Absence Management – What Are Employer’s Obligations And How To Avoid The Pitfalls?

From time to time people become ill and invariably need time off to recover from illnesses.

Understanding the reason and the causes of the absence is key to ensuring  that the employer acts in a reasonable and fair manner, and uses the appropriate procedure to manage these cases.

Where an employee starts to display a pattern of short-term sickness, then an investigation into the reason for this increase in absence is paramount to determine the causes, not least to be able to offer appropriate support, or to determine the appropriate form of absence management.

Where the absence is short term and is due to colds, coughs, sore throat and tummy bugs then provided there is no underlaying medical issue causing these then a short- term absence process is advisable, whereby the member of staff is issued warnings and targets to achieve better attendance.

Likewise, where the employee has a pattern of regularly calling in sick on a certain day of the week, this can be addressed in the same way, providing there is no underlaying reason that should be addressed in a different way.

Where there are clear underlying issues of a medical nature which could constitute a disability, whether this is short, or long-term absence, then caution should be applied and medical reports either from the G.P. or Occupational Health should be, with the approval of the employee, commissioned. The risk of disability discrimination may be an undercurrent in such cases and as a result if incorrectly managed can lead to a claim from the employee under the Equalities Act 2010. Such claims can carry unlimited awards should the employee win their the case and so can prove to be very costly.

“Under the Equality Act 2010, the definition of a disability is a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on someone’s ability to do normal daily activities. Substantial is more than minor or trivial. Long-term means 12 months or more.”

Some conditions have automatic coverage under this act such as Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Facial Impairments and Incontinence.

In these cases’ then added obligations apply to the employer such as looking at reasonable adjustments and alternative work. Failure to carry out these obligations may render a claim on the employer proven. This in turn would then result in compensation being awarded.

However, sometimes colleagues may have issues that are not due to sickness but are more social issues, such as child care and use the absence reporting procedure for sickness instead of more appropriate leave such as annual leave or dependant’s emergency leave. In these cases, a conversation to work out a way forwards using the most appropriate leave or temporary flexible arrangements may be a better solution to the issues. If the employee is deliberately misappropriating the type of leave they use and continues to do so, then this could be grounds for disciplinary action.

If in doubt, then please do contact Clover HR  for advice and support via our email info@cloverhr.co.uk or by phone on 01905 824051.

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