ABSENCE MANAGEMENT (STAFF)

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1 OAKBANK SCHOOL POLICY DOCUMENT ABSENCE MANAGEMENT (STAFF) Prepared by (member of staff): Samantha Calvert, Director of Resources Approved by Governing Body Sub- Committee: Date: December 2013 Date: Consultative & Personnel Committee Ratified by Full Governing Body: Date: 7 January 2014 Signed off by Chair of Governing Body: Jan Firth Date: 7 January 2014 Reviewed and approved by Governors Page 1

2 1 Introduction 1.1 This procedure describes the steps Oakbank School will take to support the attendance of all staff and to manage sickness absence. It consists of a series of stages at which staff will be encouraged through advice and guidance to maintain their pattern of attendance to an acceptable standard. Senior staff will be available at all times to support this seeking advice, guidance and training. 2 Absence Reporting 2.1 An employee who is absent from work due to sickness or for other reasons, must make contact with the Staff Services Coordinator (Carol Sanderson), by telephone (text messages and s will not be accepted) on for Teachers and for Support Staff and provide the following: dates of his/her absence; the reasons for the absence; its likely duration and any work commitments that need to be rearranged. 2.2 If the message has to be left on an answer phone and confidentiality may be an issue for the employee then brief details only should be left and the employee will be contacted by the Staff Services Co-ordinator for further information. 2.3 Employees should contact the Staff Services Co-ordinator by 7.30 am for teachers and by 8.00 am for support staff. If the absence extends beyond the original notified period, this process of notification should be repeated at the end of each notified period so that continuity of cover may be maintained. 2.4 On return to work, all staff are required to contact the Staff Services Co-ordinator by 7.30 am for teachers and by 8.00 am for support staff and complete a self-certification form for any period of sickness absence up to and including seven calendar days. It is the employee s responsibility to complete the form and return it to Finance. 2.5 If the sickness lasts longer than seven calendar days, he/she must forward medical Certificates provided by a registered medical practitioner. These should cover all of the subsequent period of absence. 2.6 Failure to comply with the above reporting requirements may result in the delay or suspension of pay, and disciplinary action may be taken. Pay will only be reinstated upon receipt of a self and/or medical certificate for the period in question. 2.7 If the Headteacher sends an employee home from work, the day will not normally be classed as sickness absence. This period may be extended to 48 hours if food hygiene or other workplace regulations require the absence of the employee. If the employee subsequently remains absent because of sickness, normal reporting arrangements should apply. 2.8 No employee should return to work whilst unfit to do so. If a member of staff feels able to return to work prior to the expiry of a medical note, he/she must contact their GP for a medical note stating they are fit to return. Advice and support will be available at all times. 2.9 In the event that an employee feels unwell whilst at work, they must advise their line manager of the situation. The line manager may advise the employee to go home (ensuring that they are fit to drive etc) and the Staff Services Co-ordinator must then Reviewed and approved by Governors Page 2

3 be contacted to arrange any necessary cover. The employee must then sign out of school Attendance at emergency medical consultations or out-patient clinics, during normal working hours, will be considered as authorised leave, not sickness absence, where evidence of the appointment is provided Authorisation will not be given for routine appointments, such as doctors, dentists, opticians etc as these should be made outside of contact hours. Every effort should be made to make out-patient and other appointments outside of contact hours, and evidence of this will be required before any authorisation will be given for absence within core hours. All requests will need to be accompanied by evidence of the appointment whether inside or outside of contact hours. 3 Short Term Absence 3.1 A short term absence is defined as any absence due to sickness which is less than 20 days in duration. In summary there are four phases in the management of short term sickness absence. Further clarification of what happens at each stage is noted below: STAGE 1 Return to Work Discussion - a continual management monitoring and review process that applies to all staff. STAGE 2 Formal Sickness Absence Review Meeting a meeting once unsatisfactory attendance triggers have been reached. The purpose of the review will be to encourage and support staff to develop and maintain regular attendance. The limits must not be considered as a sickness absence entitlement. The trigger point referred to above is: 4 periods of absence or 12 (FTE) days of absence in a rolling 12-month period (or a pro-rata of the number of days (not number of absences) for part-time staff working less than 5 days) and/or; A pattern of absence which is causing concern, for example, regular Friday or Monday absences or absences regularly occurring on a particular day of the week. STAGE 3 Further Formal Sickness Absence Review Meeting a further meeting if attendance targets have not been met. The purpose of the review will be to encourage and support staff to develop and maintain regular attendance. STAGE 4 Medical Capability Hearing - a medical capability hearing in accordance with the absence procedure as one possible outcome of Stage STAGE 1 Return to Work Discussion A return to work discussion will take place between an SLT representative and the member of staff after any period of sickness absence of one or more days. The discussion is intended as a support mechanism and is a cornerstone of the policy. This discussion must take place within three working days of the return to work. Ideally it should be held on the day the member of staff returns to work. The discussion should, wherever possible, be on a face-to-face basis. The discussion will be supportive in nature, be confidential and be conducted with the purpose of: Reviewed and approved by Governors Page 3

4 Acknowledging the employee s return to work and showing that it is valued. Confirming that the employee is fit to return. Allowing the employee to voice any concerns they may have. Providing advice and support. Checking if any help or workplace adjustments are needed. Ensuring that the absence is properly certificated. Alerting the employee if he/she is in danger of exceeding the acceptable levels of absence The information obtained should be used to set objectives and as a basis for future actions All records must remain confidential and will be retained on the employee s personal file and a copy should also be given to the employee. A simple pro-forma is available to record return to work discussions. 3.3 STAGE 2 Formal Sickness Absence Review Meeting When an employee has reached the trigger point as detailed above an SLT representative will arrange a Sickness Absence Review Meeting. This may not be necessary in exceptional circumstances (see paragraph below for details) An SLT representative will write to the employee to request his/her attendance at the meeting. The letter will emphasise the supportive nature of the meeting and remind the member of staff that s/he may be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague. At the meeting the SLT representative will: Inform the employee that his/her level of absence is causing concern; Remind the employee of the trigger points for absence; Show the employee his/her pattern of absence; Establish the reason for the absences with a view to improving attendance; Offer advice, guidance and support; Encourage the employee to seek advice from his/her GP if appropriate; Confirm the above in writing with action points to improve attendance The Sickness Absence Review Meeting will be at the discretion of the SLT representative and may not be essential in the following situations: if it is known that the employee has been in hospital; if the employee is undergoing post operative recuperation; if the employee is attending an out-patients clinic The possible outcomes of the Absence Review Meeting will be: Continue to monitor and set attendance targets; Refer to Occupational Health/ask for GP/Consultant report. If this is requested, a further meeting will be arranged to discuss the contents of the Occupational Health/GP/Consultant report; Initiate workplace adaptations; Issue written warning (allowing employee the right of appeal). The above list of options may not be exhaustive and they need not be mutually exclusive. Two or more of the options may be used either in sequence or in tandem. SLT are encouraged to be constructive and creative in finding solutions. Reviewed and approved by Governors Page 4

5 3.3.6 An HR representative may be asked to attend the meeting to support the process If the employee has achieved and maintained the required standard after this meeting, he/she will be commended on the improvement. No further action will be taken provided the required standard is maintained. In all cases, discretion will be used when considering all the circumstances. 3.4 STAGE 3 Further Formal Absence Review Meeting If attendance targets set at Stage 2 have not been met during the monitoring period this will be referred to the Headteacher and a Further Formal Absence Review Meeting may be requested The Headteacher (or appointed deputy) will write to the employee to request his/her attendance at the meeting. The letter will emphasise the supportive nature of the meeting and remind the member of staff that s/he may be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague. At the meeting the Headteacher (or appointed deputy) will: Inform the employee that his/her level of absence is still causing concern; Show the employee his/her pattern of absence; Establish the reason for the absences with a view to improving attendance; Offer advice, guidance and support; Encourage the employee to seek advice from his/her GP if appropriate; Confirm the above in writing with action points to improve attendance The Sickness Absence Review Meeting will be at the discretion of the Headteacher (or appointed deputy and may not be essential in the following situations: If it is known that the employee has been in hospital; If the employee is undergoing post-operative recuperation; If the employee is attending an out-patients clinic The possible outcomes of this Absence Review Meeting will be: Continue to monitor and set further attendance targets; Refer to Occupational Health/ask for GP/Consultant report. If this is requested, a further meeting will be arranged to discuss the contents of the Occupational Health/GP/Consultant report; Initiate workplace adaptations; Issue a final written warning (allowing employee the right of appeal). The above list of options may not be exhaustive and they need not be mutually exclusive. Two or more of the options may be used either in sequence or in tandem. The Headteacher is encouraged to be constructive and creative in finding solutions A HR representative will attend the meeting to support the process If the employee has achieved and maintained the required standard after this meeting, he/she will be commended on the improvement. No further action will be taken provided the required standard is maintained. In all cases, discretion will be used when considering all the circumstances. Reviewed and approved by Governors Page 5

6 3.5 STAGE 4 Medical Capability Hearing The Headteacher will arrange a medical capability hearing where the required standard of attendance has not been achieved and all other possibilities have been explored The Headteacher will write to the employee to request his/her attendance at the meeting. The letter will inform the employee that a possible outcome of the meeting could be their dismissal on the grounds of medical capability and remind the member of staff that s/he may be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague. At the meeting the following will be discussed: Why the level of absence is still unacceptable/of concern; The reason for the absences; Any reports provided by Occupational Health or the employee s GP/Consultant; Any adaptations that have been made as a result of such reports; Any mitigating circumstances that have led to the level of absence; That a potential outcome of the meeting could be their dismissal The possible outcomes of the Medical Capability Meeting will be: Continue to monitor; Further referral to Occupational Health/ask for further GP/Consultant report. If this is requested, a further meeting will be arranged to discuss the contents of the Occupational Health/GP/Consultant report; Initiate workplace adaptations; Dismissal of the employee on the grounds of Medical Capability (allowing employee the right of appeal) An HR representative will attend the meeting to support the process. 4. Long Term Absence 4.1 Any absence exceeding 20 consecutive working days is considered long term. If contact with the employee has not been maintained during the period of absence the employee must be contacted when their period of absence reaches 20 working days. The purpose of the contact will be to arrange a meeting, preferably at work or at the employee s home if necessary. The Head Teacher is responsible for ensuring that this contact is made and will appoint a link person to carry out this function. 4.2 The employee should be assured of the reasons for the meeting are: to enquire after his/her health; to consider possible support strategies; to establish the likely length of absence; to establish whether referral to Occupation Health is required; to identify any possible long-term effect on capability in relation to job performance and attendance at work. The employee may be accompanied at this meeting by a trade union representative or a work colleague. 4.3 In all cases the absence will be kept under further review and the Headteacher or nominated officer will contact the employee on a regular basis (as agreed with the employee). The purpose of this contact will be as described above. Reviewed and approved by Governors Page 6

7 4.4 The employee should also be reminded of the availability of confidential counselling and Occupational Health support. The opportunity could also be taken to bring the employee up to date with developments at work. 4.5 If medical advice is required in order to assist the employee s return to work or to establish his/her capability for work s/he should be referred to Occupational Health for advice through HR. The employee will be advised of his/her rights under the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988, prior to this and any subsequent referral. When the report is received it will be discussed with the employee who should be advised what action may be taken. 4.6 A referral to Occupational Health and/or a request for a report from the employee s GP/Consultant may be made at any time during the absence. The purpose of the referral will be to assess the likelihood of his/her return to work and to seek advice on any action that could be taken to facilitate a return. In each case all practical steps will be taken to assist the employee to return. 4.7 Following the receipt of medical advice a meeting will be arranged at a mutually convenient location. The employee will be given at least five working days prior notice in writing of the time and place of the meeting. He/she should be advised that the purpose of the meeting is to discuss the medical advice and its implications. S/he should also be advised of the right to be accompanied by a trade union representative or a fellow work colleague. 4.8 The medical opinion and the proposed course of action will be discussed with the employee. Depending upon the circumstances, this could include: Phased return to work (see note 1 below); Reasonable adjustments; Attempted redeployment within school under the school s redeployment procedure; Referral to a medical capability hearing; Consideration of ill health retirement. 4.9 The outcome of the meeting will be confirmed in writing to the employee. Note 1: A phased return to work may be agreed at the Head Teacher s discretion. The phasing will normally be over a period of up to 20 working days but this can be extended in exceptional circumstances if recommended following an occupational health assessment. The employee will receive full pay during the period of phased return. Note 2: The above list of options in 4.8 above may not be exhaustive and they need not be mutually exclusive. Two or more of the options may be used either in sequence or in tandem. Head teachers are encouraged to be constructive and creative in finding solutions If having considered the above, there is a reasonable prospect of the employee returning to work within a reasonable time frame then support should continue to be given up to the point of return (and beyond if necessary) If it appears that the employee will be unable to return to work during a reasonable time frame a further referral to occupational health should take place and the steps outlined above should be repeated once more If after any of the review meetings it is determined that there is no reasonable prospect of a return to work, the employee should be informed that their level of sickness Reviewed and approved by Governors Page 7

8 absence cannot be sustained and that they will be referred to a medical capability hearing. 5 Medical Capability Hearing 5.1 The Headteacher will arrange a medical capability hearing where there appears to be no likelihood of a return to work within a reasonable period of time and ill-health retirement is not recommended. 5.2 The Headteacher will write to the employee to request his/her attendance at the meeting. The letter will inform the employee that a possible outcome of the meeting could be their dismissal on the grounds of medical capability and remind the member of staff that s/he may be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague. At the meeting the following will be discussed: Any reports provided by Occupational Health or the employee s GP/Consultant; Any adaptations that have been made as a result of such reports; Any alternative options other than dismissal; That a potential outcome of the meeting could be their dismissal. 5.3 The possible outcomes of the Medical Capability Meeting will be: Continue to monitor; Further referral to Occupational Health/ask for further GP/Consultant report. If this is requested, a further meeting will be arranged to discuss the contents of the Occupational Health/GP/Consultant report; Initiate workplace adaptations; Dismissal of the employee on the grounds of Medical Capability (allowing employee the right of appeal). 5.4 An HR representative will attend the meeting to support the process. 6. Occupational Health Referrals/GP/Consultant Reports 6.1 As mentioned above, an employee may be referred to an occupational health practitioner and/or may be asked for consent under the Access to Medical Reports Act to seek further clarification on the medical condition from their GP or consultant. This level of advice and information from a medical practitioner will be particularly important where consideration is given to alternative duties (either temporary or permanent) and in cases where the Equality Act may apply. A meeting will always be arranged with the employee when the medical report is received and any action to be taken will depend upon the report. 7. Disciplinary Process 7.1 The School reserves the right to deal with absence issues under the Disciplinary Procedure in the following circumstances (please note that these are not exhaustive): Where there is a reasonable belief that absences are not the result of ill health/injury; Where the employee has not followed medical advice with regards to their condition and this has resulted in further or prolonged absences. Reviewed and approved by Governors Page 8

9 ALL OTHER TYPES OF ABSENCE ARE DEALT WITH UNDER SEPARATE POLICIES INCLUDING: 1. Maternity/Paternity/Parental Leave 2. Compassionate Leave 3. Illness of immediate family members 4. Other emergency leave 5. Jury Service 6. Governing Body membership Reviewed and approved by Governors Page 9

10 Appendix A Summary of Short Term Sickness Management Stages No no further action Stage 1- Return to work interview Has a trigger been met? Yes Stage 2 Formal Sickness Review Meeting to be held Stage 2 Formal Sickness absence Review Meeting Attendance targets met? Possible Outcomes: Continue to monitor and set attendance targets Refer to Occupational Health/ask for GP/Consultant report. If this is requested, a further meeting will be arranged to discuss the contents of the Occupational Health/GP/Consultant report. Initiate workplace adaptations Issue written warning (allowing employee the right of appeal) Yes no further formal action may continue informal monitoring No Stage 3 Formal Sickness Review Meeting to be held Stage 3 Formal Sickness absence Review Meeting Attendance targets met? Possible Outcomes: Continue to monitor and set attendance targets Refer to Occupational Health/ask for GP/Consultant report. If this is requested, a further meeting will be arranged to discuss the contents of the Occupational Health/GP/Consultant report. Initiate workplace adaptations Issue final written warning (allowing employee the right of appeal) Yes no further formal action may continue informal monitoring No Stage 4 Medical Capability Hearing to be held Stage 4 Medical Capability Hearing Possible Outcomes: Continue to monitor and set attendance targets Refer to Occupational Health/ask for GP/Consultant report. If this is requested, a further meeting will be arranged to discuss the contents of the Occupational Health/GP/Consultant report. Initiate workplace adaptations Dismissal of the employee on the grounds of Medical Capability (allowing employee the right of appeal) Reviewed and approved by Governors Page 10

11 Appendix B Summary of Long Term Sickness Management Stages Employee absent for 20+ working days Arrange meeting with employee to discuss: his/her health, possible support strategies, the likely length of absence whether referral to Occupation Health is required and any possible long-term effect on capability in relation to job performance and attendance at work If referral to Occupational Health is made Arrange further meeting with employee to discuss the medical opinion and the proposed course of action which could include: Phased return to work Reasonable adjustments Attempted redeployment within school under the school s redeployment procedure. Referral to a medical capability hearing Consideration of ill health retirement If referral is made to a Medical Capability Hearing Possible Outcomes: Continue to monitor and set attendance targets Refer to Occupational Health/ask for GP/Consultant report. If this is requested, a further meeting will be arranged to discuss the contents of the Occupational Health/GP/Consultant report. Initiate workplace adaptations Dismissal of the employee on the grounds of Medical Capability (allowing employee the right of appeal) Reviewed and approved by Governors Page 11

12 Appendix C Access to Counselling Service The school subscribes to a confidential telephone counselling service which is available 24 hours a day 365 days a year and is accessible for all members of staff. The service is provided by a team of qualified telephone counsellors and the service is a British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy Accredited Service. They can provide support on a range of personal, lifestyle and work related issues including, but not limited to: Emotional issues including anxiety, stress, depression, low self esteem Family and relationship issues Marital and relationship problems Work related issues including stress, workplace relationships, bullying and harassment Substance misuse or dependency Health, critical illness and bereavement Financial management, restructuring and/or debt related issues The team of qualified and experienced counsellors provide the telephone counselling and they are able to engage the caller in a therapeutic relationship and, where appropriate, to continue the contact over a period of time until the problem is resolved. The counsellors are skilled in assessing problems quickly to enable them to provide immediate and on-going therapy. Telephone number: You will be asked for the school s client number: Reviewed and approved by Governors Page 12

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