LONG TERM ABSENCE

LONG TERM ABSENCE

I am frequently asked to advice on long term absence cases. There are a few common problems that arise with these cases that could be avoided with some prior planning.

Understandably so, many employers are reluctant to ‘take action’ when someone is off sick. This often leads to the situation where nothing is done for a long period of time (I have seen cases of 6 months, 12 months and even 3 years). By this time everyone has become frustrated by the circumstances as, by now, no-one really seems to know what the current situation is and when the employee may return to work.

So, step one is to have a clear rule about when to start to make enquiries. Unless you are clear about when someone will return, my advice would be to start making enquiries after 4 weeks absence. In the vast majority of long-term absence cases you will need medical advice or need to involve occupational health (or both). Making enquiries early allows you to stay in control of the situation and allows time for any medical enquiries to be made. There is also a long process to go through if someone is unable to return to work.

It is also a fact that if you keep in contact with individuals on long-term absence, they are more likely to return to work. The longer you go without contact the more difficult it becomes for someone to return.

Equally, the longer you go without contacting someone and making enquiries, the more difficult it is to justify dismissal if they are not able to return within a reasonable amount of time.

Comments:

Make sure you have a clear policy on how you manage long term absence and communicate this to your employees.

Absence is about capability i.e. the employee is not capable of carrying out their job because of their ill health. Therefore, you need to follow a clear ‘capability’ procedure when managing these situations.

Long term absence may also involve disability under the Equality Act. Ensure you consider reasonable adjustments in any situation.

Angela Dansey.

You can contact Angela on angela@practical-hr.co.uk

If you feel that you need guidance or advice on this matter, please call Practical HR on 01702 216573 or email Angela on the above.

Long term absence may also involve disability under the Equality Act. Ensure you consider reasonable adjustments in any situation.