Document Title Sickness Absence Management

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1 Document Title Sickness Absence Management Document Description Document Type Human Resources Policy Service Application Whole of Trust Version 1 Policy reference no. HR/2010/0007 Lead Author(s) Katharine Thompson Head of Human Resources Change History Version Control Version Date Comments 0.1 July 2008 Full review of policy 0.2 August 2008 Amendment following consultation 0.3 September 2008 Re-named policy following Workforce Committee 4/9/ September 2008 Amended following Staff Partnership Forum 9/9/ September 2008 Amended following Workforce Committee 11/9/ December 2009 Policy placed in New Trust policy format Final policy document ratified by Integrated Governance Committee ( ) Link with Standards for Better Health Domains Safety Clinical & Cost Effectiveness Governance C7(d), C9 Patient Focus Accessible & Responsive Care Care Environments & Amenities Public Health Key Dates Day Month Year Ratification Date Review Date

2 Executive Summary Sheet Document title : Sickness Absence Management Please tick ( ) as appropriate This is a new document within the Trust This is a revised document within the Trust What is the purpose of this document? This policy sets out the procedure for the management of sickness absence, and employees return to work giving consideration to the responsibilities of all staff involved in the process. The policy also gives consideration to the organisations requirement to monitor sickness absence data. What key issues does this document explore? This policy sets out the Trust s arrangements for managing sickness absence and returning employees return to work following an absence. This policy aims to ensure that manager s responsibilities are clearly understood and that a pro-active approach is taken, within a sound framework of good practice. This policy aims to provide people with a framework for dealing deals with more complex situations arising from absence due to, or attributed to, sickness. This policy should help the managers explore the reasons behind the sickness/absence and support employees to improve their attendance. Who is this document aimed at? All staff and line managers working within Dudley Walsall Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust. What other policies, guidance and directives should this document be read in conjunction with? Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (amended 2005), Health and Safety at Work Act (HSAWA) 1974, Employment Rights Act 1996, Employment Act 2002 (Dispute Regulations) 2004, Data Protection Act 1998, Preventing Work Related Stress Policy, Supporting Staff Involved in Complaints, Claims, Inquests and Traumatic or Stressful Incidents Policy, Trust guidance in respect to annual leave and special leave, Disciplinary policy and procedure, Trust procedure on Alcohol or Drug Related Misuse. How and when will this document be reviewed? This will policy be reviewed within the next eighteen months by lead author, or nominated members of the Human Resources Team. This review will include giving consideration to the latest employment legislation and best practice information as it becomes available. The policy will then be submitted to the appropriate committees in accordance with Trust guidance. 2

3 Document Index Pg No 1 Introduction 4 2 Definitions Employee Responsibilities Management Responsibilities 6 5 Fitness for Work 7 6 Frequent and Short Term Sickness Absence Managing Long Term Absence Potential Outcomes Staff Representation Occupational Health and Staff Counselling Services Work Related Accidents Including Work Related Stress Domestic / Personal Issues Sickness during annual leave Analysis of Sickness Absence Data and Organisational 14 Overview 15 Legislation Compliance 14 Document Appendices No Description Pg No A Health Executive Guidelines for Employer B Return to Work Form

4 1. Introduction 1.1 This policy sets out arrangements for managing sickness absence and returning employees return to work following an absence. It aims to ensure that manager s responsibilities are clearly understood and that a pro-active approach is taken, within a sound framework of good practice. Whilst all absence is addressed within these arrangements in terms of recording and monitoring, the thrust of this procedure deals with the more complex situations arising from absence due to, or attributed to, sickness. 1.2 This procedure is based on core principles of pro-activity, accountability and positive action which encourages managers and employees to work together through timely, appropriate and responsive interventions, including appropriate referral to Occupational Health. 1.3 This procedure should be used to manage the absence of direct employees of the Trust s. Should absence become a cause for concern, in respect of those not directly employed, the matter should be referred to the Human Resources Department who will advise on action in the particular case Separate policies exist for managing detailed arrangements around Annual Leave and Special Leave. 1.5 Staff may wish to be accompanied by a staff-side representative or friend throughout all stages of the formal procedure. 1.6 Managers will work in partnership with staff-side representatives when addressing both short-term and long-term absence. 2. Definitions 2.1 In managing sickness absence, the Trust draws a distinction between `frequent and persistent short term absence` which may be for a number of unrelated reasons, and `long term absence` which is likely to relate to a single medical condition or an underlying chronic illness. A process for dealing with both is set out below. 2.2 The Trust will always assume that absence due to sickness is genuine unless there is evidence otherwise. All staff should be aware that to claim and receive occupational sick pay in circumstances when the individual is fit for work could be deemed to be a matter of fraud and will be dealt with in accordance with disciplinary procedures. 4

5 2.3 Occupational sick pay and Statutory Sick Pay will be paid in accordance with (Agenda for Change) National Terms and Conditions of Service (Section 14),other terms and conditions where relevant, as well as relevant Employment Law 3. Employee Responsibilities 3.1 Employees who are sick and unable to work have a responsibility to inform their manager by telephone as soon as practicable to do so, preferably before their normal start time or by 9.30 am on the first day of absence. 3.2 If the employee is unable to telephone, a member of their family or a friend may telephone on their behalf, within the same time frame. Staff should note that text or communication is not acceptable for the purpose of absence notification. 3.3 The employee must clearly explain the reason and nature of the illness for record purposes and provide an indication of the length of time they expect to be absent/unable to work. If they are unable to return/work after the time estimated, they should contact their manager again and provide further detail regarding their expected length of absence from work. 3.4 Employees will then be required to phone their manager as a minimum on the 4 th day and 7 th day of the absence to update their manager in relation to their on-going absence and likely return to work date. The employee will then be required to phone on a weekly basis for the first month of absence and then on a monthly basis for the length of the absence. Employees who have been absent for more than four weeks must discuss their return to work arrangements with their manager prior to returning. 3.5 On return to work the employee is required to meet with their manager to discuss the absence and complete a Return to Work Form found in appendix B. 3.6 Employees should note that a statement of fitness to work is required from the 8 th calendar day of absence. This must be obtained from the employees GP or Hospital Doctor and submitted to the manager without delay. Staff must obtain a fit for work note where they have been absent for more than 4 weeks. 3.7 It is imperative that, during a period of sickness/absence, the employee keep their manager informed with regard to their progress and their anticipated return to work. 5

6 3.8 Where an employee does not comply with the sickness reporting procedure, including submission of statement of fitness to work(s) within specified timescales, they will be regarded as absent without authorisation, which will be without pay. Disciplinary action in accordance with Trust s Disciplinary Procedure may follow. 4. Management Responsibilities 4.1 Line managers are required to be personally responsible for managing sickness absence in their own areas and should not abdicate such responsibility to other departments. 4.2 Records of sickness and all absence must be kept for sickness payment and monitoring purposes. Managers must ensure that an accurate and timely attendance record sheet is kept for each employee within their team, showing all absence within a particular year. 4.3 Managers should note general patterns of sickness, for example if there is a trend of presenting for work and frequently returning home through illness, the reasons should be explored. 4.4 A critical element of a mangers role is to ensure that they maintain contact with an employee throughout their sickness absence. The manager should ensure that contact is maintained with an employee by ensuring they speak to them on the 4 th and 7 th day of absence. Should the individual not have returned to work on the 14 th day of absence the line manager should determine whether a home visit to the employee is appropriate. Regular contact should be maintained and documented. A home visit should be undertaken where staff are absent for more than four weeks and then on a monthly basis until the individual returns. Consideration should also be given during the fourth week of absence to referring the employee to occupational health. 4.5 Managers are required to undertake a return to work discussion with all employees on every occasion of absence irrespective of duration. Managers should ensure they complete, through discussions with the employee, the return to work form at appendix B. The return to work interview allows managers to consider whether any workplace adjustments or other short term measures need to be put in place. 4.6 Ensure that action is taken where necessary in compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act. 6

7 5. Fitness for Work From 6 th April 2010 the current doctors certificate is changing to become a statement of fitness to work. The aim of the statement of fitness to work is to allow greater flexibility in managing sickness absence. A doctor will be able to suggest ways of helping an employee return to work. This may mean considering: A phased return to work Altered hours Amended duties Workplace adaptions 5.1 What is a Statement of fitness to work The new certificate will allow a doctor to advise that an individual is either: 1. Unfit for work 2. May be fit for work The doctor will give the may be fit for work statement if they feel that the individual is able to work if they receive suitable support from their employer. The Doctor can advise on the statement of fitness to work common ways to support a return to work, along with the space to provide information on how their condition may affect the position they do. This information will enable the manager to consider whether reasonable adjustment can be made to enable the individual to return to work. 6. Frequent and Short Term Absence Management 6.1 Frequent and short term absence is defined as four or more absences per year lasting less than one week at a time, either certified or uncertified. 6.2 Where a problem arises in relation to short term and frequent sickness the employee should be counselled and consideration given to workplace adjustments and controls which will help them to maintain their absence and remedial action agreed. Examples of appropriate interventions and actions which consideration could be given to are:- A reduction on the level of sickness / absence over a specified time (a target for improvement) should be agreed. If appropriate advice should be sought from Occupational Health. 7

8 Reviewing whether the employee is currently working a large proportion of overtime or bank work which could be impacting on their sickness absence, and giving consideration to stopping this until a reduction in their absence occurs. Withdrawing their right to self certification. Reviewing the type of work activities the employee undertakes, the number of activities and quantity of work, and then through action planning monitoring activities. Give consideration to what reasonable adjustments need to be taken to their working patterns, work station and other adjustments to support the employee. 6.3 Where counselling and setting targets fails to ensure an acceptable level of attendance, a formal approach should be adopted, using the Trust s agreed disciplinary framework. In applying this procedure, a member of staff who has had 4 separate occasions or a total of 12 days of sickness in a rolling 12 month period should automatically be seen by the manager and the above action applied. This does not include sickness absence related to maternity or work related incidents. 6.4 In instances of suspected drug and/or alcohol abuse, reference should be made to the Trust s procedure on Alcohol or Drug Related Misuse which enables the employee to be referred for special treatment and professional counselling. During any meetings being undertaken to discuss concerns the employee has the right to ba accompanied by either a work colleague or union representative. 6.5 In dealing with short term and frequent absence, managers will adhere to the following points: a) Managers will keep accurate sickness absence records and be in a position to make comparisons between good and poor patterns of attendance. b) Employees will be interviewed by their immediate manager in their normal place of work on the day they return from every period of sickness/absence and/or at the earliest opportunity where work patterns do not coincide. The return to work form at appendix B should be used for this purpose. c) Where the level of absences triggers the formal process, i.e. 4 separate occasions or 12 days of sickness in a rolling 12 month period, the line manager will counsel the employee about their sickness absence exploring the nature of the problem(s) and agreeing action to improve the situation d) The employee will be made aware of the likely consequences of continued poor attendance. 8

9 e) Where an employee fails to respond to counselling, it may be necessary to take formal action. In this event, the disciplinary procedure will be used, with the appropriate level of action taken. Managers are advised to ascertain that the absences are not due to an underlying medical problem that requires treatment or for which reasonable adjustments should be made. f) The levels of management authorised to take formal action under these arrangements are those detailed within Trust s disciplinary policy and procedure. g) Managers must ensure that the employee has had a medical examination and be in receipt of a medical opinion before taking a decision to dismiss. h) The formal hearing to consider the case will allow for a full review of facts, including the employee s present and past attendance record, consideration of any medical reports, length of employment and any mitigating circumstances. 7. Managing Long Term Sickness 7.1 Line Managers should adopt best practice in managing sickness absence through all the key stages of: Recording; Keeping in Contact; Planning and undertaking workplace adjustments; Making use of professional or other advice and treatment; Agreeing and reviewing a return to work plan and co-ordinating the return to work process. Best practice guidelines for employers have been developed by the Health and Safety Executive. These can be found at appendix A and provide helpful practical advice to managers, in working through a case of long term sickness absence. 7.2 Long term sickness is defined as absence for a prolonged period of time or for recurrent periods of time with a serious or chronic health problem. In relation to this policy and procedure long term sickness absence is defined as: Where an employee has been off work continuously for a period of four weeks or more, or When an employee has been off work for four separate sickness absence episodes with the same ailment in a 12 month rolling period. 7.3 In these circumstances, it may not be appropriate to use the disciplinary framework. This procedure therefore allows for: The advice of Human Resource Department to be sought (repeated) Ongoing consultation with the employee 9

10 Appropriate investigation of the medical facts by referral to Occupational Health. Exploration of all other options, including the possibility of alternative work, adjustments to current role and/or phased returns Ill health retirement (if a member of the NHS Pension Scheme) Termination of employment on the grounds of capability due to ill health 7.4 In dealing with long term sickness absence managers should ensure the following: a) That they maintain regular monthly contact by undertaking a home visit if appropriate, with the absent employee. It will be necessary at some stage during the period of absence to meet with the employee to discuss their progress, referral to Occupational Health or rehabilitation back to work. Should contact with the manager not be appropriate, staff are advised to seek advice/support from a Staff Representative or an HR Advisor. b) The nature of the meeting and possible outcomes should be discussed with the appropriate HR Business Partner prior to the event. c) When arranging the meeting, it should be made clear to the employee that this is an informal meeting to discuss progress. However, the employee should, if they wish, be given the right of representation by a Staff Representative or friend. d) Where an early return to work is expected, the manager should keep the situation under review through regular contact, facilitating phased return if appropriate, normally for a period of no longer than 3 months. Managers should ensure that when considering an early return to work or rehabilitation then Occupational Health advice should be sought in relation to the suitability of proposed arrangements e.g.:- The types of activities the individual can undertake as part of a rehabilitation plan. The length of time the rehabilitation plan should last for, and the various stages to this. What workplace adjustments does the organisation need to give consideration to as part of the rehabilitation plan. Will the individual be able to make a return to full duties within a period of no longer than three months. 10

11 e) Line Managers also need to give consideration to ensuring that as part of the rehabilitation plan they put into place work place controls to monitor the employees progress on a weekly basis throughout the reintegration and that this is recorded and agreed with the employee. f) Where recovery sufficient to return to work is unlikely or not immediately foreseeable, or treatment does not seem to be optimal a medical report should be sought through the Occupational Health department. Managers may wish to note that the employee s permission is obtained in writing before an approach is made to their GP or Hospital consultant and that the employee may exercise the right to review the contents of any report in accordance with the Access to Medical Reports Act g) Factual information should be given about the reasons for absence, demands of the role, ongoing difficulties or adjustments that have been tried to enable Occupational Health to give appropriate advice. h) On receipt of the medical report, a further meeting with the employee should be arranged to discuss its contents, implications and the options available. i) Managers should note that any decision needed regarding continuation of employment is a managerial one and not a matter for the Occupational Health department. A decision to terminate must however be taken in light of any medical advice, appropriate reasonable adjustments and the availability of alternative work. j) An employee should always be invited to be accompanied by a staff representative or a friend in any meeting to discuss return to work/ future employment. 8. Potential Outcomes The employee will be fit to return to work in the near future and before their entitlement to sick pay expires. The manager should continue regular contact and plan for return to work as agreed with the individual The employee will be fit to return to work in the near future, but not before their entitlement to sick pay expires. 11

12 The manager should continue regular contact and plan for return to work as agreed with the individual and ensure that they are fully aware of the date that their entitlement to sick pay expires. This information will be provided by the Human Resources Department In very exceptional circumstances an extension to sick pay may be agreed in accordance with NHS terms and conditions of service. Such a decision may only be made by an Executive Director in liaison with the Senior HR Business Partner The employee is unable to return to work in the foreseeable future (despite adjustments as required by the Disability Discrimination Act) and no suitable alternative work is available. In these circumstances, notice of termination of employment should be given, on grounds of incapability due to ill health. Such dismissal must always be sanctioned by an appropriately authorised officer and arrangements made in liaison with the Senior HR Business Partner. In taking the decision to terminate employment, consideration should be given to timing. In most cases the date of termination would be the last day of occupational sick pay. NHS terms and conditions of service do however allow for termination before the end of the paid absence period. A decision will need to be made in each case. Where for example an employee is eligible to apply for early retirement on grounds of ill-health, they should be so advised and where possible early application made to facilitate/ support earlier termination. 8.2 It should be noted that a decision regarding eligibility for ill-health Retirement is a matter for the Pensions Agency and not a matter for the Trust. Termination of employment therefore is not dependent on successful application. The decision to terminate is based solely on the individual s capability or otherwise to return to work. 8.3 Managers should note that dismissal on grounds of capability will not be given effect unless: Medical evidence/advice has been received from an Occupational Physician. The advice of the Human Resource Department has been sought The employee has been counselled and advised that continued absence may result in termination The possibility of alternative work and/or adjustments to their current role have been considered and fully explored with the individual The employee has been afforded opportunity to be supported by a Staff Representative or friend 8.4 In exceptional circumstances such as terminal illness, it may be decided that any further action, other than continued contact wherever possible, is not appropriate. 12

13 In such cases, consideration should always be given to extending service indefinitely, with or without sick pay. An informed judgement will need to be made in each case in liaison with the Senior HR Business Partner. 9. Staff Representation 9.1 Whilst employees have the right to be represented throughout this process by their Staff Representative or by a colleague acting in a personal capacity, this should not detract from the manager and employee having regular contact regarding their attendance. 10. Occupational Health & Staff Counselling Services 10.1 Employees and their managers are encouraged to obtain specialist advice through the Human Resource Department, drawing on the expertise of Occupational Health and, where appropriate, the Staff Counselling Service. All staff are required, under their Terms and Conditions of service, to attend Occupational Health where they are requested to do so by their manager. In most cases this will be mutually agreed A referral to Occupational Health can be obtained through completing the form found on the HR intranet site. Other documents relating to referrals to Occupational Health can also be found on the HR intranet site, these include consent forms and a manager s checklist. 11. Work Related Accidents Including Work Related Stress 11.1 Employees who are injured either in the course of NHS employment or have developed a condition attributable to the employees work will be subject to the same process as for short or long term sickness as outlined in this procedure. Managers should refer to separate Guidelines for Managers regarding Industrial Injury. 12. Domestic / Personal Issues 12.1 In exceptional circumstances it may become apparent that an employee has claimed sick pay to cover absence due to domestic / personal circumstances rather than personal ill-health It must be made clear to the employee that claiming occupational sick pay in such circumstances may constitute fraud and as such must be taken seriously. However, the Trust recognises the importance of dealing with personal / confidential issues sensitively and managers should work with the individual to accommodate appropriate time off if needed again under agreed special leave arrangements. 13

14 12.3 Consideration should always be given to an alternative role or flexible/ term time working to enable the individual to balance work and personal commitments Should the occupational sick pay scheme continue to be abused, action should be taken in accordance with disciplinary arrangements. 13. Sickness during Annual Leave 13.1 If an employee falls sick whilst on annual leave, the correct sickness reporting procedure must be followed and, where medically certified, the period will be treated as sick leave, allowing the employee to take annual leave at another time Employees who have been prevented from taking their full annual leave entitlement due to long term sickness absence (if paid) and are unable to take their full entitlement before the expiry of the leave year will be entitled to carry over their annual leave into the following year. 14. Analysis of Sickness Absence Data and Organisational Overview 14.1 An important element to ensuring that organisations review and monitor their sickness absence is the analysis of data both at a local level by line managers supported by the Human Resource Department, and at a Trust level by Senior Managers Human Resource Business Partners in conjunction with ESR team are responsible for producing management information that they review with Heads of Departments and Directors on a monthly basis. The purpose of the review will be to support Heads of Department and Directors to identify their key sickness trends and to support them in progression of these issues and provide supportive measures to both line managers and employees Regular reports on sickness absence will be presented to the Trust s Finance and Performance Committee The Head of HR will be responsible through the Human Resource Development Group for monitoring compliance of the policy, utilising case tracker information, statistical data, and overview report. 15. Legislation Compliance 15.1 Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (amended 2005) Health and Safety at Work Act (HSAWA) 1974 Employment Rights Act 1996 Employment Act 2002 (Dispute Regulations) 2004 Data Protection Act

15 Appendix A Health and Safety Executive Managing Sickness Guidelines for Employers 1: Recording Sickness Absence Checkpoint Are you able to identify which of your employees are off sick and why? Key issues Knowing who among your employees is off sick and why will help you to: o Identify patterns and high level causes of short/long-term sickness absence; o Identify work-related/other causes; o Plan cover for your absent employees; o Benchmark your organisation s performance. 2: Keeping in contact Checkpoint Have you been in regular contact with your absent employee? Key issues Keeping in contact is a key factor in helping employees to return to work after sickness absence. Contact can be a sensitive topic as some employees may feel they will be pressed to come back to work too early. Without contact, those who are absent may feel increasingly out of touch and undervalued. When to get in contact It is normally a key responsibility of line managers to keep in regular contact with any of their staff who are absent. They will know the individual and should be able to handle any sensitive issues. Don t pass the responsibility to others unless there are sound reasons for doing so. Make sure your conversation with the absent employee is clearly focused on their health and well-being and their return to work. Try to focus as much on what the employee can do as well as things they may need help with. Minor illness: When employees notify you of a minor illness that is likely to end within seven days further contact is not really necessary. However a Return To Work Interview will be useful to get people up to speed and to discuss any underlying issues if this sort of absence happens often. 15

16 Traumatic injury or sudden illness: Extend your sympathies and use discretion until the longer prognosis is known. Planned treatment: Employees may welcome hospital visits but try to check with relatives first. Stress: If you are notified that an employee is suffering from a stress-related illness make contact within a week. But it is unlikely they will be ready to discuss returning at this stage. Use discretion until the longer-term prognosis is known. Do Create a climate of trust by agreeing beforehand your methods, frequency and reasons for keeping in contact with absent employees; Consider training for your managers on a sensitive approach to help them get the most out of contact; Keep a note of contacts made; Be flexible, treat each case individually but on a fair and consistent basis; Welcome your employee back after their absence; Carry out return to work interviews Give your employees the opportunity to discuss, in private, concerns about their health or other matters that are affecting their performance or attendance; Remember that medication can have side effects on things like physical stamina, mood, machinery operation and safety critical tasks. Don't Wait until someone is on long-term sick leave before taking action; Delay making contact or pass responsibility to others unless there are sound reasons for doing so; Make assumptions about your employee s situation; Say that colleagues are under pressure or that work is piling up; Forget that recovery times for the same condition can vary significantly from person to person. 16

17 Communication Point A Return to Work Interview gives you the chance to welcome your employee back to work, confirm that their record of absence is correct, and enables them to raise any remaining health or other issues that need addressing with your support. The main thing is to listen well and be objective. The employee may wish to have a third party present such as a Trade Union representative. A Return To Work Interview can also be a good opportunity to offer help to an employee if you feel they are unwell or behaving differently because of pressure of some kind domestic or work related. If they become distressed, stay focused, give them time to recover and reassure them that you are listening and want to 3: Planning and undertaking workplace adjustments Checkpoint Have you worked with your employee to plan for and undertake any workplace adjustments to aid their return to work? Key issues The purpose of workplace adjustments is to: return your employee to their job with any modifications needed, or to an alternative job if no adjustments are possible; retain valuable skills; remove any obstacles to return to work. Becoming disability aware If your employee is or becomes disabled you are legally required under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to make reasonable adjustments to enable the employee to continue working. Not all disabled employees will need permanent adjustments to keep working. But if an individual does need help you need to make sure you reasonably do all that you can to modify their job. If you have any doubts about what might be reasonable, take advice from the Disability Rights Commission. Their help-line number is

18 Workplace Adjustments Workplace Adjustments need not be difficult. You will often find solutions working with your employee and their Trade Union representatives. At other times you may need to seek professional advice. The key steps in planning adjustments are: o Consider the needs of your employee and what they can do; o Assess the possible obstacles to your employee s return; o Consider the adjustments needed to overcome these obstacles; o Review health and safety risk assessments in the light of the proposed adjustments; o o Review how well the adjustments work; Seek professional advice, where necessary, to help you make informed decisions. In many cases a phased or gradual return to normal working hours within a fixed timescale is a key element in getting employees back to work. There will be other occasions when there is no workplace adjustment that will enable an employee to return to their original job. The key issues regarding alternative work include: o checking the alternative is suitable; o what the impact will be on the employee s contractual terms and o o Risk assessment conditions; what training or support will be needed; what the employee will do while alternatives are explored. Health and Safety law requires that you undertake risk assessments of your activities to prevent people being harmed. You will need to review and possibly amend risk assessments if: there has been a significant change in your employee through injury, ill health or disability that makes them vulnerable to additional risks; you are introducing workplace adjustments that could affect the work and health of others. Examples of adjustments to working arrangements include: allowing a phased return to work; changing individual's working hours; providing help with transport to and from work; arranging home working, providing a safe environment can be maintained; allowing an employee to be absent from work for rehabilitation treatment. 18

19 Examples of adjustments to premises include: moving tasks to more accessible areas; making alterations to premises. Examples of adjustments to a job include: providing new or modifying existing equipment and tools; modifying work furniture; providing additional training; modifying instructions or reference manuals; modifying work patterns and management systems; arranging telephone conferences to reduce travel; providing a buddy or mentor; providing supervision; reallocating work within the employee's team; providing alternative work. 4: Making use of professional or other advice and treatment Checkpoint Have you accessed all the advice you need to help your employee to return to work? Key issues There will be some circumstances where you and your employee may need professional advice or access to support and treatment before a return to work is possible. For example, Occupational Therapists will be able to assist you with return to work programmes or workplace adaptations. Useful links contains a list of organisations who can offer help and advice. If you or your disabled employee needs assistance with reasonable adjustments, your employee can apply to the nearest Jobcentre Plus for help. A Disability Employment Adviser (DEA) will consider whether Access to Work (AtW) can help and refer you and your employee to an AtW Advisor. Communication point Sometimes people do not realise that their behaviour causes distress or unexpected circumstances can occur which may cause conflict. One way of tackling this is to use workplace mediators. Communicating with your employees to ensure that everyone understands what is acceptable behaviour at work means that conflict can normally be avoided. 19

20 5: Agreeing and reviewing a return to work plan Checkpoint Have you reviewed the return to work plan with your employee, once they have been back at work a while, to make sure they are happy and comfortable with what is happening? Key issues You now need to prepare a return to work plan discussing it too soon may put pressure on the employee. But leaving it too late may mean the employee loses confidence in being able to return. Usually the best time to prepare a plan is 3 to 4 weeks into an absence. In cases of post-operative convalescence there may be clear physical milestones in the healing process that will influence the plan. The plan should be tailored to the individual and might include: o the goal of the plan; o the time period of the plan; o Information about alternative working arrangements o information about changes to terms and conditions o what checks will be made to make sure the plan is put into practice o dates when the plan will be reviewed Empowering an individual to influence their return to work can significantly boost their well-being and confidence. Communication point Before implementing the plan, make sure the employee is happy with what has been put in place and that advice given by professionals, such as the individual s GP or Occupational Health Advisor, has been taken into account. 20

21 6: Co-ordinating the return to work process Checkpoint Have you discussed all the issues with the right people, and put the necessary measures in place to ensure everyone is working towards a common goal? Key issues If you have to get help from a number of advisers it may be useful to appoint a coordinator to ensure information is available on time, arrangements are smooth and everybody knows what is expected from them. It is important that the co-ordinator is familiar with the employee s job and work environment, able to communicate and negotiate with staff at all levels and be sensitive to the needs of the employee concerned. A more formal approach to co-ordination, known as case management, may be needed in complicated cases or when input is needed from a wide variety of sources. A case manager is typically someone who is professionally qualified in a relevant medical area and may be involved in treating the employee. Case managers can also mediate in cases where communications have broken down or help is needed to move things on. Communication Point Nominating one person to co-ordinate the return to work process means all parties involved have one point of contact. This is especially important for the employee who may get frustrated if they feel they are being passed around departments. 21

22 Guidance on legal issues There is no law that requires employers to rehabilitate their employees who are off work sick. However you should be aware of these legal requirements, which may apply. Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 Disabled employees are protected by the Disability Discrimination Act The DDA requires you to make reasonable adjustments to disabled employees working arrangements or conditions to make sure they are not treated less favourably than other employees. Employees whose injury or poor health persists may be eligible for DDA protection. Health and Safety at Work etc. Act (HSWA) 1974 You also have responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act to protect employees, after they return to work, if they have become more vulnerable to risk because of illness, injury or disability. Employment Legislation If you consider taking action to discipline or dismiss employees for ill health reasons, remember that you have responsibilities under the: Employment Rights Act 1996, to adopt fair procedures before dismissing employees on grounds of sickness absence; Employment Act 2002 (Dispute Regulations) 2004, to adopt statutory minimum dismissal, disciplinary and grievance procedures. Data Protection Act 1998 The sickness absence data you keep and process has to comply with the Data Protection Act If an absence record contains specific medical information relating to an employee this is deemed sensitive data and you will have to satisfy the statutory conditions for processing such data. 22

23 23

24 Appendix D Return to Work Form Section 1: Personal Details Name of returning employee Name of interviewing manager Date of meeting Section 2: Absence Details Reason for absence: 1 st date of absence Return to work date: No. of working days missed: Previous periods/days in last 12 months Are they entering any stage of sickness policy? DAYS: PERIODS: Yes / No *please delete as appropriate and give details Section 3: Reporting Procedure Were the sickness Yes / No *please delete as appropriate and give details reporting procedures followed? Has the employee submitted the correct statement of fitness to work? Yes / No *please delete as appropriate and give details 24

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