Managing Sickness Absence

Long-term sickness absence is usually defined as a period of continuous absence of more than four weeks. When an employee is off sick for a long time, it can often feel like you’re walking a tightrope as an employer. On the one hand, you recognise that your employee is unwell, and you sympathise with them. On the other hand, sick leave can place a significant financial burden on a small business. It’s often difficult to cover the absent employee’s work, placing an additional burden on other employees, and it can negatively impact your ability to run your business.

Below are some tips to help when dealing with long term absence:

  • Develop a clear long- term absence management policy which clearly sets out the steps that will be taken when managing employees with long term absence.
  • Ensure that the policy is followed. Failure to follow Company procedures can result in a costly tribunal case.
  • Maintain contact with the employee on a regular basis to obtain information regarding any health developments.
  • Have a procedure in place for obtaining medical advice. This could be obtaining GP reports (with the employee’s permission) or the use of an Occupational Health Provider.
  • Consider reasonable adjustments where appropriate to enable the employee to return. These could include physical adjustments to the workplace or a temporary change of duties.
  • Consider phased returns to help employees back to work. This could involve shorter or reduced working days with a gradual increase over a specified time period.
  • If after obtaining medical advice and having considered reasonable adjustments, it is clear that an employee is unlikely to return to work, it may be appropriate to end the employment as a result of ill health. A capability dismissal on the grounds of ill health should always be a last resort. We recommend you seek advice from a HR professional to ensure you have taken suitable steps to protect yourself from any risks associated with ill health dismissal.

For further help and advice please call us on 01656 336097