Dealing with Employee Sickness Absence – Do’s and Don’ts
Dealing with absent employees can be tricky. You’re sympathetic to the situation but employee absence has a significant impact on your business. A balance needs to be found between supporting absent employees and managing your commercial needs.
We set out a few do’s and don’ts below but, as with any situation, it’s important to Get Advice at the start – the earlier the better. It is cost effective in the long run and avoids the potential for getting it wrong and risking a claim with unlimited compensation:
- Have a policy and follow it - this ensures your employees know your sickness absence procedure and are not surprised by contact or processes that you start under it. Consistency is important - if you apply a policy against one employee and not against others, you may get into difficulty.
- Make sure you follow process. This is key in all employment and HR matters – a failure to follow process could render any dismissal unfair or give rise to a claim for discrimination, for which there is no cap on compensation.
- Obtain medical reports and/or Occupational Health assistance – this is essential in gaining information and guidance on the illness and absences and when the employee will be fit to return to work.
- Find out any underlying reasons for the employees absence. – remember that an underlying condition may amount to a disability, which gives rise to additional obligations for all employers
- Consider reasonable adjustments where there is a disability to assist your employee in work, or to help them get back to work. This may involve an adjustment to hours or days of work, their duties or a change in role altogether.
- Ignore absent employees or fail to update them on any business announcements or changes, Excluding them due to absence may at the very least alienate the employee and make them feel excluded or, at worst, give rise to claims for discrimination.
- Dismiss, discipline or make any decisions about the future until you’ve followed proper process. It’s a common misconception that employment cannot be terminated whilst an employee is off sick. Dismissal can take place in some circumstances but only after following the proper process. Failure to do so will render a dismissal unfair and potentially discriminatory.
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