Tens of millions of working days are lost each year, due sickness absence, so there’s no wonder that employers are on the look out
for ways of reducing direct and associated costs.
Good employers always want the right balance between reducing unnecessary sickness absences and supporting genuine employees needs.
Effective management of sickness absence is even more important in light of the recent European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling in Stringer and others v HM Revenue and Customs. Now those on sickness absence are now entitled to accrue annual leave and carry forward any untaken leave into the next holiday year. In addition, if they haven’t had the chance to take accrued holiday by the time their employment terminates, they are entitled upon termination to payment in lieu of their unused holiday.
Good sickness management sounds great, but where do you start?
An effective sickness policy should be your priority, which sets out clearly the process for reporting, monitoring and managing absences.
An obligation to personally report absences by telephone is a must – allowing the use of texts and e-mail encourages a ‘detached’ attitude to the reality of taking a ‘sickie’.
All employers owe their employees a duty of care and monitoring sickness absence can be one step that employers can take to fulfil this obligation, ensuring that they have employees that are fit and able to carry out their work. An effective monitoring process can also help to manage an absence, before it becomes a major problem.
Return to work interviews, form an important role in proactively managing absences. It’s important that they are carried out as soon as possible upon return to work and are used in conjunction with fully completed self-certification forms, for absences that last less than 7 days. Interviews provide the opportunity to confirm that employees are fit to return to work and to understand the underlying reason why an employee might be prone to certain conditions. Evidence also shows that back to work interviews reduce short term absences and can give companies the opportunity to identify underlying organisational issues, such as work related stress and bullying.
Obtaining up-to-date medical reports from the employee’s GP is a vital first step in assessing the nature and seriousness of any short term and long-term illness. Crucially this can help detect if the employee could be classed as disabled in accordance with the Disability and Discrimination Act 1995. If found to be the case, the employer has an obligation to consider if reasonable adjustments can be made to help the employee return to work.
Medical evidence and consultation with the employee at this stage is also crucial as it can indicate if the employee is capable of returning to their role and may help support an employers decision to dismiss on grounds of capability, but this option should always be the last resort and other options such as alternative employment should always be considered first.
Deminos can look over, check and update all of your policies, and provide advice on all aspects of employment law.
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