Why is the University updating the Sickness Absence Policy?
To enable a consistent approach for managing short term and long term sickness absence by adopting best practice guidelines to support employees to return to work. Most organisations have a sickness absence policy. Our approach shows a commitment to a fair, consistent, supportive approach to manage sickness absence. Our framework will support employees to get back to work but does enable action to be taken if there are problems and difficulties.
Does the sickness absence policy and procedure apply to all groups of staff?
Yes, we are having a soft launch of the policy from 1st June and a 3 month embedding period. From September 2020 onward all staff will be expected to use the new policy.
What should I do if I am unwell and not able to attend work?
You should let your manager, or other designated member of staff know, at the latest, by your usual start time. If you work normal office hours then you should contact your manager in good time before you usually start work if you work shifts or teach in the evening or at weekends. You should state the reason for the absence with an indication of how long you will be off work.
Can I send a text or e-mail to report my absence or ask someone else to ring in on my behalf?
Staff should report their absence by telephone and speak with their manager, or other designation person, if at all possible. If the circumstances of your illness mean that you are physically unable to telephone, then someone else may ring in for you but you should try to contact your manager as soon as you are able to. Your manager will need to plan to provide cover and decide whether any support is needed.
Why do I have to keep calling in and continue to keep in touch when I am off sick?
It is important that you keep your manager informed about your health and sickness absence as arrangements may need to be put in place to cover your work. Staff often keep in contact more often but if you have not spoken with your manager since your first day of absence, you should contact them after 3 days to let them know how you are and when you are likely to return to work.
Why must I keep in touch with my manager if I am on long term sickness absence?
If someone is off for more than 28 calendar days or more, this is considered long term absence. If your absence is over a longer period you should keep in regular contact with your manager so that:
- your manager is aware of the likely duration and reasons for your absence;
- your manager is able to make longer term arrangements for your work to be covered by others if appropriate;
- your manager can provide appropriate management support to facilitate and plan for your return to work.
Research shows that early intervention and support offered to staff on long term absence has a higher chance of achieving a successful return to work. This could include a home visit.
What do I do if I am off sick for more than 7 continuous calendar days?
You must provide a ‘Fit Note’ (Statement of fitness for work) from your GP who will indicate whether you need to be reassessed before you return to work. The ‘Fit Note’ has replaced the ‘sick certificate’.
The ‘Fit Note’ should be forwarded to your manager or designated member of staff. It is a confidential document and will be dealt with by HR and payroll staff involved in sickness administration.
My manager has asked me to attend a Sickness Review meeting - What does this mean?
Your manager may ask you to a meeting to discuss your attendance if you have had:
- No more than 4 instances of absence adding up to a total of 10 days within a rolling period of 12 months; OR
- Unacceptable patterns or trends e.g. regular Friday or Monday absences before or after Bank Holidays; OR
- Failure to follow the notification procedure.
Your manager is monitoring your sickness in order to be able to make sure that University:
- can support any absences that you have
- make sure that you are well enough to work
- provide you with any reasonable adjustments in order to support you at work.
These trigger points are new and therefore will only be applied from 1st June 2020 onwards. As this is a new system of monitoring sick absence your line manager may apply some discretion to previous absences that have occurred during the last 12 months, however if your absence record indicates an issue any previous occurrences of sick absence may be taken into account.
Will disability related absence be counted as sickness absence and trigger a Sickness Review meeting?
Disability related sickness will be recorded however the trigger points may be increased to take into account the disability. It is important that managers carry out sickness review meetings to ensure that they are aware of, and can take steps to make reasonable adjustments in relation to disability issues, such as making changes to a job, ways of working, accessibility issues, flexible working or redeployment.
What does an occupational health assessment involve and what will happen if I don't want to attend?
An assessment involves meeting with or talking on the phone to an occupational health physician or nurse who is independent of the University. The physician/nurse will provide a report to the University with advice going forward, including advice on disability related sickness and reasonable adjustments. You will be entitled to see a copy of this report. Your manager will meet with you to discuss the report and HR will also attend this meeting.
Occupational Health referrals are voluntary however if you refuse or attend a medical appointment, the University may have to make decisions about your absence based on the information available.
The policy talks about 'Return to Work Discussion or Meetings - why are these necessary? Who is this with?
It is good practice to hold a discussion with a member of staff returning from sickness absence. Normally, this will be a brief conversation to find out how you are, bring you up to date with work and any changes and make sure that you are well enough to return. Your manager may make a brief note of the facts of the discussion and they will be informal meetings. Confidentiality and data protection obligations will be safeguarded.
Can I be represented by a trade union representative at meetings to discuss my sickness absence?
In most cases, it is expected that matters relating to sickness absence will be dealt with informally and union representatives or work companions will not attend these meetings. However, if your manager asks you to attend a formal meeting to discuss your sickness absence, you have the right to be accompanied by a trade union representative or a work colleague from within the University. If this meeting is in your home or at another location outside the workplace, you still have the right to be accompanied at the meeting.
Can I be dismissed for having a poor attendance record?
If your absence record is such that you are continuously reaching the trigger points in the policy you could be dismissed from your post as a result of a fair process in line with the Sickness Absence Policy provisions. Also, if you are absent for a period of time and there is no prognosis of a return to work then it is possible that you may be incapable of fulfilling your role on the grounds of ill health and you may be dismissed due to ill health capability however you will be supported and guided through this process by your line manager and HR.
If I am sick during a period of authorised paid leave, can I claim back my leave?
If you inform your manager when you become ill and provide confirmation from your GP of your sickness absence during a period of leave, your annual leave may be reimbursed.
How long is a phased return and will I be paid for non-working days during this period?
A phased return to work is normally based on medical advice and designed to facilitate your return to work. A phased return normally takes place over a period of between one and four weeks and your pay will not normally be affected.