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The purpose of this policy is to:
ensure that employees who are absent from work due to ill-health or injury receive fair and sympathetic treatment
and are provided with support towards a full recovery.
It applies to all employees of the University.
Employees will be treated with consideration and respect during a period of ill-health or injury. The University will seek to support their recovery and to safeguard their employment. Managers
are required to apply these policies and procedures in a consistent
and equitable manner and to exercise the duty of care to employees at all times.
Employees are responsible for their own general health and for seeking to minimise unnecessary absence from work due to ill-health. They should take
account of the need to avoid prolonging
or aggravating any episode by remaining at work or returning to work too soon. They should not put colleagues' health in danger by their own actions.
The University supports employees
with genuine health problems through
the Occupational Sick Pay scheme,
and the provision of an Occupational Health and counselling service,
but will apply appropriate sanctions to those who abuse this support, in accordance with the relevant procedures. In particular, the employee's eligibility for occupational sick pay may be withdrawn if they fail to conform to the rules of the scheme relating to notification, provision
of certification, and assessment by the University's
Occupational Health Advisor.
The statutory framework
of employment rights for employees
with a disability (as defined by the Disability
Discrimination Act) will affect the way in which some episodes of sickness or injury should be handled, and managers are encouraged to seek the advice of their link HR manager in cases where the employee concerned has a statutory defined disability.
Similarly, periods of absence related to pregnancy and childbirth are regulated by the statutory
provisions related to maternity leave and pay. Managers should seek the advice of their link HR Manager in cases where sickness absence occurs during pregnancy.
Employees have the right to be accompanied by a friend or trade union representative in any meeting convened under these regulations.
Sickness is allocated in days. This is on a pro-rata basis for part-time staff or staff on compressed hours. An employee absent from work due to illness or injury is entitled to receive allowances on the following basis:
The University wishes to support staff who are undergoing IVF or similar treatment. Time off to attend doctor or hospital appointments will be provided in the same way as it would for any other doctor or hospital appointment.
On the first day of any absence from work due to illness or injury, employees must contact their manager or nominated administrator by telephone within two hours of the normal time of starting work, or as soon as practicable thereafter. The employee should inform the person contacted about the cause of their absence and the likely period of absence. The manager or administrator must be kept informed if the proposed date of return to work changes. Local arrangements may be in place for earlier notification of absence by staff and staff should adhere to the local arrangement. Contact should be maintained by employees throughout their absence, as required.
For an absence of more than 3 days but less than 8 days (including Saturdays and Sundays), the employee is required to complete the self-certificate, which will be supplied by the Faculty/Directorate Administrator. This must be completed and returned as soon as possible, and normally no later than the 8th calendar day after the first day of absence.
After seven calendar days (including Saturdays and Sundays) of absence, the employee must obtain a Statement of Fitness for Work or “Fit Note” and forward it to the Line manager or Faculty/Directorate Administrator.
A failure to give appropriate notification, and/or to provide the required documentation may result in the loss of sick pay and may, in some instances, lead to disciplinary action.
Managerial responsibilities for managing ill-health absence
The primary relationship is between the employee and the Line manager and to that end the University would wish to see managers taking the lead in effectively responding to all degrees of sickness absence. Managers are responsible for managing and leading on ill health absence. Advice, guidance and support can be sought from the Occupational Health Department and the HR Directorate in order to effectively manage and make decisions regarding each situation.
Managers should ensure that the employees for whom they are responsible, are fully aware of the requirements of the absence reporting procedure, and are aware that a failure to observe the procedure may result in a loss of sick pay, or in disciplinary action.
Managers should also ensure that the effects on workload and organisation arising from staff absences are managed effectively, without placing excessive workloads on other employees
When an employee reports an absence from work due to illness/injury, the manager must ensure that:
When an employee returns to work, the manager should:
The purpose of a ‘return to work’ meeting is to review the reasons for the absence and any medical or other issues involved that may continue to have an impact on attendance at work. The employee may be accompanied at such a meeting by a friend or trade union representative. The manager may subsequently seek further advice from the Occupational Health Advisor or may refer the case to the Occupational Health Advisor.
Line managers are responsible for monitoring employee absences, and in doing so they should take into account the following factors:
Where an employee has had 5 or more occurrences of sickness in a rolling 12 months it is advised that normally they should be referred to the Occupational Health Department to ensure that the University and the employee are doing all they can to manage this effectively.
Where an employee has had 10 days or more sickness absence in a rolling 12 month period they should be referred to the Occupational Health Department to ensure that the University and the employee are doing all they can to manage this effectively.
When a manager is concerned about the pattern and/or incidence of absences due to illness/injury, he/she should seek to identify the cause of the problem in discussion with the employee, the Link HR Manager and the Occupational Health Advisor.
An employee may self refer to Occupational Health if they have any health concerns by contacting the Occupational Health Department Directly.
If the Line manager concludes that there is likely to be a medical reason for the absence(s), and that a formal medical opinion would be helpful in improving the employee’s attendance record, the employee should be referred to the Occupational Health Advisor for such an opinion.
It is responsible and wholly appropriate for line managers, or if appropriate Occupational Health to contact staff whilst they are on sick leave in order to maintain meaningful dialogue between parties and ensure that both parties are doing all they can to manage the situation effectively and to agree times when contact will be made during the sick leave period. As a guide, during the first 4 weeks of sickness the line manager and member of staff could speak on a weekly basis and after this as agreed between the line manager and the employee but it may be appropriate to speak once a month. Employees are required to ensure that they can reciprocate this contact and be available to do so.
Referral to the Occupational Health Department is for help and support for all parties. Many illnesses and absences may be outside the expertise of a Line manager and a referral to the Occupational Health Department is in the earnest desire to support the member of staff and obtain professional advice. The Occupational Health Department provide a confidential service. Before a referral is made the Line manager should discuss the need for a referral with the individual concerned. Only in very unusual circumstances, where it is not possible to meet with an individual or speak to them on the phone will it be possible to make a referral without speaking to the individual concerned in advance and this can only be done if agreed with the Occupational Health Advisor and the HR Directorate in advance. The employee has the right to be accompanied by a union representative during any meeting with the Occupational Health Advisor. The manager must inform the employee about the reasons for seeking a medical opinion.
The role of the University’s Occupational Health Advisor is to assist managers and employees to reduce absences due to illness or injury by:
When the Occupational Health Advisor meets the employee, he/she will discuss the record of ill-health absence and make an assessment of the employee’s fitness for work. The advisor will make recommendations designed to support the employee’s return to long term good health, and/or effective employment by the University, which may include:
The Advisor’s assessment will normally fall into one of the following categories:
Where the Occupational Health Advisor identifies a medical cause for ill-health absence, the Line manager should consider ways in which the job could be modified to facilitate longer-term employment. These may include lighter work, job modification, flexible working arrangements or the use of adaptive technologies. Redeployment to another post should also be considered.
Where the Occupational Health Advisor considers that there is no apparent underlying medical condition causing the pattern of ill-health absence, the Manager should advise the employee that the level of absence is unacceptable and indicate the improvement required and the timescale over which this is expected. The Manager will also indicate what further action may result if there is no improvement. A record of the discussion shall be kept and a date agreed on which to review the situation. The Line manager should explain that the Capability procedure is being or could be invoked.
If the pattern of ill-health absence fails to show the targeted improvement, the Line manager, in consultation with the HR Directorate and the Occupational Health Advisor, will review the targets and the reasons why they have not been met. If the targets are considered to have been reasonable and there is evidence that the university’s provision for paid leave have been abused, they may ask the Dean/Director to initiate the disciplinary procedure. Alternatively they may conclude that the capability procedure shall be invoked.
When an employee is absent on the grounds of ill-health/injury for more than four weeks, the Line manager should make a formal referral to occupational health. The Occupational Health Advisor will then contact the employee by the most appropriate means (e.g. by letter, telephone, or by home visit by prior agreement.) The Occupational Health Advisor will seek to establish the expected duration of the sickness and will ask the employee to update him/her regularly on progress and on future medical consultations which may provide further information about a possible date of return.
The Occupational Health Advisor will inform the HR Directorate and the Line manager about:
If medical opinion suggests that there is a good prospect of recovery within a period of up to 12 months then the employee should be supported in that recovery and in a return to work. The options available should be discussed with the employee regularly and may include:
Where there is no prospect of a return to effective work, having taken all the potential options into account, the Line manager and the HR Directorate may recommend to the relevant Dean/Director and the Director of Human Resources that the employee’s contract of employment should be terminated through the final formal stage of the capability procedure or an application for ill health early retirement supported by the Occupational Health Physician.
Human Resources provide periodical statistical information to the Faculty /Directorate Management Team. The information includes all employees who have been absent due to sickness in the previous 12 months. The Faculty/Directorate management team will review this information and decide what action, if any, is required.
Where it is felt that further investigation is required HR can provide, on request, an individual sickness report for the employee showing all of their absences in the last 12 months with the reason for absence (unless the employee has notified HR that they wish the absence reason to be treated as confidential).
The above link takes staff to the Government advise on entitlements to Statutory Sick Pay. Staff who are eligible to Statutory Sick Pay may also be entitled to Occupational Sick Pay. The Payroll Team will be able to advise on this on a case by case basis.
Staff who have booked annual leave but are unable to take it because they are sick may reclaim it if they provide a doctor’s certificate. This should cover the time they would have been on annual leave. If staff are on holiday in a foreign country when they fall ill and wish to claim back the annual leave they must provide a doctor’s certificate or a receipt for medical attention sought in the foreign country.
Staff who reclaim such leave are entitled to use it at a later date. The right to use the reclaimed leave may require it to be carried forward into the following leave year if there is not the opportunity to take the leave in the current leave year. In such cases the usual cap of 5 days is removed so as to allow all reclaimed leave to be retained. The employee must use all such leave by the end of the subsequent leave year. N.B. Only statutory leave of 20 days’ maximum may be carried forward.
Line managers are expected to exercise common sense in the application of this provision, taking into account all of the circumstances at the time. For example, if a colleague is off sick for a week and had previously booked one of those days as annual leave, they should be asked to complete a self-certificate and take the leave at another time.
Annual leave will accrue in the normal way whilst on sick leave. Annual Leave should be taken in line with the Annual Leave Policy, however where a member of staff is on long term sick it may not be possible to take annual leave during the current annual leave year. Where this is the case, staff may only carry forward statutory annual leave and bank holiday entitlements, which is a maximum of 28 days including bank holidays, which should be pro rated appropriately. Annual leave that is carried forward in this situation should normally be used within the annual leave year, however if the member of staff is off sick for a further year the annual leave that has not been taken from the previous annual leave year can only be carried forward with the agreement of the Dean/Director of the Faculty/Directorate.
It is possible for staff to use their annual leave when they are on half sick pay or no sick pay to enable them to receive full pay for a longer amount of time. Staff wishing to do this must apply in writing to the HR Directorate making this request. Staff will not be made to take annual leave even if they are receiving no sick pay but some may feel that it is advantageous for them to use their annual leave. Only 5 days annual leave may be carried forward to the new leave year, inline with the Annual Leave Policy, however where a person has been on sick leave and not been able to take their annual leave during the current leave year then up to a maximum of 20 days, statutory annual leave, may be carried forward.
It may be appropriate for staff who have been on sick leave to have a Return to Work Plan and/or a Phased Return To Work. Where this is appropriate it will involve the member of staff being referred to the Occupational Health Department who will provide support and guidance on a Return to Work Plan. The Line manager will then convene a meeting with the member of staff to discuss what the Return to Work Plan / Phased Return to Work Plan will look like in practice. Although the member of staff will have an input to the Return To Work Plan, where agreement cannot be reached the Line manager will be able to decide the final plan which should be agreed with the Occupational Health Department. Where the member of staff agrees to the Return to Work plan further agreement from Occupational Health will not be necessary.
Where a phased return to work plan is appropriate, the Occupational Health Department will advise on the length of the phased return which will generally be no longer than 12 weeks. Whilst on a phased return to work plan the member of staff will benefit from their normal pay even though they will be working reduced hours. If the member of staff wishes to have a longer phased return to work than 12 weeks then they will have their salary pro rated for the weeks in addition to the 12 weeks where they receive their normal pay.
The University Capability procedure is designed to support staff and managers in dealing with problems regarding performance which may arise from time to time, and could be the result of ill health or a disability which prevent the employee from fulfilling the needs of the role or could arise due to the member of staff’s ability to perform the role. Where appropriate a Faculty/Directorate may decide to invoke this policy.
The University Disciplinary procedure may be invoked where the Faculty/Directorate have evidence that the Managing ill-health absence from work has not been followed.
Updated July 2019