The Academy of Forensic Medical Sciences (hereafter AFMS) aims to create and support a healthy and efficient working environment, not only through compliance with Health and Safety legislation but also through a caring and rehabilitative approach towards sickness absence management.
Illness resulting in absence from work, not only has a significant effect on the member of staff, but also has a major impact on the operating capability of the Academy. It is envisaged that the Sickness Absence Policy, Procedures and Guidelines outlined below will assist members of staff to fulfil their potential and contribute to the achievement of the Academy’s objectives.
This sickness absence policy is based on the following principles:
(i)Regular, punctual attendance is an implied term of every employee’s contract of employment. Employees should take responsibility for achieving and maintaining good attendance.
(ii)We will support employees who have genuine grounds for absence for whatever reason. This support may include:
(iii) We will use an Occupational Health Advisor/Physician, where appropriate to:
(iv) We undertake to provide payments to employees who are unable to attend work due to sickness, as long as certain conditions are met.
(v) We may use the Academy’s Disciplinary Procedure if an explanation for absence is not forthcoming, is not thought to be satisfactory, or where someone has abused the system. This may result in warnings or, in certain circumstances, dismissal.
(vi) The Academy reserves the right to withhold payment of occupational sick pay (OSP) where an employee fails to co-operate or comply with reasonable requests or enquiries to ascertain his/her medical condition or in any way apply these procedures. Failure to comply may also be regarded as a disciplinary matter.
(vii) We are committed to maintaining the highest standard of service provision.
(viii) We respect the confidentiality of all information relating to an employee’s sickness. The policy will be implemented in line with all Data Protection legislation, the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 and Access to Health Records Act 1990. Access to employee’s sickness absence records will be restricted to authorised persons only.
(ix) Information about absences relating to the disability of an employee or to pregnancy will be kept separate from sickness absence records. It should be noted that where an employee is absent due to a pregnancy related illness following the fourth week before the Expected Week of Childbirth maternity leave will automatically commence on the day after the first day of absence.
(x) In cases where the formal procedure needs to be invoked, all employees will have the right to be accompanied by a relevant representative or work place colleague.
(i) Repeated Short Term Sickness Absence
This is where an employee has been absent from work through sickness or injury on a number of occasions within a defined time frame or absences which fall into a pattern over the same period. See the triggers points in the bullets below.
(ii) Long-term Sickness Absence
When an employee has been or is expected to be absent from work for more than 4 consecutive weeks. See the triggers points in the bullets below. The trigger for review is not prescriptive, but it is generally considered that the following levels will initiate the appropriate sickness absence process:
In the event of an employee becoming ill, and unable to carry out their duties, whilst at work, they will notify their line manager, following local reporting arrangements, before leaving for home or to visit their GP. Thereafter, the following procedure will apply.
If an employee is unable to attend work because of illness or injury, the procedure listed below must be followed.
The employee must report his/her absence in accordance with the specific requirements of his/her Department no later than one hour after their expected start time. The notification should where possible include a provisional diagnosis and a likely return date. If the absence is due to an injury at work this must be reported when notifying the Department. It is also recommended that someone is made aware of any urgent work or other internal/external colleagues who may need to be informed of the absence (but not reason for it). In exceptional circumstances, for example in the event of hospitalisation, someone else may notify the department on the employee’s behalf. Text messaging or leaving a message with anyone at random is not acceptable.
The employee should maintain regular phone contact with their line manager to advise on the progress of the illness or injury and the likely date of return to work. The frequency will depend on the circumstances, but as a minimum it should be after the first 4 working days and/or when there is any change to previously given information. If it is impractical for the employee to make contact e.g. in the event of hospitalisation, s/he should ensure that someone carries out this responsibility on their behalf.
If an employee believes that his/her condition may be related to an activity or incident at work s/he should inform his/her manager. In these circumstances the Director of the Academy should be informed and (if this was not done at the time of the injury) complete an Incident/Accident Report Form based on the information given. This should be sent to the Academy Secretary within 2 days. An incident form should be sent to the employee for completion and return (if this was not done at the time of the injury).
If an employee has been exposed to a communicable illness (e.g. diarrhoea and vomiting, chicken pox, or an illness that could be passed onto colleagues in a workplace environment) s/he must inform their line manager.
The employee must provide the relevant form to the Academy Secretary.
If a period of absence includes a weekend this should also be covered by either a self-certificate or medical certificate. For on-going periods of sickness absence, medical certificates should continue to be sent regularly to the Academy Secretary, until the employee is fit for normal duties. If an employee wishes to return to work before the expiry date of their medical statement, advice should be sought from the Academy Director before they are allowed to do so. This may involve a formal referral.
The Academy Secretary will keep automated records of all sickness absence. If they are informed that the absence is due to an injury at work they must inform the Academy Director immediately so that the incident can be investigated. The first step in managing sickness absence is to identify unusual and/or heavy patterns of absence which need to be addressed. This can only be done though maintaining records and monitoring absence levels on an individual and group basis.
Maintaining accurate statistical information also enables the Academy of Forensic Medical Sciences to fulfil its obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act (RIDDOR regulations 1995), its general duty of care to employees, and ensures a fair and consistent approach. It also facilitates positive action by providing information that will:
The Academy operates a rolling 12 month period for reporting sickness absence.
Reasonable time off with pay will be allowed for hospital, doctors and dentist appointments or for emergency medical or dental treatment. Staff are expected to make every effort to ensure that routine appointments are made before or after the working day. Where this is not possible, it expected that appointments will be arranged to minimise disruption to an individual’s work. Therefore, appointments should be made at the beginning or end of the normal working day (i.e. within the first or last working hour), or possibly around a lunchtime period (with agreement). It is accepted that there are cases when the employee has no control over appointment times, e.g. those allocated by a hospital or clinic, where the employee has been subject to a waiting list process.
The Academy wishes to create and support a healthy and efficient working environment, not only through its obligations to comply with Health and Safety legislation but also through a caring and rehabilitative approach towards sickness absence management. To this end the Academy seeks to be supportive and flexible in assisting staff if they need time away from work due to illness and in supporting their rehabilitation back to work.
To help people get the support they need to get back to work the fit note system means that doctors can advise that staff are either:
A doctor will give a ‘may be fit for work’ statement if they think that their patient’s health condition may allow them to work if they get suitable support from the Academy. This statement means the doctor’s assessment is that the patient’s condition does not necessarily stop them from returning to work. For example, they could return to work but may not be able to complete all of their normal duties, or they could benefit from amended working hours, or a phased return to work. If a member of staff receives a ‘may be fit for work’ statement, it should not automatically be assumed that the Academy will be able to accommodate the conditions. Before returning to work, the member of staff should contact their manager to discuss whether or not it is feasible to meet the requirements in the work situation.
The purpose of a phased return to work is to rehabilitate the member of staff to their full duties and gradually build back up to undertaking their normal working hours within an agreed timescale. After a member of staff has been absent from work due to illness over a prolonged period of time, their GP may recommend a phased return to work as part of a rehabilitation programme to allow the member of staff to re-adjust to full attendance/ performance at the workplace.
In terms of a rehabilitation programme the following process should be noted:
The phased return to work programme will normally not exceed four weeks, bearing in mind the need for a degree of flexibility since the member of staff’s progress might be difficult to predetermine. The programme will be time-limited and targets will be agreed. Should there be difficulties related to the phased return arrangements, The Director of the Academy should meet with the member of staff to review the situation.
He/She should review the member of staff’s progress on a weekly basis. In some cases, consideration may be given to a permanent reduction in working hours or the possibility of redeployment.
In certain circumstances it may be appropriate to seek a volunteer to act as a “buddy” for a limited period of time as a useful way of providing support in the very early stage of return, e.g. befriending, or accompanying at lunch times, to assist the member of staff in assimilating back into the workplace.
If the GP has recommended that a phased return to work is appropriate, and the manager has agreed a rehabilitation programme, the member of staff should submit a final medical certificate from the GP. Further medical certificates will not be required relative to a phased return as the member of staff will no longer be on sick leave and sick pay will not apply. If an extension to the phased return to work is envisaged, further medical certificates will be required.
Based on agreed working hours and irrespective of the stage at which the phased return takes place, i.e. during full sick pay period, half pay period or no pay period, payment will be as follows:
The sickness record for a member of staff on a phased return to work will show them as sick for SSP purposes, but not for occupational sick pay purposes. Managers should record staff as on a phased return in their sickness absence return.
During the phased return period the manager will meet with the member of staff weekly, to assess progress and identify any problems. If problems are encountered there should be a discussion on how best to resolve them involving the manager and the member of staff, with advice from Director as appropriate
The Academy accepts that it is inappropriate to use disciplinary action to manage genuine sickness absence. Warnings are going to be of limited use in the management of someone who is genuinely unwell and can be distressing to such individuals. The use of disciplinary action for absence therefore, will be limited to the following circumstances:
It is recognised that persistent or long term sickness absence cannot be supported indefinitely by the organisation no matter how genuine the sickness is. The processes described in this policy and in particular the cautions are not intended to be punitive but instead are used to advise the individual of the seriousness of their situation and the impact that continued absence is likely to have on their employment contract.
Where the employee’s absence record gives cause for concern, the line manager should discuss this with the member of staff on an informal ‘one to one’ basis in the first instance.
The manager should investigate whether there is an underlying problem resulting in the sickness absence(s) and consideration should be given to:
The employee should be made aware that if sufficient improvement is not demonstrated, that the matter may be referred to the formal process. As this is an informal meeting, there is no requirement at this stage for the right to be accompanied by a union representative or fellow employee.
Frequent and persistent short-term absences relate to situations where an employee is absent as a result of minor ailments. These absences may or may not be covered by medical certificates.
If at any stage an employee does not wish to discuss the matter with his/her line manager, the matter will be referred to the Director or a suitable alternative individual. A minimum of 48 hours notice should be given of any formal “Managing Attendance Meeting”. At all formal “Managing Attendance” meetings, the manager will be accompanied by the Director and the employee will be entitled to be accompanied by a relevant representative or fellow employee. Any Improvement Notifications or ‘Caution’ issued will be held on file for 12 months.
If an individual is unable to make a formal scheduled meeting s/he can suggest an alternative date within 5 working days of the original date set. It should be noted that if a date cannot be arranged with in a reasonable time frame, a decision may be taken in absentia.
If there is no significant improvement in the attendance level within the monitoring period, and the employee continues to have frequent/persistent intermittent sickness absences from work, then a professional opinion will be sought from the individuals’ GP. Once the GP report has been received, the line manager should invite the employee to a formal “Managing Attendance Meeting”.
Whether or not there is an underlying medical reason for the absence the manager should advise the employee of the effect that their absence is having on the department.
Consideration should be given to:
The manager will consider the employee’s submission and do the following:
At the end of the specified review period the employee’s level of attendance will be assessed by the line manager as follows:
Whether or not an underlying medical condition can be established, the steps outlined in Stage 1 – First Formal should be repeated. At Stage 2 – Second Formal a Level 2 Improvement Notification will apply. At the end of the specified review period the employee’s level of attendance will be assessed by the line manager as follows:
Whether or not an underlying medical condition can be established, the steps outlined in Stage 1 – First Formal should be repeated. At the end of the specified review period the employee’s level of attendance will be assessed by the line manager as follows:
The Director will initially review the case and may take any of the following actions:
(i) Require the manager to submit further information;
(ii) Require the manager to instigate a further investigation as to what alternative employment can be offered or adjustments can be made to the post to enable the employee to return to work;
(iii) Request the Academy Secretary to write to the staff member inviting them to attend a meeting to discuss the case. This meeting will be attended by the Director, the manager responsible for putting forward the case and the employee and his/her representative and the Academy Secretary. The Director will review the case based on a number of factors including, but not exclusively, a workplace review of the role and the impact that the absence has on the delivery of the service. The employee will be given the opportunity to make representations in support of why their contract of employment should not be terminated. The Director will review the evidence and make a decision on whether or not to terminate the contract of employment on the grounds of failing to adequately and consistently carry out the duties of the post. At this stage a decision may be taken to continue the review process. Where it is decided to recommend termination of the employee’s contract, the individual will be advised of this decision and the reasons for it at the end of the meeting. The final decision will be taken by the Director on behalf of the Academy and this will be confirmed in writing. The individual will be entitled to pay in lieu of the notice period if termination of contract is confirmed. The employee is entitled to appeal the decision to terminate the contract.
For the purpose of this policy, long term sickness absence is identified as absence certified as sickness which lasts for more than four weeks. It is recognised that there are occasions when individuals may need to take a protracted period of absence to recover from more serious health conditions. These types of absences fall into two general categories:
Employees should be aware of their duty to inform their manager of all possible eventualities at the earliest stage and that whilst a sympathetic, supportive and flexible approach will always be taken when dealing with long term sickness absence, ultimately if the individual is unable to return to work within 1 year and all options have been considered (reasonable adjustments to the existing post, redeployment, ill health retirement etc.) then the line manager may need to recommend to the Director that the contract of employment be terminated on the grounds of capability. The final decision will be taken by the Director on behalf of the Academy, a meeting will also be arranged with the employee and their manager to confirm this decision and this will be confirmed in writing.
Where an employee has a condition which is recognised by their GP, for which they are likely to need a predictable period of leave, the individual should submit certificates in the normal way and give an indication when, on the advice of their GP or Consultant, they have been advised that they are likely to be able to return to work. This will be noted as the “expected return date”. No action need be taken until one week prior to the expected return date when the employee should notify the manager to confirm either that they will be returning to work as planned or that their absence period is to be extended.
Frequent short-term absences, or one or more long term absences, may be indicative of underlying health problems, and the Academy wishes to supportively address such problems in order to effectively manage occupational health issues and to minimise the organisational implications. The number and frequency of episodes of absence, and the number of days lost are important factors in the need for action. In cases where absence recurs and/or certain trigger points have been reached (see 8.1. below), having regard to the reasons for the pattern of absences and other circumstances, the manager is responsible for the initiation of supportive intervention, or other actions.
If, having regard to the reasons for the pattern of absences and departmental circumstances, the manager believes that supportive intervention is not required at that stage, other than regular communication, no further action will be taken at that time, although the manager will keep the absence level under review. If the manager believes that supportive intervention is necessary, the initial step in such cases will be to arrange a meeting with the member of staff as soon as possible. If the current absence is likely to be short term (i.e. less than four weeks) this meeting should take place on the member of staff’s return to work. In cases of long-term absence (four weeks or more), the member of staff may be requested to attend a meeting with his/her manager, at a mutually acceptable location. Where investigation of the circumstances of the sickness absences gives no cause for concern at that stage, the manager may nevertheless continue to keep the absence level under review.
Generally the following levels of short-term absence should trigger a review by a manager:
The employee has the right to appeal against the outcome of every stage of the Sickness Procedure by following the Academy’s standard appeals procedure.
In cases where the employee raises a grievance against the actions of the Academy in relation to his/her sickness, the grievance procedure will not normally be available to the employee whilst the sickness procedure is being considered, unless it is agreed there are grounds for hearing the grievance first. Due consideration will be given as to whether in these particular circumstances the grievance should be dealt with before proceeding with the sickness procedure and/or whether another line manager of equivalent grade should deal with it. Any penalty from the sickness procedure will not be decided upon until the grievance has been heard.