Improving Attendance Guidance

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1 Improving Attendance Guidance For School Based Staff Under the Purview of A Governing Body Revised September 2013 This Policy and Procedure have been approved in line with the Public Sector Equality Duty Applies to: Head teacher Teachers Locally managed support staff

2 CONTENTS 1 Introduction 2 Definitions and Abbreviations 3 Support and Challenge 4 Contact with Employees Re Work Issues 5 Failure to Follow Reporting Procedures 6 Holidays 7 Sickness While on Holiday 8 Medical Appointments 9 Return to Work Interviews 10 Medical Referral 11 Stress 12 Work Place / Industrial Injury 13 Ill Health Retirement 14 Terminal Illness 15 Equality 16 Exceptional Factors PAGE APPENDICES A Sample Letter Arranging Stage 1 Review 5 B Sample Letter Outcome of Stage 1 Review 6 C Sample Letter Arranging Stage 2 Review 7 D Sample Letter Outcome Stage 2 Review 8 E Sample Letter Arranging Stage 3 Review 9 F Sample Letter Outcome Stage 3 Review 10 G Order of Hearing 11 H Sample Letter Invite to Hearing 12 I Sample Letter Outcome of Hearing 13 J Order of Appeal 14 K Sample Letter Absence - No Contact and follow up 15 L Sample Letter No Certification 16

3 1. Introduction The purpose of this document is to provide managers with general guidance on how best to manage the absence of an individual, where this is as a result of sickness. It is strongly recommended that the guidance is followed, and that where it is not, advice is sought from the Schools Advisory Team. However, this guidance is not intended to be definitive as each case will inevitably be different and managers should take individual circumstances into account before determining the best course of action. The sample documentation should be used as guidance rather than as prescriptive templates. This document should be read in conjunction with the Improving Attendance Policy and Procedure for Staff Employed Under the Purview of a School Governing Body. Individual advice and guidance is available to managers, from the HR Advisory Service (Schools). If in any doubt about any proposed course of action, it is recommended that managers discuss their proposals in the first instance. 2. Definitions and abbreviations Throughout this document, reference is made to the Manager responsible for sickness absence matters. This refers to the nominated individual/s who deal/s with employee sickness absence in the school. All employees must be made aware of the identity of the Manager/s appropriate to them. Trade Union Representatives means any representative of a trade union or any other staff representative. The Senior Human Resources Adviser can be asked by the school to undertake the formal process on behalf of the school, or in conjunction with the Manager. 3. Support and Challenge Managing attendance has a dual purpose of support and challenge. By proactive management, iss ues can be identified at an early stage and appropriate support measures can be put in place for the individual. As the school has a duty of care to both employees and pupils, it is also reasonable to challenge an individual whose absence is above acceptable, pre agreed levels. The triggers need to be applied in a consistent way across schools, and the Schools Advisory Service is committed to supporting school managers through this process. 4. Contact with employees and Work Issues Regular contact with employees is very important, especially in the case of long term absence. The policy clearly states the prescribed contact levels in the first week of an absence, but when the absence is longer, it is necessary to agree an appropriate method and frequency for ongoing contact. These can be different dependent on each individual case. On the first day of absence it is expected that an indication of the length of the expected absence be given, and a handover of any work planning that has already been prepared. This will enable the management at school to manage the absence smoothly and minimise the impact on the pupils. However, employees should not be contacted during absence to provide or set work during their illness. 5. Failure to Follow Reporting Procedures Managers shall inform employees who fail to follow the normal procedures for reporting absence or providing medical certification that they may have salary payments withheld and that there could be disciplinary consequences. 1

4 6. Holidays Support Staff only Support staff who have an allocation of annual leave (i.e. who do not work term time only) may request to take leave during a period of sickness absence. If this is agreed by the manager, this will not end or interrupt the sickness absence and a break should not be recorded in the HR and Payroll system. The option of annual leave whilst sick, should be chosen in the system. If an employee intends to travel during a period of absence due to sickness, they must provide medical certification to verify that this is approved by their GP and will not have a detrimental effect on their health and recovery. The employee still needs to request the period of leave from their manager giving reasonable notice. 7. Sickness Whilst on Annual Leave Support Staff only An employee who is employed to work full year who then falls sick whilst on annual leave shall be regarded as being on sick leave from the date of a doctor s statement and the days they were ill will be re-credited. Self-certification will not suffice. The employee must notify their manager on the first day of sickness and follow the normal absence notification procedure. 8. Medical Appointments during normal working hours It is for the individual employee to arrange medical appointments in their own time, wherever possible. For appointments involving admission to hospital, time off is classified as sickness absence. It is accepted that there are occasions when this is not possible (e.g. specialist; ante-natal, routine screening appointments) and, in such circumstances, the manager may grant time off, with pay, during normal working hours, on production of an appointment card. There are occasions when regular time off during normal working hours may be requested by an employee, in order to attend a course of treatment. In such cases, the individual circumstance must be taken into consideration and options to be considered may include temporary adjustment to work patterns, paid or unpaid time off, use of annual leave where appropriate. For further guidance please refer to the Flexible Working and Special Leave Policy. 9. Return to Work Interviews Return to work (RTW) interviews are an excellent way to ensure that all absences are managed appropriately and consistently; ensuring full management support is provided where possible. The RTW interview is an opportunity for the manager and employee to discuss the reasons for the absence, any contributing factors, medical advice, treatment received and whether there is a likelihood of a recurrence. This discussion will assist in ensuring a full understanding of the reasons for absence, together with an exploration of any additional support that may be needed. When an employee who has been absent due to sickness returns to work, the manager should hold a RTW interview as soon as possible; ideally on the day of return. RTW interviews are not be used as a substitute for a Staged Absence Review Meeting. Before the RTW interview takes place, the manager should prepare by reviewing the employee s attendance record and identify as to whether their absences have reached a trigger point for review, so that the employee may be advised as appropriate. A RTW interview is conducted within normal management processes and an employee is not entitled to representation by a work colleague or a trade union representative. The interview must be held on a one to one basis, conducted in private and treated as confidential by both parties. A written record of the RTW should be given to the employee following the meeting. At the RTW meeting, the manager should provide the employee with a helpful reminder as to the formal absence management triggers, where they currently are positioned in the process and confirm that they may progress in the process if the triggers are met. 2

5 10. Medical Referral Medical opinion is worth little if it is not focused on particular operational questions. It is not the precise nature of any underlying medical condition that is important but the impact of any medical condition on the employee s ability to carry out their duties and responsibilities. It is not good practice to routinely refer employees to Occupational Health without clear guidance as to the information required. Medical advice may be sought from Occupational Health at any time on any employee presenting ill health concerns or difficulties. The employee need not, currently, be absent from work. The Occupational Health appointment is in the best interests of the individual and should not been seen as punitive. Following clear explanation of the reasons for referral, if an individual refuses to co-operate with the requirement to attend Occupational Health for assessment, it may result in salary payments being suspended and in the longer term in decisions being made by managers based on best evidence available. Good practice requires that the manager advise the employee, that Occupational Health advice is being sought. 11. Stress The council is committed to the promotion of health, to the prevention of work related stress and to the provision of support to any employee who may suffer from stress. Reducing and preventing stress brings benefits to the school and the individual. If a manager becomes aware that an employee is suffering from stress, steps must be taken to investigate if there are any work related factors and take reasonable steps to remove or reduce the risks where it has been determined that they exist. This should take place prior to a referral to Occupational Health where possible. All employees in schools are able to access counselling support through an Employee Assistance Programme. For further information please refer to the Council s Stress Policy which includes stress risk assessment guidance. 12. Work Place and Industrial Injury In addition to following the normal sickness absence from work procedures, any absence resulting from an accident or injury sustained at work must be correctly reported. Full details of this process are contained in the Health and Safety at Work manual. Absence as a consequence of a confirmed industrial injury is not counted towards normal sickness absence entitlement but it is managed under the Improving Attendance Policy. 13. Ill Health Retirement The process for accessing pension early on the grounds of ill health are different, depending on whether membership is with the Greater Manchester Pension fund or Teachers Pensions fund. Ill health retirement is only considered in cases where all other options to keep an individual in work have been exhausted. Teachers The Senior HR Adviser may assist the employee in completion of forms for early access to pension. The Teacher s pension fund will arrange for independent medical assessment to take place and provide a decision in regard to whether or not the criteria has been met for early retirement on the grounds of ill health. For further information please access the Teachers Pensions website. Support employees The employee will be referred to Occupational health to assess whether the criteria for ill health retirement has been met. A three tier system is in place to enable access to varying amounts of pension fund, dependent on incapacity level and prospect of fitness for work in the future. For further information please access the GMPF website. 3

6 14. Terminal Illness Individuals react differently to being told by their specialist that they have a limited life expectancy so it is advisable to deal with such circumstances on a case by case basis. Some employees may wish to discuss options but some may not. Allowing an employee to die in service is not always the best financial option for the employee. It is strongly recommended that Head Teachers contact HR Advisers for guidance and support in such situations. Welfare visits are recommended at an early stage. 15. Equality The council is committed to managing attendance for disabled employees in line with their responsibilities under the Equality Act. This includes adjustments to triggers in certain circumstances and work place adjustments. Occupational guidance will usually be sought in these circumstances, and schools are advised to seek HR advice. 16. Exceptional Factors to be considered at Stage 3 At the stage three meeting, consideration will be taken of any exceptional factors for the individual employee when making the decision of whether or not to refer to a hearing. Exceptional factors are: If an employee has been in the formal absence procedure for less than twelve months, the previous two years of attendance will be taken into account. If in those two years, the Council s annual absence target of 8 days per year has not been exceeded Where an employee s absence record is a single period of absence due to planned (nonelective) surgery or other case of hospitalisation Where an employee has a disability and their attendance has worsened (by reason of that disability). In such cases the targets can be personalised as an agreed reasonable adjustment Where an employee may be suffering from a condition which has restrictions concerning return to work (e.g. health and hygiene regulations provide guidance concerning return to food preparation work following gastric conditions) Where an employee has an acceptable attendance record (as defined in the first example above) but sustains a H&S verified and isolated injury at work preventing them from attending work Where an employee has a limited life expectancy 4

7 Appendix A Sample Letter Invite to Stage 1 Review Meeting Re: Stage 1 Review Meeting Improving Attendance Procedure If long term: I was sorry to hear about your ongoing absence from work. I am writing to invite you to attend a meeting with me on DATE at TIME, which will be held at xxxxx School. The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss your sickness record as you have met the pre-determined sickness triggers operated by the Authority and to determine whether any further action is required under the School s Procedure for Improving Attendance. The periods of sickness absence that will be referred to during the meeting are: xxxxx If long term: If you would prefer the meeting to take place at your home address or at the Council Offices in Oldham, please contact me and this can be arranged. You are entitled if you so wish, to be accompanied at this meeting by either a trade union representative or a work colleague. If you are unable to attend this meeting for any reason, please contact me on the number below. The Council operates an Employee Assistance Programme should you feel that you would benefit from this confidential counselling service. The number to ring is A copy of Improving Attendance for Staff Employed under the Purview of School Governing Body is enclosed for your information. 5

8 Appendix B Sample Letter Outcome of Stage 1 Review Meeting Re: Stage 1 Review Meeting Improving Attendance Procedure I write following our meeting on DATE. You were accompanied at the meeting by X / you were not accompanied but agreed to continue the meeting without representation. Your absence record was discussed as you have met the predetermined triggers of 8 days absence / three occasions of absence / Six weeks continuous absence in a twelve month period, as detailed in the Improving Attendance Policy which has been adopted by your school. Notes to record discussion: reasons for absence relevant treatments employees views on their health and overall attendance record expectations for return to work expectation of future absences support offered agreed next steps The reason for the meeting was to explain that the genuineness of your absence is not questioned but that the level of your absence is causing concern and has hit the triggers for formal monitoring. This is the first stage in a formal process. Should you have two instances of absence / 8 working days / a further six weeks of continuous absence in the next twelve months, you will progress to the second stage in this process, although hopefully this will not be the case. If you have any concerns in relation to this letter, or believe that any of the details it contains are inaccurate, please do not hesitate to contact me. 6

9 Appendix C Sample Letter Invite to Stage 2 Review Meeting Re: Stage 2 Review Meeting Improving Attendance Procedure I am writing to invite you to attend a Stage 2 meeting with me on DATE at TIME, which will be held at XX School. (If long term: If you would prefer the meeting to take place at your home address or at the Council Offices in Oldham, please contact me and this can be arranged.) (If long term: May include reference to receipt of Occupational Health report) Since we met for the Stage 1 meeting on DATE, you have been absent for a further eight days / on two further occasions / for a further six weeks continuously which triggers the next stage in the process. The periods of sickness absence that will be referred to during the meeting are: Dates of further absences You are entitled if you so wish, to be accompanied at this meeting by either a trade union representative or a work colleague. If you are unable to attend the meeting for any reason, please contact me on the number below. The Council operates an Employee Assistance Programme should you feel that you would benefit from this confidential counselling service. The number to ring is If you have any questions in relation to this letter please contact me on the number below 7

10 Appendix D Sample Letter Outcome of Stage 2 Review Meeting Re: Stage 2 Review Meeting Improving Attendance Procedure I write following our meeting on DATE. You were accompanied at the meeting by X / you were not accompanied but agreed to continue the meeting without representation. Your absence record was discussed as you have met the predetermined triggers of 8 days absence / two further occasions of absence / a further six weeks continuous absence in a twelve month period, as detailed in the Improving Attendance Procedure adopted by your school. Notes to record discussion: reasons for further absence relevant treatments employees views on their health and overall attendance record expectations for return to work expectation of future absences support offered / undertaken agreed next steps The reason for the meeting was to remind you that the genuineness of your absence is not questioned but that the level of your absence continues to cause concern and necessitates formal monitoring. This is the second stage in the formal process. Should you have one more instance of absence / 8 further working days / a further six weeks of continuous absence in the next twelve months, you will progress to the third stage in this process. At that point a decision will be taken whether or not to progress to a Hearing with Governors at the school, the outcome of which may be that you are dismissed from your post with notice on the grounds of capability (ill health) / some other substantial reason i.e., persistent ill health absences. If you have any questions in relation to this letter, please do not hesitate to contact me. 8

11 Appendix E Sample Letter Invite to Stage 3 Review Meeting Re: Stage 3 Review Meeting Improving Attendance Procedure I am writing to invite you to attend a Stage 3 meeting with me on DATE at TIME, which will be held at XX School. (If long term: If you would prefer the meeting to take place at your home address or at the Council Offices in Oldham, please contact me and this can be arranged.) (If long term: May include reference to receipt of Occupational Health report) Since we met for the Stage 2 meeting on DATE, you have been absent for a period of eight days or more / on a further occasion / for a further six weeks continuously which has triggered the next stage in the process. The absences that will be referred to at the meeting are: Dates of further absences You are entitled if you so wish, to be accompanied at this meeting by either a trade union representative or a work colleague. If for any reason you are unable to attend this meeting, please contact me on the number below. You should have already received a copy of the Improving Attendance Procedure for Schools as adopted by your school. If you have not, or if you have misplaced the first copy and would like a new one, please do not hesitate to contact me. The Council operates an Employee Assistance Programme should you feel that you would benefit from this confidential counselling service. The number to ring is If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. 9

12 Appendix F Sample Letter Outcome of Stage 3 Review Meeting Re: Stage 3 Review Meeting Improving Attendance Procedure I write following our meeting on DATE. You were accompanied at the meeting by X / you were not accompanied but agreed to continue the meeting without representation. Your absence record was discussed as you have met the predetermined triggers of 8 days absence / a further occasion of absence / a further six weeks continuous absence in a twelve month period, as detailed in the Improving Attendance Procedure adopted by your school. Notes to record discussion: reasons for further absence relevant treatments employees views on their health and overall attendance record expectations for return to work expectation of future absences support offered / undertaken consideration of exceptional factors agreed next steps The reason for the meeting was to explain that the genuineness of your absence is not questioned but that the level of your absence is continuing to cause concern and to necessitate formal monitoring. This is the third and final stage in the formal process. EITHER As discussed, a recommendation has been made to progress to a Hearing with Governors at the school, the outcome of which may be that you are dismissed from your post with notice on the grounds of capability (ill health) / some other substantial reason i.e., persistent absences. You will be notified of the date and will receive supporting documentation. If you choose not to attend, the Hearing may still take place in your absence. OR As discussed, having taken into account the exceptional factors in your case, a decision has been taken to repeat the final stage of the monitoring. Should you hit the triggers on a further occasion of absence / eight working days / a further six weeks continued absence in the next twelve months, the Stage 3 Meeting will be reconvened. If you have any questions in relation to this letter please contact me on the number below 10

13 Appendix G Sample Letter Invite to Hearing RE Meeting of the Governing Body Discipline and Dismissals Committee to consider Ill Health (incapability) / Persistent Ill health absence I am writing to inform you that a meeting of the above Committee of XX School has been convened in order that consideration can be given to the details of your sickness absence from work. The purpose of the meeting is for the Committee to decide whether it is reasonable to continue to manage your absence or to give you notice to terminate your contract on the grounds of ill health (capability) / some other substantial reason, i.e. your frequent absences from work. The meeting will be held on DATE at TIME at VENUE. You may be present in order to respond to the case and / or you may be represented by your trade union representative or a work based colleague. If you do not attend the meeting, it may still take place in your absence. I will present the case to the panel of Governing Body members, (accompanied by XXX, Head Teacher.) and the panel will be advised by an HR Adviser. The panel will consist of Governors from the Discipline and Dismissals Committee. I enclose copies of the documents that will be presented to the Governors in support of the management case. I do not intend to call any witnesses in support of the management case / I have invited the Head to provide evidence of the impact that your absence/s has had on the school. If you wish to submit any documentation, you should let me have a copy by DATE prior to the meeting. Similarly if you intend to call witnesses please let me know the names of those who will attend. If you have any questions or wish to discuss any aspect of this letter please feel free to contact me. 11

14 Appendix H Improving Attendance for Staff employed under the purview of Governing Body Conduct of Hearings The Employee will have been notified, in advance and in writing, of the details of the Hearing and the right to representation Those present will be as follows: The Nominated Officer (which may be the Head teacher, or a Governor normally drawn from the Discipline and Dismissals Committee); A Local Authority Representative (normally a Senior HR Adviser) as Adviser to the Panel; The Manager/HR Adviser presenting the case; The Employee (and Representative) Witnesses may be called and will be in the Hearing for the duration of their involvement only. The Hearing 1. The Nominated Officer will introduce all parties and outline the process. They will explain that the objective of the Hearing is for impartial consideration to be given to all information presented and for a decision to be made, which may include disciplinary action and/or the termination of employment. 2. The Manager/HR Adviser will present the case and may call witnesses. a. The Nominated Officer and the Local Authority Representative may ask questions of the Manager/HR Adviser and any witnesses. b. The Employee and/or Representative may ask questions of the Manager/HR Adviser and any witnesses. 3. The Employee and/or Representative may respond and may call witnesses. a. The Nominated Officer and the Local Authority Representative may ask questions of the Employee/Representative and any witnesses. b. The Manager/HR Adviser may ask questions of the Employee /Representative and any witnesses. 4. The Manager/HR Adviser may sum up 5. The Employee/Representative may sum up 6. All exit the room with the exception of the Nominated Officer and the Local Authority Representative 7. The Nominated Officer considers the evidence and makes a decision. During the decisionmaking process, the other parties may be recalled in order to provide clarification. 8. The Employee/Representative and the Manager/HR Adviser are re-called, informed of the decision and any right of appeal (in any case where the decision involves a disciplinary penalty or the termination of employment). 9. The decision and the right of appeal are confirmed in writing within 5 working days of the Hearing. 12

15 Appendix I Sample Letter Outcome of Hearing - Dismissal RE: Hearing Ill Health (capability) / Some Other Substantial Reason, i.e., Persistent Absence I am writing to confirm the outcome of the Hearing held at the school on DATE. Chair of Governors chaired the hearing. I was present in an advisory capacity. SHRA presented the case (and Head Teacher also attended). You were accompanied by XX / not able to attend in person. The hearing was convened in order to consider your absence/s from work and whether it was reasonable for management to continue to manage your absence/s or to give you notice of the termination of your employment. The panel listened very carefully to all of the information provided which included medical advice from Occupational Health and details of your absence history. Your own evidence was considered which provided an update on the current medical position. Taking everything into consideration, the panel felt that there was no alternative but to terminate your employment on the grounds of ill health (capability) / SOSR persistent absence. You are contractually entitled to receive X weeks notice on full pay and therefore the effective date of termination of your employment will be DATE. If SOSR: You will be expected to remain in work during your notice period. On behalf of the school, I would like to add that this was a very difficult and regrettable decision to have to make and that it was not reflective of your conduct or performance whilst you were at work. It was solely related to the current ongoing absence from school, the record of absence and the unknown date of any possible return. You do have the right to appeal against this decision. Should you wish to do so then you should write directly to the Chair of Governors c/o x School within 14 calendar days of receipt of this letter. Finally, I would like to wish you all the very best for the future and I hope that your health improves in the coming months. 13

16 Appendix J Improving Attendance for Staff employed under the purview of Governing Body - Appeal Hearings Preliminaries Following receipt of any Appeal, the Employee will be notified, in advance and in writing, of the details of the Appeal Hearing and the right to representation. No party involved in making the original decision may be invited to hear the Appeal. Those present will be as follows: 14 The Chair of Governors (known as the Appeal Officer) or an Appeal Panel (2 members of governors normally drawn from the Discipline and Dismissals Committee). An HR Adviser (or Local Authority Representative in all Community School cases) advising the Appeal Panel The Employee (and Representative) The Appeal Hearing The Nominated Officer Witnesses may be called and will be in the Appeal Hearing for the duration of their involvement only. 1. The Appeal Officer/ Appeal Panel Chair will introduce the parties and outline process. They will explain that an Appeal is an opportunity for the employee to specify the reason/s why the original decision is felt to be unfair, and to have consideration given to this information, and a decision made as to outcome. 2. The Employee and/or Representative will specify the reasons for the Appeal and may call witnesses. a. The Appeal Officer, any Appeal Panel member and the Local Authority Representative may ask questions of the Employee/ Representative and any witnesses. b. The Nominated Officer may ask questions of the Employee/Representative and any witnesses 3. The Nominated Officer responds, giving the reasons for the original decision, and may call witnesses. a. The Appeal Officer, any Appeal Panel member and the Local Authority Representative may ask questions of the Nominated Officer and any witnesses b. The Employee/Representative may ask questions of the Nominated Officer and any witnesses. 4. The Nominated Officer may sum up 5. The Employee/Representative may sum up 6. All exit the room with the exception of the Appeal Officer, or Appeal Panel, and the Local Authority Representative. 7. The Appeal Officer, or Appeal Panel, considers the evidence and makes a decision. During the decision-making process, the other parties may be recalled in order to provide clarification. 8. The Employee and Representative and the Nominated Officer are recalled and informed of the decision 9. The decision is confirmed in writing within 5 working days. 10. There is no further right of appeal

17 Appendix K Sample Letter No contact from employee Re: Improving Attendance Procedure absence from work The school takes its duty of care to employees very seriously and is worried about your health and well being. I am very concerned that you have not reported for work since and that you have made no contact with anyone at the school in respect of this absence. X has left messages asking you to contact the school, but with no response to date. Please make contact me at your first opportunity, to let me know how you are. You will also be asked to provide your reason for absence, anticipated date of return and relevant sickness certification. FOLLOW UP RE: Improving Attendance Procedure continued absence from work and failure to contact I write further to my letter on.which requested that you contact at the school as soon as possible to update me with regard to your current absence from work. Since then you have remained absent and have made no contact with school management. It is important for you to understand that this is a serious situation. If you have not made contact as requested by a decision may need to be taken to suspend your pay and to register you as absent from work without permission. I look forward to hearing from you in the next few days. 15

18 Appendix L Sample letter No certification, when previous certification received I write further to your absence from work due to ill health. It has come to my notice that your last sick note expired on.. And that we have received no further confirmation of any incapacity. You will be aware that it is necessary that you provide timely certification for the whole of your absence if you are to remain in receipt of sickness absence payments. If you remain unwell please send appropriate certification by return. If I do not receive such certification by it will be necessary to suspend all payments to you under the scheme and you will be registered as absent from work without permission. 16

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