It is therefore important that employers recognise how to deal with the physical and mental well being of its employees and implement systems and policies which help maintain the success of their business.
Jane Crosby from Hart Brown gives her top ten tips for businesses dealing with sickness absences.
Communicate with your employees – When businesses identify that an employee is taking a number of prolonged absences from work the first step is to establish the reason why and establish if their illness will affect their return to work. communicate with your employee by maintaining regular contact with them while they are absent from work.
Have a clear sickness policy in place – If a clear policy is in place then an employer has guidelines which it can follow when dealing with sickness absences so as to display fair and consistent behaviours.
Keep detailed records of absences – If a business is able to manage absenteeism effectively, highlighting problems is a key to this success. It is especially important for a business to identify patterns of absenteeism. This may highlight particular departments which are having problems. A solution maybe for the business to therefore consider a review of the management structure and/or working practices.
Flexible working – Consider allowing employees to take periods of unpaid leave to help them cope better with their illness and aid their rehabilitation back to work. Look at schemes at the beginning of the year for employees to buy extra leave which may help employees achieve a greater work life balance thereby reducing the risk of increased stress levels.
Training for managers – Larger organisations often have the benefit of an HR department which is experienced in dealing with long terms sickness but for smaller businesses it is not always financially viable for them to have an HR department so training managers to deal sympathetically with employees who are ill is particularly important to avoid the risk of claims.
Medical evidence – Employers should consider what evidence they require from an employee especially in terms of long term absences. It maybe that a medical report is required to establish the prognosis of an employee’s illness and establish if there any reasonable adjustments which can be made. Employers need to develop a better understanding of the doctor’s recommendations in the fit note.
Return to work interviews – ACAS has recommended that return to work interviews should be carried out in terms of ill health absence. It is important to remember that these should be handled sensitively to understand the reason why the employee has been absence from work.
Reasonable adjustments – In order to protect businesses from discrimination claims employers should consider the opportunity for appropriate adjustments such as introduction of reducing workloads, working part time and assessing their work station when an employee returns to work.
Dismissal – If there is no alternative for employers but to follow a formal process to dismiss an employee because of a long term illness, then make sure that procedures are followed in accordance with any contractual obligations and the relevant policies contained in the staff handbook. Also employers should ensure that dismissal procedures are in accordance with ACAS procedures. If employers fail to follow these ACAS guidelines then this could result in an employee’s compensation award being increased by up to 25 per cent by the employment tribunal.
Settlement agreements – Consider a settlement agreement with an employee to reach a resolution to the issues of an employee’s long term illness which don’t involve following a dismissal process if an employee is no longer able to return to work. Make sure you take advice before you discuss with your employee about the level of compensation and when the conversation should take place regarding a settlement agreement.