Some absence due to sickness is inevitable within any large organisation and sickness absence needs to be dealt with in a fair, understanding and sympathetic way. Absence is costly; it has an adverse effect upon colleagues and on the level and quality of service that the University provides. Effective monitoring of all forms of absence, and a consistency of approach, are essential if absence levels are to be maintained at, or below, sector standards/averages. The University’s Absence Management procedure is not a disciplinary procedure. Absence not due to genuine illness will be dealt with under the Disciplinary Procedure. Sick leave is recorded on the Leave and Absence Management System (LAMS).
Ill Health and Absence Regulation
This regulation applies to all staff, including academic staff who have completed probation. Please refer to the Ill Health and Absence Regulation.
Who is responsible for managing absence?
- Line Managers (supervisors, section heads, etc.) are the people best placed to manage absence in their areas of responsibility.
- Every employee has a responsibility to attend work when she/he is fit to do so.
Notification of absence
All staff have a responsibility, under their contract of employment and / or under the terms of the Sickness Pay Scheme, to contact their department as early as possible on the first day of absence; and no later than normal commencement of work or shift start time. This is important as alternative arrangements (to ensure that all necessary work is covered) may have to be put into place.
If you are absent for up to 3 calendar days, you are not required to provide evidence of incapacity.
If your absence extends to a 4th day and lasts up to 7 calendar days, a self-certification form should be completed and returned to your departmental absence administrator .
If your absence lasts longer than 7 calendar days, a Doctor's certificate (fit note) must be forwarded direct to your departmental absence administrator and you should inform your Line Manager of the period of absence covered by the certificate. In this event, the Doctor's Certificate (fit note) will be accepted as evidence of incapacity for the first 7 days and it will not then be necessary to complete the self-certifcate.
Until such time as a Doctor's Certificate (fit note) is received it is your responsibility to inform your Line Manager on a daily basis of any continuing absence.
You should inform your Line Manager of the period of absence covered by the certificate.
Failure to comply with the reporting requirements could mean that a period of absence will be treated as unauthorised absence and sick payments withheld.
If you have provided an open Doctor's Certificate (fit note) or you wish to return before the Doctor's Certificate (fit note) has expired, you must obtain a Doctor's Statement of Fitness before you will be allowed to return to work.
Sickness absence during annual leave
An employee who falls sick during the course of annual leave must provide a Doctor's Certificate (fit note) and will be regarded as being on sick leave from the date specified on the Certificate. He / she may take the balance of holiday at a later date after returning to work, provided the balance of holiday is taken before the end of the leave year, or such period as may be agreed by the University.
Return to work
As a reminder, when you return to work you should inform your line manager or departmental absence administrator (dependant on individual departmental arrangements) of your return to work.
To be consistent, everyone returning from a period of absence, whatever the duration, must have a return to work meeting with his or her Line Manager. An email reminder is sent to your Line Manager when your department absence administrator inputs the end of your absence into LAMS.
The purpose of the meeting is to:
- Welcome you back to work
- Ensure you are fully fit to return (has she/he been signed off by his/her own doctor and/or the University's medical adviser?)
- Identify the reason for the absence
- Confirm the length of absence
- Discuss and/or identify any adjustments to the work place, duties or hours which may reduce/eliminate absences
- Identify and address any problems (work related or otherwise) that may be causing or contributing to the absence
- Agree priorities for the post-absence period
The general purpose of the interview is to establish the facts and see if any action may be taken to reduce/eliminate future absence. This return to work meeting is not a disciplinary interview. Discussions between you and your manager will be kept confidential so far as reasonably possible. If your manager is dissatisfied with the outcome of the return to work meeting then he/she will seek advice from the Human Resources (HR) Office before taking any action.
All phased returns must be discussed with Occupational Health and HR.
Phased returns will normally be for a four week period, with full time working resuming after four weeks. A period in excess of four weeks for a phased return can only be agreed following further discussions with Occupational Health and HR. Full pay will only be paid for a maximum of four weeks, thereafter the rate of pay will normally be reduced to the number of hours the member of staff is able to work.
Adjustments to working environment
It may be necessary to make temporary or, in some cases, permanent adjustments to the workplace, your hours and/or duties to help reduce/eliminate future absence. If this is the case then your input and agreement will be sought to any changes and to when such changes will be reviewed. The Occupational Health Adviser will be able to provide both help and guidance in this process and will be consulted before any adjustments are made. Adjustments will also be considered in appropriate cases of short-term sickness absence.
Specialist help and advice
There are two sources of specialist help and advice available: -
The HR Office can help at any stage of the process and will advise on what steps need to be taken.
Occupational Health will assist with medical referrals and workplace assessments if the absence is due to work-related problems affecting the health of the individual. If an employee is returning from a period of long term absence, advice may be given as to how to effect a progressive return to "full-time working". Occupational Health will also advise on what reasonable adjustments may be made to reduce/eliminate absence and/or facilitate a return to work.
Frequent Intermittent Absence
Where there has been:
- 3 or more absences in a 3 month period or
- intermittent absences amounting to 10 days in a rolling year
the University recommends that managers trigger the Ill Health and Absence Regulation. A reminder email is sent to Line Managers from LAMS.
Any long-term absence of 4 weeks duration will trigger a notification email to your Line manager and the University Occupational Health Adviser. The Line Manager completes the referral documentation and then sends this to the University Occupational Health Adviser, who will take appropriate action in relation to the notified reason for absence including meeting with you and obtaining necessary medical reports. If your manager thinks it appropriate, absences of less than 4 weeks' duration may also be referred to the University's Occupational Health Adviser.
If you are referred to Occupational Health you are obliged to attend the appointment. If you are not able to attend due to illness, the Occupational Health Adviser will make arrangements to visit you at home.
It is important for your manager to maintain regular contact with you on long term absence throughout your period of absence. Where contact involves general enquiries regarding your welfare, informing you of social events taking place, or passing on the good wishes of the staff, contact may be made by telephone; a brief note of this may be logged on LAMS. All other communications will usually be in writing.
The Occupational Health Adviser will regularly review your situation and will liaise with your manager and keep him/her informed of any likely return to work date.
Consideration may be given to termination of your employment if you are unable to return to work either at all or within a reasonable period of time, and there are no adjustments to workplace, hours or duties that would facilitate a return. In this case, action would be taken under the Ill Health and Absence Regulation.
Accrual of annual leave whilst on long term sickness absence
Annual leave is accrued in line with the Working Time Regulations while employees are on long term sickness absence. It is University policy that leave can not be carried over to the next annual leave year and there is no legal right to allow employees to do so. It is therefore a requirement that employees on long term sickness absence identify a period in which to take their annual leave during the year. Failure to do so will result in the loss of annual leave. Payment for annual leave during sick leave will be at the normal daily rate. Employees need to contact their manager and HR Representative to confirm when a period of annual leave is to be taken. HR will notify Salaries accordingly.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the implications for my Benefits+ arrangements if I drop to half pay as a result of long-term absence?
Your Benefits+ arrangements will be reviewed. If there is a possibility that you will be disadvantaged you will be removed from Benefits+ and reinstated on your return to work, if appropriate.
- Can I refuse to attend a return to work meeting?
Under the procedure everyone should attend a return to work interview. If the reason for your sickness absence is for a personal medical reason, and your line manager is of a different gender to yourself, you can ask to have the interview with someone of the same gender in your department. If no one is available in your department then, in exceptional circumstances, arrangements can be made for you to have a return to work interview with the Occupational Health Adviser.
- Can I be accompanied when attending a return to work meeting?
The meeting is an informal discussion to ensure that you are fit to return to work and to determine whether or not any adjustments of a temporary or more permanent nature are required to be made to your "job". Being accompanied to the meeting suggests that you want the discussion to take place on a more formal basis and this is not the intention of the discussion.
- How long do I have to be absent from work before I have a return to work meeting?
Any absence of one day or longer will require a return to work meeting. If you attend for work and then leave work because of sickness or an accident you should inform your line manager prior to leaving the workplace. Provided you return to work the next day, there will be no need for you to attend for a return to work meeting.
- How do I collect my personal possessions during my absence?
If you are absent from your base of work for any length of time, it is your responsibility to have your personal possessions collected in a timely manner or to arrange with your manager for them to be stored, if this is possible.