Sickness & Absence Management for Employers

We understand that sickness absence can result in a major cost to many employers and can have a big impact on the productivity of an employer’s business. However, it is vital for employers to understand the potential risks involved should the absence of a sick or disabled employee not be handled correctly. 

There are different types of sickness and absence from work, including long-term or chronic absence, persistent intermittent short term absence, pregnancy related sickness and absence and mental health and stress problems. The procedure that an employer should adopt will differ depending on the circumstances.

We can provide advice regarding the process to be followed depending on the type of absence, as well as the company’s sick pay obligations and the handling of dismissals due to ill health (whether it be short or long term absence, or disability related absence).

Long-term absence

Dealing with an employee who is off sick for long periods, or for one continuous long period, is complex and requires a particularly careful procedure to be followed. This is largely because an employer will want to avoid claims for disability discrimination if the employee has a long-term condition which meets the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010. Essentially if an employee has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities they will be regarded as disabled under the legislation. 

If an employee is, or might be, regarded as disabled an employer has to consider the duty to make reasonable adjustments. In essence the employer is required to consider this in specific circumstances where the employee is being put at a substantial disadvantage. Whether any adjustments might be reasonable will depend on the circumstances.  

Where an employee is absent for a long period, an employer may need to obtain medical evidence from occupational health in order to understand the position regarding the employee’s health. We can assist with the questions that should be asked of the occupational health practitioner so that you ensure that the appropriate information is gathered in order for you to make an informed decision about how to move forward.

Short-term absence

Persistent and intermittent short-term absence can be the most frustrating type of absence for an employer to have to deal with. Usually the employee will have periods of good attendance followed by intermittent short absences. There usually comes a point when the employer has to take action in respect of this due to the inconvenience and disruption to the business. 

It will be essential to carry out a fair process and it is important that an employer has written records to support any steps that are taken.

We have considerable experience of bringing such matters to a conclusion without any claims been brought against employers and we regularly advise employers regarding the application of the law of unfair dismissal and disability discrimination in order to avoid successful claims for disability discrimination and unfair dismissal.