HR Improve - Attendance: How to effectively manage short and long-term absence
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The key takeaway points are set out below
Importance of effective absence management
- High levels of absence impact a business in many ways, from the management time involved in supporting the absent employee, the impact on colleagues taking on additional work and the additional financial cost.
- Effective absence management is therefore critical to business success. It will also reduce the risk of legal claims and the associated time and cost involved in defending such claims.
- Employers are also under a duty to make reasonable adjustments for employees who are disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010. Effective absence management provides a framework for discussing what the employee needs and what is reasonable for the employer to put in place.
Key steps in managing short- and long-term absence
- Return to work meetings provide an opportunity for managers to raise concerns, identify patterns of absence and explore the reasons for absence including any underlying conditions.
- Obtaining up to date medical information is critical to understanding not only whether an employee may be disabled, but also the cause of the ill-health, the likely prognosis and timescales involved and what adjustments might be needed for them to return to work and/or continue in their role.
- Employers should consider alternatives to dismissal, such as alternative roles or whether permanent health insurance or ill health retirement may be available to the employee.
- An employee should be allowed a companion at any sickness absence meetings where the outcome of the meeting could be the issuing of a warning or dismissal. It may also be a reasonable adjustment to allow a disabled employee to have a companion at any meetings.
Effective management of tricky issues
- Where an employee attempts to return to work whist under a Fit Note that says they are not fit for work, an employer should obtain medical advice before allowing the employee to return and/or require the employee to provide an updated Fit Note. Not only are there health and safety concerns with allowing an employee to return to work before they are fit to do so, any employer liability insurance may also be void.
- Remember that workers can take statutory holiday during sickness absence and, where they are unable to do so because of sickness, can carry over any unused statutory holiday to the next holiday year.
- An employee who has been off on long-term absence may still be entitled to full pay during the notice period if their notice entitlement is no more than a week longer than the statutory minimum period of notice.
- Pregnant employees or those on maternity leave should have any periods of pregnancy related absence discounted from trigger points under an absence management process to avoid claims of sex discrimination.
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