Staff are expected to be unwell from time to time but regular or long absences can put your business under strain. Sickness absence can impact upon productivity, morale and can place unnecessary pressure on other staff members.
Clear policies should be in place to meet these issues as and when they arise to address:
- Short term absences and sickness
- Long term illness
- Unauthorised absences
- Return to work interviews
- Sickness pay
If you are considering dismissing an employee due to sickness absence then careful steps need to be taken to ensure a fair and legal process.
If it is a long term sickness then an employee can be fairly dismissed. It is often necessary to obtain medical evidence (including an occupational health report) to allow an employer to fully understand an employee’s condition, whether they will be able to return to work in the foreseeable future and whether the employee’s duties or role could be altered to facilitate a return to work. Care needs to be taken when dealing with employees on long term sick leave to avoid potentially difficult, time consuming and costly claims in the employment tribunal for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.
For frequent short term sickness absences, sickness absence management procedures should be in place. Such policies and procedures can set out the levels of absence and frequency that are deemed to be unacceptable and the process by which meetings and warnings are issued.