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Frequent Sickness Absence and Long-term Sickness Absence

January 2020

Effective management of absence is one of the biggest challenges facing any employer and accurate measurement of employee absence, including the use of triggers and targets, is one of the main tools which can be used in this regard.

An absence trigger is a defined level of sickness absence that, once reached, prompts a formal process whereby the line manager or another senior manager looks further into the employee’s level of sickness absence. Having absence trigger systems in place means that line managers can discuss any patterns or issues with their employees, with the aim of supporting them to improve attendance levels at work. In the event that the absence management process does not produce the required improvement in the employee’s attendance levels, it also forms part of a process that may later be needed to justify a fair dismissal further down the line.

This month, Simply-Docs has added a series of absence management letters using such trigger points. There are separate letters to be used in respect of frequent sickness absences, i.e. when an employee is frequently absent from work for relatively short periods of unconnected illnesses and for long-term sickness absence, i.e. any absence lasting at least 28 calendar days.

The outcome of the absence management meeting may be that no action is taken, that changes are made to the employee’s working pattern or role on a temporary or permanent basis, or that a formal warning is given. A warning should not be given if the reasons for the absence are pregnancy-related. If the employee’s absence does not improve during the absence management process, this may ultimately lead to the employee’s dismissal.

Employers should be aware that an employee on long term sick leave, or who shows a pattern of frequent short-term sickness absence, may be suffering from some form of disability. This means that reasonable adjustments have to be made for them, including when inviting them to attend sickness absence management meetings.

The contents of this Newsletter are for reference purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Independent legal advice should be sought in relation to any specific legal matter.

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