Sickness Management Policy
WMUK believes it is important to identify and address ill health issues in a way that balances the support of staff with the efficient running of the organisation. It recognises the joint responsibility of management and staff in achieving this aim and in implementing this policy.
- General principles
The principles underlying this policy are:
- The staff are a valuable resource and WMUK aims to provide a healthy working environment for all its staff.
- All staff are to be treated fairly and consistently, with a confidential and sensitive approach.
- The management is responsible for managing the absence of the staff for whom they are responsible and for providing support and guidance to individual members of staff.
- This policy is considered in conjunction with other WMUK policies and relevant employment legislation such as the Equality Act 2010.
It is implicit in the management of any sickness absence situation that staff are assured of strict confidentiality and that any information is shared on a ‘need to know’ basis and only after consultation with the staff member involved. If individuals feel that they would like to discuss personal issues with someone other than their line manager they may contact the Chair of Trustees).
Managers and individual employees all have a part to play in the positive management of sickness absence management.
The manager is responsible for managing the attendance of staff. This is achieved by:
- Ensuring staff are made aware of the procedures regarding sickness absence
- Accepting primary responsibility for the promotion of good attendance through the mechanisms of staff meetings and individual supervision, by including attendance as a regular supervision agenda item, if required;
- Keeping in regular touch with any staff who are absent through sickness to let them know they are missed, ensure they receive support and to ease their return to work;
- Being aware that the way they manage can affect the amount of sickness their staff incur;
- Reviewing each employee’s sickness absence in accordance with the procedure set out in these guidance notes;
- Establishing a clear action plan for a member of staff where it is decided that action is justified;
Individual members of staff have a responsibility to comply with the sickness absence recording procedures by.
- Providing medical certificates at the appropriate times
- Ensuring medical advice and treatment, where appropriate, is received as quickly as possible via their Medical Practitioner in order to facilitate an early return to work.
- Ensuring that they do not undertake any activity including other paid or voluntary work that might delay their return to good health and work. Such action, without their line managers permission could lead to a breach of the employment contract and disciplinary action.
New staff must be made aware, during their induction of the Sickness Management Policy and the responsibilities of individuals and managers in minimising sickness absence. In particular they must be made aware of the relevant notification arrangements for reporting sickness absence.
- Probation period
Managers should discuss all incidents of sickness absence with an employee during their probationary period. It may be necessary to an external Occupational Health Advisor for advice. An unsatisfactory sickness record during a probation period may be a reason for a member of staff not being confirmed in post. The formal part of the sickness absence procedure does not need to be followed during the probationary period.
- 1. Reporting and recording sickness absence
- Members of staff should inform the CE or in his case the Chair of their absence by phone within two hours of their usual start time on the first day of sickness.
- If the CE or in the CE’s case, the Chair is unavailable a message should be left with another member of staff or trustee. If a message is left then the manager may wish to contact the member of staff.
- On speaking to the member of staff about her/his sickness absence, the CE or Chair in case of CE, (not repeated further in this document) will confirm the nature of the illness and its expected duration. The CE or Chair will also ask about any work commitments that need to be rearranged, any welfare needs, and whether the absence is related to an industrial injury. The record of this conversation will be treated as confidential.
- Where it has not been possible for the CE or Chair to speak directly to the employee on the morning of the first day of the sickness absence, the CE or Chair will make contact with the employee within 2 days of the reported absence.
- If returning before seven days absence the employee will be required to complete and sign a self certification form.
- If the absence continues beyond seven calendar days a medical certificate is required. Without the medical certificate, the manager cannot authorise the payment of sick pay.
- Medical and Self Certificates and any other required recording information must be passed to the CE or Chair as promptly as possible, to ensure that individual sickness records are kept up to date.
- When an individual falls sick during their normal working day, this will be recorded as a day or half-day sickness as appropriate.
- Records of sickness absence for all members of staff are maintained centrally.
- 2. Keeping in touch with absent staff
- Throughout any period of absence, it is very important that the employee keeps the manager appraised of the likely length of absence.
- The employee should contact the CE or Chair before their medical certificate expires to indicate whether they will be returning to work or will be absent for a further period. If this does not happen at the appropriate time, the manager will contact the employee.
- It is important that staff & managers keep in regular contact during a period of sick leave. Regular contact ensures that the CE or Chair are kept up to date with the recovery of their staff member and can plan for their return to work. It also ensures that staff are kept in touch with their workplace and given support thereby easing their return to work.
- The regularity and form of contact during this period needs to be agreed by the manager and staff member taking into account the circumstances of the illness and the needs of the organisation.
- Managers should be particularly sensitive to maintaining contact with staff absent due to stress related conditions. It should not, in itself, preclude contact with staff who are absent and managers should maintain regular communication whilst taking on board any stated needs of the individual.
- The manager must keep a record of all contacts with absent staff. This should contain details of the date and time of contact, nature (e.g. phone, home visit, letter) and the main points of the dialogue.
- 3. Return to work contact
- When a member of staff returns from any period of sick leave the CE or Chair should have an appropriate discussion with the individual to confirm the cause of the sickness absence, confirm whether he/she is fit to return to work, offer support & encouragement see if there are any issues that the employee would like to raise.
- If the absence is a direct result of a work related injury, advice should be sought from the CE or Chair
- This discussion must occur promptly, on the day of return, or, in the case of the CE’s leave, as soon as possible on the manager’s return.
- This is a two way dialogue during which the member of staff should feel able to discuss any issues or concerns relating to the workplace which may have contributed to the sickness. It also provides the CE or Chair with the opportunity to update the member of staff on developments during his/her absence.
Informal Procedure for Short Term Sickness Absence
A series of short-term sickness absences can cause as much disruption for an office as a longer period of sick leave. While it is recognised that there will be different situations, it is important to establish consistency throughout WMUK in dealing with sickness absence. The approach is a supportive and investigatory one, with the aim of offering help and advice to the member of staff. The early and successful management of this issue is essential to good working relations
The CE or Chair may initiate a Sickness Absence Monitoring Review with a member of staff where the following trigger points have been met:
- 6 or more periods of absence in a period of 6 months (any length of sickness absence)
- More than 10 days' absence (pro rata for part time staff) in any 12 month period (this is a ‘rolling year’)
- A pattern of sickness absence has emerged which causes concern.
A review by the CE or Chair should include the following considerations:
- The member of staff’s reasons for sickness absence, e.g. whether there are any underlying medical problems
- Whether patterns of sickness absence have been established, e.g. Fridays/Mondays
- The reasons for absence, which could include work related problems, personal, welfare and/or medical circumstances
- Whether the sickness absence is disability related.
- Whether it is appropriate to advise the member of staff that a failure to improve attendance may result in formal proceedings.
When reviewing sickness absences it should be noted that absence due to accidents or violence at work would not normally lead to a Sickness Absence Monitoring Review. However, in these cases the CE or Chair would still want to demonstrate support and concern for the member of staff concerned through the return to work contact and to ensure any appropriate follow up action is taken.
If it appears that there is a welfare problem, any help that WMUK could reasonably and practically provide to assist the member of staff will be considered. The CE or Chair will alert the staff member to appropriate support organisations.
Where a medical problem is identified further action should be agreed. This could include referral to an Occupational Health Advisor.
A Sickness Absence Monitoring Review will normally be sufficient to prevent an ongoing problem from developing, but members of staff should appreciate that consecutive absence monitoring reviews will require more detailed review of the issues.
If a member of staff’s absence triggers a Sickness Absence Monitoring Review on a second occasion in the same or the following six-month period the CE or Chair will, as part of the process, carry out a further review. In most cases the reason for the sickness absence will be understandable and acceptable and as a result of the discussion the manager will be reassured that attendance will improve.
The member of staff should, however, be made aware that if the level of sickness absence continues to give cause for concern, consideration will be given to moving to a formal part of this procedure.
Dependent upon the circumstances, the following action may be taken:
- Where the sickness absences appear to be related to a single condition, the CE or Chair should, in consultation with the individual, consider whether this potentially constitutes a long-term health problem. If so referral should be made to an Occupational Health advisor.
- If the reasons for the sickness absences appear to be unrelated and the level and/or frequency or pattern of the sickness absence is causing continuing concern, consideration should be given to moving to the formal part of this procedure. This will normally take place after two reviews have been completed and no improvement in attendance levels has been made.
Written records must be kept of all conversations between the member of staff and the manager and notes of decisions made relating to informal and formal action.
Informal Procedure for Long-Term Sickness Absence
In deciding whether absence is "long-term" consideration needs to be made of the prognosis rather than the actual absence to date. However, as a guide, 4 weeks or more of continuous absence will be regarded as long-term.
Long-term sickness absence generally falls into the following two categories:
- The first is where it is reasonably certain that an individual will return to work within a specified time frame (e.g. broken bone or minor operation). This situation is usually fairly straightforward to manage and the principles of good communication between the manager and member of staff are vital.
- The second category is where the cause of the illness is less well defined and/or there is no prognosis of a likely return to work date. In these cases it is important that the manager or a designated person keeps in regular, and agreed, contact so that the individual does not feel isolated or lacking support. This also ensures that the manager maintains an accurate picture of the circumstances.
If a member of staff has been absent due to sickness for a period of 4 weeks, arrangements will normally be made for the member of staff to be referred to an Occupational Health Advisor if the absence is likely to extend to 8 weeks or more, although in particular circumstances, such as stress related conditions, or where an employee has had a poor health record prior to the current absence, the referral may be made for a shorter period of absence.
The employee will need to complete a GP consent form, which will be forwarded with the referral request to the Occupational Health Advisor. The request will:
- Seek medical advice on the prognosis of the illness.
- See whether there is any reasonable action the service can take to assist a return to work. For example:
- a phased return to work
- temporary adjustment to working arrangements
- in the event that the employee is assessed as unable to undertake duties, alternative work might the employee be fit to undertake.
Further Occupational Health reviews may be required. The desired outcome will be to manage the individual back to work but at all times it is necessary to balance the needs of service delivery with the needs of the member of staff.
- Long-term sickness absence reviews
A review must be held for any individual who has been absent for, or where it is anticipated they will be absent for, 40 days’ continuous sickness. Following the initial review, the case must be reviewed on a formal basis every two to three months thereafter
Reviews should also be held for staff on rehabilitative and/or restricted duties.
The review meetings should provide an opportunity to review the absence of the individual, their progress towards recovery and the support provided to the individual by WMUK.
These meetings should be attended by the CE or Chair and, if appropriate, an HR Advisor. The individual should be invited and encouraged to attend the review meeting although attendance by the individual is not compulsory.
Individuals must receive written notification at least seven days in advance of the intended meeting. The letter should explain the purpose of the meeting, who will be attending, and the individual concerned may be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative who may represent the individual at the review meeting even if the person concerned cannot or does not wish to attend.
The review meeting should consider what additional action might be taken to facilitate the individual’s return to work. Such action might include:
- Short term alternative working arrangements
- Phased return to work
- Reasonable adjustment
- Ill health retirement
A plan detailing what actions need to be progressed, by whom and within what timescale, should be agreed. A copy of the agreed action plan from the review meeting or any subsequent reviews should be given to the individual concerned and a copy placed on the personal file. If it appears unlikely that the individual will be able to provide effective service in the future, options for their departure from WMUK will be considered including moving to the formal procedure.
Management of long-term sickness absence will normally move from informal to the formal procedure following two review meetings
- Formal procedure for handling persistent short term sickness absence and/or long-term sickness absence.
WMUK does not question that such absences are normally for genuine reasons and will support staff through periods of illness. However, in very occasional cases where the informal process has not resulted in a satisfactory level of attendance and the adverse effects on service delivery are continuing, the manager should, following consultation with the Director, move to the formal part of the procedure (Appendix A).
- Occupational sickness pay
If the sickness absence continues to the point where occupational sickness pay entitlement is due to reduce, the CE or Chair will ensure that the individual is informed in advance. Details are contained in contracts of employment.
- Alternative working arrangements
When individuals are recovering from a long-term illness or injury and are not fit for full duties, it is often beneficial for them to be rehabilitated back into the workplace as part of a planned programme of work. The working hours and/or duties may be adjusted/reduced for a temporary period (normally no more than one month) on the advice of an Occupational Health Advisor. Other team members should be informed of this arrangement.
- Staff with disabilities
The employment provisions of The Equality Act 2010 came into force in October 2010. The Equality Act makes it unlawful, without material and substantial justification, to discriminate against someone who has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his/her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
Advice must be sought from the CE in all cases of disability related absence, as the employer is obliged to make reasonable adjustment to the work place if this could enable the member of staff to fulfill their job responsibilities and to reduce sickness absence.
- Medical and dental appointments
The CE or Chair have discretion to agree to reasonable paid time-off for medical appointments, subject to the caveat that every effort must be made to arrange appointments at appropriate times to cause least disruption to work. This should normally be at the beginning or end of the day or at the quietest time of day.
Time off with pay will be given for antenatal care.
- Sickness absence and leave
If an employee is unwell while on leave, they may retake their leave at a later date. The employee must inform their manager at the earliest reasonable opportunity to advise that they are unwell on leave. If they are unwell for less than 7 days they must fill out a self certification form, if longer they must supply a medical certificate.
At the end of the leave year, the normal rules governing how much untaken annual leave can be carried over into the next accounting period apply, regardless of whether an individual has been absent through sickness.
- Third party accident related sickness absence
A member of staff who is absent as a result of an accident where damages may be receivable from a third party, will be paid occupational sick pay as an advance. It is a requirement of receiving this advance, that the member of staff signs a form of undertaking to include a special damages claim for the full extent of the advance in any claims for damages made against a third party, and to refund to WMUK the amount of damages received in respect of such payment.
HANDLING PERSISTENT SHORT TERM SICKNESS ABSENCE AND/OR LONG TERM SICKNESS ABSENCE - FORMAL PROCEDURE
If informal action (monitoring, reviews) has not resulted in satisfactory level of attendance, the CE or Chair should, apply the following procedure. Advice will normally be sought from an Occupational Health Advisor and an HR Advisor at an appropriate stage. Where dismissal is being considered, a medical report from an Occupational Health Advisor or the individual’s GP will have been sought.
Employees have the right to have any decision short of dismissal reviewed by the CE or Chair. If additional information becomes available at any time, the CE or Chair should consider its relevance to the decisions already made. An employee who disagrees with the actions proposed at the earlier stages should write to the CE or Chair setting out his/her objections. If the matter reaches a formal meeting where dismissal may be an outcome, the written objections would form part of the documentation to be considered. The CE will have the option of taking their case to the full board.
When dealing with these cases, attention is drawn to WMUK’s Equal Opportunities Policy.
- Short term and long term
The formal stages for short term absence follow a three stage process whereby the process of sickness reviews is continued but as a series of formal meetings where targets may be set and warning that a failure to improve could result in moving to the next stage and ultimately to dismissal.
The formal stages of setting targets for improvement in attendance or a return to work in long term cases where a medical certificate is for an extended period are less relevant. The formal meetings and stages in the process will be a continuation of the review format described in the Sickness Management policy. The employee will be made aware when the process has moved into the formal stages.
- Stage 1
Formal action should be considered when:
- At least two previous sickness absence reviews have not resulted in an improvement in attendance; or
- the matter is considered by the CE or Chair to be serious enough to be dealt with formally without first arranging an informal discussion
- In long term cases the reviews have concluded that there is no likelihood of an imminent return to work.
A formal meeting should be arranged between the CE and employee, or Chair in the CE’s case, giving at least 5 working days notice of the meeting. The CE or Chair will write to the individual clearly setting out the purpose of the meeting. The employee may choose to be accompanied by a trade union representative, or a colleague, and it is important that this representative/colleague is available within this timeframe. The CE or Chair may have an HR Advisor or the Operations Manager at the meeting to advise.
The purpose of the meeting is to:
- Review the sickness record and the extent of the problem – establish the facts and the circumstances.
- Explore the reasons for repeated absences and any pattern that has emerged – personal, welfare and/or medical circumstances.
- Identify the impact on the service and work colleagues.
- Consider and decide what, if any, further action is needed.
The employee and their representative will be given an opportunity to present information.
If the absence is considered unsatisfactory the employee should be informed of the:
- Need to improve, including targets for reduction of absence.
- Timescale for improvement.
- Consequences of failure to improve and when further action would be taken.
- Possible requirement of a medical certificate for any absence; if a cost is incurred this will be met by WMUK.
The outcome of the meeting must be recorded in writing and a copy sent to the member of staff concerned. A copy will be kept on file. The letter should include an agreed action plan and the date for monitoring and review.
If sickness/attendance levels are satisfactory at the end of the monitoring and review period the employee should be advised of this in writing, reminded of the need to sustain this improvement. If such improvement is not sustained action will be taken under Stage 2 of the formal procedure.
If sickness/attendance levels are satisfactory following a review period, but subsequently become a cause for concern within a reasonable timescale after the review, further action under the next stage of this procedure may be considered.
If sickness/attendance levels are identified as still being unsatisfactory, action will be taken under Stage 2 of the formal procedure, and the employee will be advised in writing.
- 3. Stage 2
If there is a need for action under Stage 2 of the procedure, a further meeting should be arranged. The arrangements for this will be as set out in Stage 1. The employee must be told in writing the purpose of the meeting.
The purpose of, and attendance at, the meeting is as outlined in Stage 1, together with a review of progress against targets.
Possible outcomes and required action from the meeting will also be the same as at Stage 1, but should also include reference to the possibility of dismissal should sickness levels/attendance continue to remain unsatisfactory.
If sickness/attendance levels are satisfactory at the end of the Stage 2 review period, the employee should be advised of this, in writing, and reminded of the need to sustain this improvement and that if such improvement is not sustained, action may be taken under Stage 3 of the formal procedure.
If sickness/attendance levels are identified as still unsatisfactory at this stage, action should be taken under Stage 3 of the formal procedure, and the employee will be advised in writing.
If the employee disagrees with the actions proposed they should write to the CE or Chair, setting out his/her objections. If the matter reaches a formal meeting where dismissal may be an outcome, the written objections would form part of the documentation to be considered.
If sickness/attendance levels are satisfactory following a review period, but subsequently become a cause for concern within a reasonable timescale (e.g. 12 months) after the review, further action under the next stage of this procedure may be considered.
- 4. Stage 3
If there is a need for action under Stage 3 of the procedure, a meeting should be arranged with the CE or Chair. The employee must be told in writing the purpose of the meeting. The arrangements for this will be as set out in Stage 1. The purpose of, and attendance at, the meeting is as outlined in Stages 1 and 2, together with a review of progress against targets.
It is expected that by Stage 3 the CE or Chair will have exhausted all the possibilities of investigation, consultation and review (including referral to the Occupational Health Advisor) as set out in these procedures with no satisfactory outcome. The possible outcomes therefore to be considered by the Director are as follows:
- No further action at this stage.
- Extend the timescale for review.
- If not previously considered, redeployment/change of work duties; or
- Referral to a formal meeting to be a sub committee of the Board with a recommendation for dismissal.
The outcomes of the meeting are to be recorded as in Stage 1 and the employee must be informed in writing of the decision reached. If it is decided that dismissal should be sought, a formal meeting with the employee should be convened in accordance with paragraph 5.
- 5. Dismissal
A dismissal for persistent short term sickness and/or long term sickness will be legally fair provided that this is the genuine reason for dismissal and the employer acts reasonably in all the circumstances in treating it as such. A decision to dismiss is a managerial decision, not a medical one, although the medical information will be considered when coming to the decision.
In cases of long term sickness, where the employee has not been declared permanently incapacitated and redeployment is not available or attempts at redeployment prove unsuccessful, a recommendation may be made that the contract should be terminated on the grounds of incapacity or some other substantial reason.
The employee must be informed in writing that a formal meeting will be arranged and that their employment may be terminated.
Any decision to proceed to a formal meeting where dismissal is being considered should be made, following consideration of such factors as:
- Length of absences to date and likely length of continuing absence.
- Nature of illness.
- The medical advice/prognosis.
- Impact in terms of cost/service provision/staff of the work needing to be done.
- Availability of suitable alternative work.
- Sickness absence record and length of service.
- Views of the employee; and
- Whether the employee has been advised of the potential dismissal.
- Formal meeting
The employee should be advised in writing, at least 5 days in advance, of the reasons for the meeting, the possible outcomes including a potential dismissal, and his/her right to be represented by a trade union representative or colleague. The meeting will be convened by the CE or Chair who will be accompanied by at least two Trustees from WMUK. An HR Adviser may also be in attendance to provide advice, as appropriate.
The possible outcomes of this meeting are:
- No further action – employee may return to work, subject to medical evidence from the Occupational Health Physician supporting this outcome.
- A final period of review – as an alternative to dismissal where the sub-committee of the Board believes that the employee should be allowed a final opportunity to return to work. A date for the return must be specified and, if the employee remains unfit at that date, dismissal becomes effective.
- Consideration of alternative employment – only if this had not previously been fully explored; or
- Dismissal – on grounds of capability or some other substantial reason. Dismissal would be with notice, on full pay.
An employee may appeal against a decision to dismiss taken as a result of the operation of this policy. The appeal should be made in writing to the Chair of the Board within 10 working days of the employee receiving confirmation after decision to dismiss. The Chair will convene an appeals panel of different Board members within a month of receiving the appeal.