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02 February 2023 | HR & Employment

Sickness Absence Policies

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This Insight is #11 in our Employment Handbook series, keep an eye out for more.

Sickness Absence Policy

Both long-term and short-term sickness absence can be very disruptive to a business, and they can adversely affect productivity.  Although both types of absence can impact on business activities, they need to be managed differently. 

A Sickness Absence Policy helps employers manage employees who have absences due to sickness and it should include a procedure for managing short-term absence and a separate one for long-term absence. 

To make matters more complicated, an employee may have an underlying condition that means they have a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010.  If they are disabled, then the employer should not discriminate against them because of their disability by either treating them less favourably than a non-disabled employee or unfavourably as a result of something arising from their disability.  An employer may also need to make a reasonable adjustment to the employee’s workplace or the way that they work to allow them to return to work and to continue working.

Managing Short Term and Long-Term Absence as an Employer

The procedure for managing short-term absence focuses on setting limits to the employee’s absence and cautioning them if they exceed those limits.  The procedure for managing long-term absence is different in that it will typically focus on understanding what is causing the absence and managing a return to work if that’s possible. 

A long-term absence procedure will typically include provisions for:

  • obtaining medical evidence
  • considering alternatives for rehabilitating the employee into work
  • whether any reasonable adjustments need to be made

This procedure will ultimately provide a fair procedure for dismissal where this is the appropriate course of action. 

What should be included in a Sickness Absence Policy?

An employer is legally required to state how much it will pay an employee who is off work on sickness absence.  The employer can include this in the employee’s contract of employment or section 1 statement, or they can set it out in their Sickness Absence Policy if they wish.  The employer may just pay their employees Statutory Sick Pay, or they can pay them at a higher rate if they want to.

Your responsibility as an Employer

As a matter of law employers must give employees employment contracts which cover the key terms of the employment relationship, but the contract won’t cover all of the policies, procedures and expectations for the relationship between a business and the people within it. A employee handbook can include information for all team members, including employees, workers, apprentices and agency staff. Not only can a employee handbook bring together useful guidance for everyone on the culture, values and expectations the business as but it will often be a resource that can save a dispute from arising or provide the best framework for resolving a dispute. The non-contractual policies and procedures that can be included in a employee handbook will sit alongside contracts of employment to set out how employees are expected to act and how the employer will deal with certain situations.

Putting all the policies and procedures together in one place that is accessible to everyone working in a business is good practice and can provide an invaluable framework for reference on all of the HR issues to cover. If any grievance or dispute arises, having a policy or procedure to refer to and follow can help prevent the situation escalating. If the worst occurs and a claim comes before a tribunal, being able to show the policies and procedures that were followed can make a huge difference to the outcome.

Sickness Absence Policies are important for every business to have in the Employee Handbook because they create a set system for processing the absences which increases efficiency and reduces confusion. For more information about Sickness Absence Policies get in touch with our Employment Law team today on 0330 912 8338.

This article and the policy are provided for general information purposes only and you should take specialist advice in relation to specific circumstances. Whilst we endeavour to ensure that what we say is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy, and Atkins Dellow LLP does not accept any liability for error or omission.

© Atkins Dellow LLP 2022

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Please note this article is provided for general information purposes only to clients and friends of Atkins Dellow LLP. It is not intended to impart legal advice on any matter. Specialist advice should be taken in relation to specific circumstances. Whilst we endeavour to ensure that the information in this article is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy, and Atkins Dellow LLP does not accept any liability for error or omission.

© Atkins Dellow LLP 2022

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