Sickness Management Policy

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1 Sickness Management Policy Human Resources UpdatedSept 2012 AJR/HR/Sickness Management Policy

2 1.0 PURPOSE 1.1 The University is committed to promoting the health, safety and welfare of its employees. The University aims to promote a positive attitude to good attendance and raise awareness of the effects of sickness absence on colleagues and service delivery. The University is committed where reasonable adjustments can be made to supporting employees with injuries or ill health to remain at work or return to work. 1.2 The University recognises that there are many different reasons for absence from work and the policies and procedures related to sickness absence are intended to provide support for employees during sickness and to monitor and manage absence. It is important that a consistent approach to managing sickness absence is adopted, providing support to staff, recognising individual circumstances whilst ultimately aiming to secure their return to work. 1.3 This policy applies to all staff and covers both short-term absence (a period or regular periods of absence of less than one month), long-term absence (any continuous period of one month or more) and periods when the employee is fit for work but there is additional health advice to be considered. 1.4 Staff should report any health issues which might have an effect on their ability to perform their normal scheduled duties including teaching, student contact, managing internal or external deadlines, attending meetings or factors which might lead to difficulties in maintaining normal contact with the Department, the University, or other work related contacts. In most cases potential difficulties caused by even minor illness can be mitigated by keeping the Department informed of developments. 2.0 RESPONSIBILITIES 2.1 The University aims to promote a positive attitude to good attendance and raise awareness of the effects of sickness absence on colleagues and service delivery. The University also has a responsibility to ensure its sick pay schemes are used appropriately and to provide a safe and healthy working environment. Accordingly, those with managerial and supervisory roles are responsible for ensuring that the University s policies and procedures relating to sickness absence are followed. 2.2 A summary of the responsibilities are provided below. (1) Members of staff - it is the responsibility of all employees to look after their own general health and, as far as possible, to minimise absence from work. They are expected to attend for work at the times required and maintain a satisfactory attendance record. When an employee falls sick and cannot attend work, he/she must notify the Head of Department (or nominated Departmental representative) as soon as possible on the first day of absence, normally within one hour of the designated start time. The employee should state the nature of the illness and, if possible, the expected return to work date. Employees who are off work for eight or more consecutive days, must provide a medical certificate (Statement of Fitness for Work) from the 8 th day onwards. The employee Sickness Management Policy April

3 should also keep the University updated with regards to their absence, particularly if they are off long-term sick. (2) Managers - managers are responsible for ensuring that all staff know their responsibilities if they are absent due to illness (example Departmental notification guidelines attached as Appendix A). Managers are also responsible for ensuring that the appropriate recording and reporting procedures are followed, monitoring the absence levels of their staff, maintaining contact with staff absent from work and carrying out return-to-work discussions where appropriate. Managers must consider information provided by the employee about their health including where relevant comments by the employee s GP in a medical certificate (Statement of Fitness for Work) and recommendations from Occupational Health. (3) Human Resources (HR) - HR records all absence on the HR system and can produce management information relating to absence to managers upon request. HR Advisers are available to support Departments on the management of cases and on procedures, as well as advising staff and arranging referrals to Occupational Health. Training on managing sickness absence will be provided by HR. All Departments have a link HR Adviser whom they can contact for advice and support. (4) Occupational Health - Occupational Health is concerned with how work and the work environment can affect people's health and how their health can affect their ability to do the job. The University s Occupational Health team offers advice to staff and managers on health issues related to work, and can offer physiotherapy and other specialist services as appropriate. The University's Occupational Health team includes a range of health and medical professionals who, liaising where necessary with other qualified medical practitioners, will develop an understanding of the extent of any health problems in order to provide advice and recommendations to the individual and to their manager for consideration. This can include recommending changes in working practices and environments that could impact on the employee s ability to carry out his/her job. 3.0 REPORTING PROCEDURE 3.1 When an employee falls sick he/she 1 must notify the Head of Department (or nominated Departmental representative) 2 as soon as possible on the first day of absence, but normally within one hour of his/her designated start time. Departments may wish to establish their own reporting procedures (example Departmental Notification Guidance detailed in Appendix A), which may require contact before the normal starting time. The local guidance should also identify a designated individual to inform, contact details and the method of communication which would normally be via phone. Managers should ensure this information is communicated to all staff and in particular new 1 Contact would normally be made by the individual but where this is not possible then a message should be conveyed to the Department by an individual (family member/friend) acting on their behalf. 2 The nominated Departmental representative would normally either be the immediate line manager or a designated contact within the Department. Sickness Management Policy April

4 starters. Any contact by the employee should state the nature of the illness and the expected return to work date (if known). Employees and Departments should agree appropriate contact periods. 3.2 Each employee should complete a University Self-Certification form if they are off sick between 1 and 7 days. If an employee is off sick for 8 or more consecutive days (inc. Saturday and Sunday), they must provide a medical certificate (Statement of Fitness to Work) from their General Practitioner or other authorised medical professional (e.g. consultant). The completed medical certificate (Statement of Fitness to Work) or self-certificate should be forwarded to the individual s line manager. 3.3 If an employee has reported in sick and is in receipt of sick pay or sickness benefit, he/she should not undertake any work duties. 4.0 RECORDING PROCEDURE 4.1 When a member of staff notifies his/her Department of absence due to illness the Department will immediately either complete Part A of the Absence Form (attached as Appendix B) or use the agreed Excel spreadsheet to notify the Payroll Office. This should be authorised by the appropriate line manager. The form or the Excel sheet should specify the nature of the illness. Where a medical certificate (Statement of Fitness to Work) is available the description provided by the GP or consultant should be used. Sickness absence information is sensitive personal data and will be treated accordingly. Upon the employee s return to work, Part B of the Absence Form (or appropriate Excel Spreadsheet) is completed by the Department notifying Payroll Office of his/her return to work. 4.2 Individuals and Departments should also record half-day absences that arise as a result of sickness. If the individual attends work in the morning and has to leave part way through the day this should be recorded as half a day s sickness absence using the normal reporting procedure. Additionally if an individual comes in later as a result of health reasons this should also be recorded as a half day. 4.3 It is essential that the recording procedure is completed accurately and the information passed to HR in order to ensure effective monitoring of absence and management of sick pay. 5.0 MONITORING PROCEDURE 5.1 In dealing with sickness absence, the University expects a consistent approach across different Departments and staff groups. The appropriate Departmental head or nominated representative should review the sickness records of employees after each period of absence to identify whether the periods are due to a related medical condition, whether there are any patterns and identify if any support is required. 5.2 In dealing with frequent short-term absence or long-term absence Heads of Department should consult their link HR Adviser regarding: possible involvement of the University s Occupational Health whether the illness may be work related patterns of absence Sickness Management Policy April

5 what steps may be taken to minimise the effects of the absence on operational efficiency e.g. temporary cover; and when and how contact with the employee might be appropriate 6.0 RETURN TO WORK DISCUSSION 6.1 Managers should, where appropriate, meet with employees prior to or on their return to work to discuss any relevant issues arising from the absence. This can include updating individuals on what has been happening during the absence, ascertaining whether the employee is fit to return to work, needs any further support, medical treatment, or work adjustments, and exploring any patterns of absence that cause concern. The return to work discussions should be based on the information provided on the Statement of Fitness to Work where one is provided. Return to work discussions should be viewed as a support mechanism for staff to identify potential issues relating to attendance and how these can be addressed. 6.2 It is good practice to consider conducting a return to work discussion with employees following any period of absence but where there have been three or more periods of absence in the previous six months or five or more periods of absence in the previous twelve months a return to work should be completed. These trigger points act as a guide and in some cases it may be appropriate to conduct more regular return to work discussions. 6.3 It is particularly important to conduct regular return to work discussions with individuals who have had frequent short-term absence and whose absence is being managed informally prior to potentially progressing to the formal capability procedure. 6.4 Relevant factors to take into account when considering whether or not to have a discussion with an employee include: the potential impact of the illness on the individual s fitness for work previous sickness absence record, including periods of good health in between is the illness work related? personal circumstances is the illness due to a disability or related to a disability? is the illness pregnancy-related? 6.5 The meeting should be carried out sympathetically, in private, by an appropriately trained manager or supervisor and should be aimed at confirming: whether there is an underlying problem of a work-related or domestic nature that may be affecting an employee s attendance record the cause of the absence whether the employee is now fully fit to carry out his/her duties what reasonable adjustments may be required in relation to information provided on the Statement of Fitness to Work whether further treatment is expected whether further absence is likely and the impact this may have on the employee s entitlement to sick pay Sickness Management Policy April

6 whether there is an underlying health problem that the employee is aware of, that may affect fitness for work whether there is any remedial action that can be taken to improve the employee s situation and hence the attendance record if disability related, what reasonable adjustments may be appropriate attendance expectations 6.6 Advice on the format of the discussion and possible options for resolution can be obtained from your link HR Adviser. 6.7 Any employee or manager with concerns regarding the return to work discussion should contact their link HR Adviser for advice. snew/ 6.8 A pro-forma Return to Work form is attached as Appendix C. 7.0 OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH REFERRAL 7.1 The University is committed to supporting individuals to remain at work or return to work. Where the manager needs to understand the implications of the employee s health / fitness to work or believes that the nature of the sickness absence has become serious, the employee should be referred to Occupational Health following advice from HR. Managers should ensure they explain the reason for the referral to the employee. A referral form attached as Appendix D should be forwarded to your HR Adviser who will forward on the referral to Occupational Health. 7.2 Where appropriate, an appointment with Occupational Health will be arranged. The employee will meet with the Occupational Health Adviser and should Occupational Health deem it necessary to seek a medical report from the individual's GP/Specialist then this will be discussed with the employee at the meeting in order to seek informed consent to the request. 7.3 The purpose of the referral is to establish some or all of the following: a prognosis of the employee s illness in terms of when he/she is likely to be fit to return to work whether adaptation of the job, working hours or environment might facilitate an early return to work an early indication of whether a return to any form of work is likely whether or not the employee has a disability whether or not there is a need for the University or Occupational Health to seek additional medical information from the employee s GP or Consultant whether an onward referral to a specialist e.g. physiotherapist or counsellor may be required whether a phased return to work may be applicable 7.4 In some instances it may be appropriate for an individual to have a phased return to work to allow an opportunity to adjust to returning to work, usually after a period of long-term sickness absence. A maximum of 4 weeks on a phased return (with or without temporary restrictions) is sufficient in the majority of cases. In cases of a phased return to work, a Phased Return to Work Plan (Appendix E) will be developed to outline the details of the return, Sickness Management Policy April

7 including agreed working patterns, any work restrictions and agreed timescales and outcomes. The plan will be signed off by the individual, Occupational Health and the line manager, and copied to the link HR Adviser. The first 4 weeks of the phased return will be paid at normal full pay. In respect of any further agreed extension of the phased return to work, payment will normally be granted at pro-rata to the hours worked. Any phased return expected to have a duration of more than 8 weeks should be progressed as a temporary amendment to contract to allow for the appropriate payment calculations. Managers should discuss any cases of phased return to work with the link HR Adviser to ensure the most appropriate arrangements are put in place. 7.5 The response from Occupational Health should be discussed with the employee. The manager, in conjunction with the link HR Adviser, should determine what options are available. 7.6 Employees have the opportunity to self refer to the University Counselling Service for further support. 8.0 DISABILITY AND RELATED ILLNESS 8.1 Where an employee is defined as disabled under the terms of the Equality Act 2010, the University will take all possible steps to seek proper medical advice, and will attempt to retain the employee either by making reasonable adjustments to the existing job or finding suitable alternative employment, where feasible. Further information is contained in the University s Disability Policy and Single Equality Scheme. 9.0 SICK PAY 9.1 Employees will be paid in accordance with the sick pay schemes detailed in their terms and conditions. In exceptional circumstances, a Head of Department may request an extension to an employee s sick pay once the contractual level has expired. Heads of Departments should consult their link HR Adviser in these circumstances for advice. Sickness Management Policy April

8 10.0 MANAGEMENT OF SHORT-TERM SICKNESS ABSENCE (IRREGULAR ATTENDANCE PROCEDURE) 10.1 This procedure is appropriate for employees who have high levels of shortterm sickness absence, either caused by related or unrelated health condition/s. This process is intended to facilitate discussions between the manager and individual employee to understand the basis for the absence, identify what support is required, clarify expectations and ultimately determine whether the individual is incapable of performing his/her role on the grounds of health. This is not a disciplinary sanction and the disciplinary route would only be adopted if there was found to be a breach of the Sickness Management Policy or it was determined that an individual had supplied fraudulent information Irregular attenders are those employees who incur frequent absences attributed mainly to comparatively minor ailments. Such staff are prevented by their absences from giving satisfactory service and if their attendance fails to improve after guidance, advice and, if necessary, warnings, they are liable to have their contract terminated on the grounds of lack of capability arising from unsatisfactory attendance. Each case must be judged on its merits, taking into account such facts as length of service, nature of duties and nature and duration of sicknesses. The procedure for dealing with irregular attendance is outlined in the following paragraphs INFORMAL PROCEDURE 11.1 The first stage is to establish the reasons for the absence, the likelihood of reoccurrence and what steps can be taken to improve attendance. This first stage would generally take the form of a return to work discussion. The manager should seek to: find out information relating to the absence outline to the employee his/her existing sickness absence record and clarify expectations in relation to attendance 11.2 The individual should be cautioned that if there is no improvement then he/she may be subject to formal action under the procedure as detailed below. Employees and managers should make a note of the meeting together with agreed objectives, expectations and timescales, using the standard pro-forma and ensuring both parties have a copy of the signed record FORMAL PROCEDURE 12.1 The formal procedure for academic staff will be in line with the guidance laid out in Statute 24 and accompanying ordinances and regulations If, despite return to work discussions including clarifying attendance requirements and notification of potential consequences, the attendance has failed to improve, then the case may progress to the formal stage. In considering whether to invoke the formal procedures, managers should ensure they have conducted regular return to work discussions, that the patterns of absence have been reviewed and that the individual has been made aware that unless their attendance improves that the case would progress to the formal procedure. The relevant HR Adviser should be consulted, by Sickness Management Policy April

9 management, at all stages under the formal procedure for advice on reviewing capability. As part of the formal procedure, if not before, the employee should be referred to Occupational Health in order to gain a medical assessment of the individual s fitness to work WRITTEN WARNING (CAPABILITY) 13.1 Where no improvement or insufficient improvement is made in the employee s attendance record, the Head of Department (or nominated representative) should write to the employee requiring him/her to attend a meeting to discuss his/her absence. The details of the absence/s should also be indicated. The employee should be advised that s/he has a right to be represented at the meeting by a Trade Union or a work colleague. In all formal cases a HR representative should advise on process and may be present to record the meeting The meeting should focus on the frequency and duration of the absence/s together with the implications for the Department The manager should also: clarify the process outline attendance expectations gather any relevant information relating to the absence/s discuss any feedback from Occupational Health identify any support required, including contact with the department during absence discuss any aspects that may facilitate the individuals return to work, including if necessary any reasonable adjustments confirm next steps, including periods of review 13.4 Notes should be taken of the meeting and the employee should be given every opportunity to explain the circumstances relating to the absence/s The written warning should provide details of the absence, the findings of the meeting, the improvement required in attendance and any relevant timescales. The letter will also note that further action under the irregular attendance procedure may be considered if there is no satisfactory improvement and will notify of the right of appeal. The written warning will remain active for 12 months It should be noted that the purpose of issuing warnings is not designed to punish or take sanctions against an employee but to try to bring about an improvement in the employee s attendance record to a satisfactory level and to provide support to assist the employee to achieve this. Before issuing a warning of any kind to an employee, advice should be sought from the link HR Adviser. Consideration should be given to the overall attendance record of the employee. Important factors in this process previous attendance record, together with any mitigating factors, including any personal or work-related problems. Sickness Management Policy April

10 14.0 FINAL WRITTEN WARNING (CAPABILITY) 14.1 If by the end of the first written warning review period, the required level of improvement in attendance has not been attained, a further meeting should be arranged and communicated in writing to the employee noting the right to representation from a work colleague or Trade Union representative. The meeting should follow the format as outlined above including any barriers to improvement. If appropriate a final written warning should be issued. This will give details of the attendance issues, the actions required and the relevant timescales. The letter will also warn that dismissal on the grounds of capability will be considered if there is no satisfactory improvement and detail the right of appeal. A final written warning will remain active for two years TERMINATING EMPLOYMENT ON THE GROUNDS OF CAPABILITY 15.1 If no improvement in short term sickness absence is demonstrated further to written warnings and all other opportunities have been exhausted, termination of employment under the University s Sickness Management Policy, or Statute 24 Part IV for academic and research staff, on the grounds of capability, may be considered The Head of Department will invite the individual to a meeting to discuss the absence/s. The invitation letter should include details of the absence/s and the employee should be notified that they have the right to be accompanied by a Trade Union Representative or work colleague. The letter will also note that as a consequence of the discussion the contract of employment may be terminated on the grounds of capability. This meeting will review attendance records, seek to explore whether all reasonable adjustments and opportunities have been explored and will review any medical advice from Occupational Health regarding the individual s capability to perform his/her duties Before considering termination the Head of Department should take into account: the nature, duration and effect of the employee s ill health as advised by Occupational Health the employee s previous sickness record and the impact of his/her absence on the business the representations made by the employee, work colleague or Trade Union Representative 15.4 If a decision to terminate on the grounds of capability is taken this should be confirmed in writing to the individual, stating the reason for dismissal, effective date of the dismissal and noting the right of appeal. Sickness Management Policy April

11 16.0 MANAGEMENT OF LONG-TERM SICKNESS 16.1 All cases of long-term sickness will be unique and the approach needs to give consideration to the nature of the illness and the likely duration. Some cases of long-term sickness may relate to a major operation where there is an understanding of recuperation timescales whilst other cases may be in relation to terminal illness. Managers should be sensitive to the individual circumstances The following underlying principles will apply, and managers should: keep in appropriate contact with the employee to gain information from the employee but also to update the employee to any relevant Departmental information. This may involve home visits, through prior agreement. set reasonable time limits for review and clarify organisational perspective ensure they have up-to-date medical evidence on the employee s health, future prognosis and how this will impact on his/her return to their role from Occupational Health consider what other possible solutions or adjustments that could be made to assist the individual to return e.g. reduced/flexible hours, different role consult with the employee and if appropriate their representative or link HR Adviser throughout 16.3 Managers considering a home visit should ensure they liaise with their link HR Adviser and no home visit should be undertaken by an unaccompanied manager If after considering the medical advice and all possible alternatives the employee is still unfit to return to work then it may be necessary to meet with the employee to discuss termination on the grounds of capability TERMINATION OF EMPLOYMENT ON GROUNDS OF CAPABILITY 17.1 Where the nature of an employee s illness means that suitable adjustments cannot be made to the existing job and redeployment has proved impossible within a reasonable time span, the remaining options are likely to be ill-health retirement or termination of employment under the University s Sickness Absence Management Procedure, or Statute 24 Part IV for academic and research staff on the grounds of capability If an individual is on long-term sick and all other opportunities have been exhausted, the Head of Department should invite the individual to a meeting to discuss the absence/s. The invitation letter should include details of the absence/s and the employee should be notified that they have the right to be accompanied by a Trade Union Representative or work colleague. The letter should also note that as a consequence of the discussion the individual may be terminated on the grounds of capability. This meeting will review attendance records, seek to explore whether all reasonable adjustments and opportunities have been explored and will review medical advice from Occupational Health regarding the individual s capability to perform his/her duties. In long-term sickness cases, it may be appropriate to provide an opportunity for the employee to consider the available options, including reasonable adjustments and likelihood of return to work and to reconvene the meeting at a pre-arranged date. Sickness Management Policy April

12 17.3 Before considering termination the Head of Department should take into account: the nature, duration and effect of the employee s ill health as advised by Occupational Health the employee s previous sickness record the impact of their absence on the business the representations made by the employee, work colleague or Trade Union Representative 17.4 If a decision to terminate on the grounds of capability is taken this should be confirmed in writing to the individual, stating the reason for dismissal, effective date of termination and noting the right of appeal ILL HEALTH RETIREMENTS 18.1 Ill health retirement should only be considered where a medical report suggests that the employee may have great difficulty in returning to work or will never be able to return. Ill health retirement is available to both UPS and USS members. There is no minimum age requirement USS offers two types of ill health retirement: 18.3 UPS Total (min of 5 yrs service with USS) - to qualify for a total incapacity pension you must be deemed in the long term to be unable to discharge the duties of any employment although it may be acceptable to perform some very limited duties with the approval of USS Ltd. Partial - this is where the employee is unable in the long term to perform their own job or any similar job, but may be able to undertake some other level of employment, whether or not such other employment is available. The Pensions Trustees will consider each case based on the medical evidence available. As with termination on the grounds of capability all other options must be explored before making an application for early retirement on the grounds of ill health. Managers should consult their link HR Adviser regarding Ill Health Retirement. All cases of ill health retirement will be considered by the trustees on a case by case basis Decisions relating to termination or possible ill health retirement will be made in the light of available medical evidence and following efforts to discuss the situation with the employee concerned. In any event termination of employment on the grounds of capability or ill health early retirement, in relation to long-term sickness cases, will not normally be effected before an employee has exhausted his/her sick pay allowance under the relevant sick pay scheme. Sickness Management Policy April

13 19.0 RIGHT OF APPEAL 19.1 An employee has the right of appeal against a written warning, final written warning or dismissal under this procedure. The appeal should be made in writing by the individual setting out the grounds for appeal, providing any evidence and addressed to the next level of seniority to the manager who gave the warning or dismissed (the contact details will be stated in the warning notification letter), copied to the relevant HR Adviser. The appeal must be lodged within 2 weeks of receipt of written notification of the decision. The employee will be advised of the proposed appeal hearing and the procedure to be adopted for the appeal by HR SICKNESS DURING ANNUAL LEAVE 20.1 An employee who falls sick during a period of annual leave must notify the Department in accordance with the normal sickness absence notification procedure and submit a medical certificate (Statement of Fitness to Work) to support the absence, in order to reclaim any annual leave. If any payment is required to obtain the Statement of Fitness to Work in relation to reclaiming annual leave, individuals will be expected to meet this cost themselves. The individual will be regarded as being sick from the date specified on the medical certificate and will be entitled to take the holiday at a later date after returning to work in accordance with the annual leave regulations or in liaison with their link HR Adviser in cases of long-term sick. Statutory and customary days cannot be reclaimed SICKNESS IMMEDIATELY PRECEDING OR FOLLOWING LEAVE 21.1 Staff may be required to produce a medical certificate for any sickness which occurs immediately before or after a statutory holiday, customary holiday or annual leave TIME OFF FOR MEDICAL APPOINTMENTS 22.1 Individuals who are required to attend medical appointments should ensure they notify their manager of the appointment as soon as possible to provide sufficient notice and seek authorisation. The University normally expects employees to arrange all medical, dental, optician and similar appointments outside normal working hours where possible. This is not always possible and the University will allow appropriate time off with pay for authorised appointments. Staff may be required to present evidence of the appointments RELATION TO OTHER POLICIES 23.1 The management of both short-term and long-term sickness absence follows the Sickness Management Policy in relation to informal and formal processes. The procedure is designed to facilitate employees return to work rather than act as a punitive measure. Individuals who breach the Sickness Management Policy or who are found to be submitting fraudulent information may be subject to the appropriate Disciplinary Procedure REVIEW 24.1 HR will provide advice and guidance and regularly review the Sickness Management Policy to ensure that it is effective in its aims of reducing Sickness Management Policy April

14 absence levels across the University as well as providing a consistent approach of dealing with absence IMPACT ASSESSMENT 25.1 The University of Warwick recognises its responsibility to ensure that no-one is discriminated against or disadvantaged, through membership of any particular group, or on the grounds of age, disability, gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation. For additional information please refer to the University s Equality and Diversity website This Policy has been assessed as being of high relevance to our duties under the anti-discrimination legislation, and the University will review its impact on equality and diversity, identify any inequalities by annual monitoring, and will take action where necessary. Sickness Management Policy April

15 Appendix A Appendix B Appendix C Appendix D Appendix E Pro-forma Departmental notification Procedure Part A and Part B Return to Work Pro-forma Occupational Health Referral Form Phased Return to Work Plan Sickness Management Policy April

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