision of absence management statistics. HR is responsible for reviewing the continued relevance and appropriateness of the policy and procedure on a regular basis in line with the policy review programme. and for providing support and guidance to staff through appropriate external bodies e.g. Occupational Health, counselling etc. The Occupational Health Service shall provide: pre-employment health screening. health surveillance of workers as appropriate. a service whereby Advisers and/or Doctors are working actively with Managers on tackling sickness absence and health issues within the workplace. reports on the health situation and provide an opinion on the likely return to work and timescales in respect of those referred under either the Short or Long Term absence management procedure. a self referral service. Version 4 following JCC September

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