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Dealing with sickness absence

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A high temperature

Managing absence is important for your co-op. It helps reduce staff turnover and creates a happy, motivated workforce. 

How to handle sickness absence

Watch our short overview video then read on for more key information.

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Sickness absence policy

To help your staff understand how your co-op manages absence, it’s useful to have a policy in place. You can find out what to include at www.acas.org.uk. 

Disability and absence

Employees who are disabled are protected from discrimination and absence should be managed with care. To qualify for protection, employees must have a condition that substantially affects, or is likely to affect, their normal daily activities for at least 12 months. Some conditions such as HIV, MS or cancer are protected from the point of diagnosis.

Employers are legally required to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees. A reasonable adjustment can include changes to the job or workplace such as providing additional support, equipment or changing aspects of the role.

Reporting absence

Staff need to be told how to report sickness absence. Often, employees are expected to call within an hour of their start time. Where absence is likely to continue, agree how and when you’ll be updated.

After seven days, your employee must visit a GP to get a Statement of Fitness for Work certifying their absence. The note may state that they are unfit for work or could return with adjustments. You should consider whether these adjustments can be accommodated (see disability above).

Acas is useful source of guidance and information on handling sickness absence.

Sick pay

Employees are eligible to be paid £95.85* per week Statutory Sick Pay if they are too unwell to work. They must have been off work for at least four days (including non-working days). Statutory Sick Pay is paid for 28 weeks. *The rate changes annually, check at www.gov.uk for current rates.

Occupational health

Where your co-op is managing absence, it’s useful to get a report from an occupational health provider. This will give detailed information about the employee’s health; whether the illness could amount to a disability; when they’re likely to return to work and any required suitable adjustments. Your co-op can refer people to the government’s free occupational health service where absence is likely to last four weeks www.fitforwork.org.

What if you need to dismiss someone?

Click on the link below for advice

It’s potentially fair to dismiss an employee where their absence levels have become unsustainable. The process will depend on whether there have been repeated instances of short-term absence or a single period of long-term absence.

When dealing with unacceptable levels of short-term absence, it’s important to tell the employee that their absence levels are unsatisfactory and give them time to make an improvement. Your co-op should issue formal written warnings. Always check whether the absences are related to an underlying health condition or disability. If applicable, follow the approach for dealing with long term absence.

In cases of long-term absence, you’ll need to regularly engage with the employee during their absence, investigate the cause and discuss the likelihood of return. The appropriate length of time to wait will depend on a number of factors including the impact on the workplace, whether sick pay is continuing and the likelihood of return. It is essential to get the advice of occupational health.

In both instances, your co-op should follow a fair procedure and hold formal meetings with the employee (allowing them the right to be accompanied). You should also allow the employee to appeal your decision. You should follow the process set out in the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.

Struggling with sickness absence? Access expert advice from our HR team
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