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Sickness Absence

The Line Manager should try to make contact with the employee by telephone on the first day of unauthorised absence in order to ascertain the reason why he or she has failed to turn up for work. Logs of all attempts at contact should be made, whether these comprise of messages left on an answer phone or with relatives, or whether there has simply been no answer when the employee's telephone number is rung. If the employer has a mobile telephone number for the employee, this should be tried in addition to the landline number.

If these attempts to contact the employee prove unsuccessful, it is recommended that the Line Manager also try to get in touch with the employee's stated emergency contacts, which will usually be his or her parents or siblings, spouse/civil partner or partner.

If nothing has been heard from the employee by the second day of unauthorised absence, the Line Manager should step up its attempts at contact by writing to advise the employee that he or she has failed to attend for work on the relevant dates and has not provided any reason for non-attendance. The previous attempts to contact the employee should be cited in the letter. The employee should be asked to make contact by a set deadline to confirm his or her position. Allowing a couple of days for contact should be sufficient. The employee should be advised that unauthorised absence without good cause is a serious disciplinary offence, which may, depending on the circumstances, amount to potential gross misconduct.

Ultimately the employee may be putting themselves in breach of their contract by not complying with the Sickness Absence policy. However managers will need to demonstrate their efforts to contact the employee to investigate reasons for this lack of contact and will need to consider any mitigating circumstances for this behaviour which may include serious illness including mental health capacity.

Any concerns should be explored with the employee usually as part of the ‘Return to Work Interview.’ Such discussions are an important opportunity to support the individual, by ensuring that any appropriate support/intervention is considered and implemented as soon as possible, particularly as research suggests that early intervention can be very effective.

Keeping in touch with an employee who is off sick on a long-term basis may be vital for the employee's wellbeing and to avoid feelings of isolation or rejection. The line manager should therefore arrange for regular contact with the absent employee. This is likely to increase the likelihood of the employee returning to work sooner rather than later.

An employee may not want to talk to their manager while off sick for a variety of reasons. These could be anxiety or embarrassment about their behaviour or emotions, or they may see the manager as the cause of their illness. Contact should still be maintained, as evidence shows that some contact helps the individual’s recovery, and improves the possibility of a successful return to work. If the manager is not the best person to keep in contact, it is then necessary to find a suitable individual to manage the sickness absence.

Yes, the self-certification form can be completed during the return to work interview or for longer periods of absence during the employee support meeting.

This may be appropriate in some cases, for example a manager will require an individual to provide a ‘fit note’ or other appropriate medical evidence from a recognised medical practitioner, if they are seeking to reclaim a period of annual leave due to sickness. Managers may also deem it appropriate to exercise this right if they feel that an individual’s sickness absences illustrates a pattern or warrants investigation.

A fit note is active from the date it is signed. If a fit note is signed in the evening that day is included in the period covered by the fit note.

The employee can go back to work at any time (including before the end of the fit note) without going to see their GP – even if their doctor has indicated that they need to assess them again. However, you should undertake a suitable risk assessment in relation to the potential return, in line with our duty of care, and if appropriate seek advice and guidance from HR/Occupational Health.

You must ensure that the sickness absence recorded is amended to reflect the correct end date for the sickness absence. If using the web portal you can re-visit the sickness absence for the employee and make the necessary changes provided you have not submitted the sickness absence for processing. However, if the sickness absence has been submitted then you will need to notify the absence team to amend the sickness end date. If you record sickness manually using the sickness absence return form then you will need to contact the absence team in order for the adjustment to be made.

Failure to do this may result in the incorrect payment of the individual’s salary.

The ‘fit note’ does not include the option for GP’s to advise someone that they are fully fit for work. A staff member does not need to be fully fit to return to work and on occasions putting reasonable adjustments in place may facilitate an earlier return.

Employees can self-certify their absence for the first seven days, but must provide a doctor’s certificate (fit note) for longer absences. If an employee is absent without a fit note for more than seven days, we may be entitled to withhold either contractual sick pay or statutory sick pay (SSP).

We are entitled to require reasonable information to determine if the employee is entitled to sickness payments. The Line Manager will need to establish if the employee has a good reason for not supplying a doctor’s certificate, for example hospital admission. However, if you are not satisfied that the employee is ill, and no evidence of sickness is provided the Line Manager will need to contact their HR Officer for support and guidance.

Initially the Line Manager should attempt to make contact with the employee by telephone and find out why no fit note has been provided. If this is unsuccessful, the Line Manager should write to the employee setting out the sickness reporting requirements as dictated by the sickness absence policy, pointing out that sick pay may be withheld if no evidence is provided and that unauthorised absence can be a disciplinary matter.

If the employee still does not provide certification, the Line Manager will need to liaise with HR as the absence may be treated as unauthorised and implement its disciplinary procedure.

Yes it is part of the procedure to ensure that a return to work interview is conducted as soon as possible after a return to work. This is a requirement for all line managers.   The new Employee Support Meeting can be used as a return to work meeting where the pre trigger point is met e.g. 3 occasions in a 12 month rolling period.

Return-to-work interviews have been shown to be one of the most effective interventions in facilitating reliable employee attendance. They demonstrate to employees that the employer notices their absences, thus discouraging casual absence, while at the same time giving line managers an opportunity to identify the possible underlying cause(s) of an employee's frequent non-attendance at an early stage. Where an employee knows that he or she will have to justify an absence to the line manager, this may discourage the employee from taking a day off work without good reason.

The portal will not prompt the manager to arrange/complete a return to work interview. This is part of the normal practice for sickness absence and a return to work interview should be held after any period of sickness.

The Employee Support Meeting can be invoked in a number of instances.

  • Employees who have met 3 occasions of absence in a rolling 12 month period.
  • The timing of an ‘Employee Support Meeting’ when absences are a number of days or a continuous absence is a matter of judgement, but when the individual has 10 day or the equivalent of 2 weeks’ absence (e.g. 4 days for someone who works a 2 day week.)
  • If you consider that an absence record is beginning to form an unacceptable pattern e.g. absences abutting leave.

There is no requirement to give notice for the Employee Support Meeting but some notice may be useful in order that all parties feel they get the best from the meeting. It should normally be on a ‘one to one’ basis but telephone conversations may be appropriate when an employee is on continuous absence or in the case of employees who work in another location. Please note that this arrangement would not be appropriate at the formal stages of the procedure when all employees should attend the meeting. Seven calendar days written notice should be given at each stage of the formal procedure and the employee should be reminded of the right to accompaniment by a union representative or work colleague.

If you have access to the web based self service system ‘My View’ you can view all of your direct reports absence on the portal.

If you use the web portal and have entered some information incorrectly, for example, choose the wrong end date - provided you have not submitted the absence details you will be able to access the entry and make the necessary changes.

However, if you notify us of sickness using the sickness absence return form or have already pressed ‘submit’ then you will need to contact the Absence Team who will make the necessary amendment for you.

An automatic email alert will be sent to the Line Manager advising of the following:

  • 4 or more sickness absences in 12 month

Line Managers will also need to be mindful of the following:

  • 10 days or more sickness absence in 12 months
  • 15 days sickness absence in a rolling 12 month period
  • Absence before or after annual leave

Absence before or after Bank Holiday

It is the responsibility of the line manager to ensure that the RTWID is input following the interview. An automatic email alert will be sent to the absence team informing that a RTWID is missing on an employee’s record. The absence team will contact the line manager and request the RTWID in order to update the employee’s record.

You should ensure that employees who report directly to you know who to report their sickness absence in instances where you are not available.

The ‘fit note’ will specify the absence end date and this should be recorded for the individual. For employees that work the same days/hours each week you will need to enter the last day of sickness as the day before the employee returned to work. This may be a day they are not scheduled to work, for example, a full time employee returning to work after sickness on a Monday will have their last day of sickness as Sunday.

A phased return to work is recommended by Occupational Health and may require an adjustment to the working arrangements or environment if operationally possible.

During a phased return, the employee is paid their normal full pay.

From 1 January 2015, employer-funded medical treatment that is recommended by the Fit for Work service, or Occupational Health, to help an employee return to work is exempt from income tax and national insurance contributions, up to the value of £500 per employee per tax year.

The treatment must be to enable an employee to return to work after illness or injury, where he or she has been absent for at least 28 consecutive days or where he or she has been assessed by a healthcare professional as not fit for work, or possibly fit for work if certain steps are taken, for at least 28 consecutive days. The recommendation must be provided in writing to the employer and employee and must specify the medical treatment that is recommended.

The person making the recommendation must be:

  • a registered medical practitioner
  • a registered nurse; or
  • an occupational therapist, physiotherapist or psychologist registered with a relevant regulatory body

The Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 covers reports that are "prepared by a medical practitioner who is or has been responsible for the clinical care of the individual". Care is defined as including examination, investigation or diagnosis for the purposes of, or in connection with, any form of medical treatment. Therefore, reports produced by the employee's own GP or consultant would be covered. A report produced by an organisation's own occupational health practitioner could also be covered if the practitioner has been involved in the employee's treatment, even past treatment unrelated to the employee's current medical condition.

For statutory sick pay purposes, once an employee has begun work on a day, that day cannot count as a day of incapacity. However, if the employee arrives for work and does no work before going off sick, it is deemed to be a day of incapacity.

For Occupational Sick Pay and recording purposes, sickness absence can only be recorded for half day or whole day periods. However, if anyone is incapacitated for less than that period they should ensure that their manager is notified and that they self-certify for the period of sickness. This will ensure that the employee is paid for normal hours. However, it should be noted that it will count towards the individual’s sickness absence trigger.

An employer cannot withhold statutory sick pay (SSP) from an employee who is frequently absent from work due to sports injuries where the employee meets the relevant qualifying conditions for SSP. If the employee provides the required evidence of incapacity, the cause of his or her injuries is irrelevant.

It is good practice for Line Managers to advise all employees of any vacancies or promotion opportunities, whether they are attending work or absent. An employee on long-term sick leave may qualify as having a disability under the Equality Act 2010. Employers are under a specific duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees to avoid their being put at a disadvantage. Advising disabled employees on long-term sick leave about vacancies or promotion opportunities is likely to constitute a reasonable adjustment.

Generally, an employer should treat a medical certificate from a doctor, even if from another country, as evidence of illness, unless there is evidence that the certificate is not genuine or that the employee is not incapacitated.

Any unfavourable treatment of a woman because of pregnancy-related sickness absence will amount to pregnancy and maternity discrimination. Because the period beginning with the start of a woman's pregnancy and ending with her return to work after statutory maternity leave is deemed to be a "protected period", it would be inadvisable for us to subject an employee who is absent from work with a pregnancy-related condition to any warnings for unsatisfactory attendance. It would be advisable instead for us to discount all genuine pregnancy-related sickness absences from any absence management procedure that applies.

An employee who is off sick during the early stages of her pregnancy will be entitled to be paid statutory sick pay, if she qualifies for it, and contractual sick pay, in the same way as any other employee.

Line Managers will need to ensure they are aware of employees’ rights during pregnancy and maternity leave so as to ensure that an employee in this situation is treated with the appropriate degree of respect, courtesy and sympathy.

The line manager should meet with the employee on or before the first day back to discuss his or her capabilities, and review whether or not any special arrangements and support need to be provided initially. The manager should consider any recommendations given by Occupational Health. The manager should be careful not to overload the employee with work at first, but at the same time ensure that he or she is given meaningful tasks. Showing the employee that his or her return is welcomed and is also important.

Employers' obligations under the Equality Act 2010, including the duty to make reasonable adjustments, are unaffected by the introduction of the fit notes system (which replaced sick notes on 6 April 2010).

The advice given on a fit note is advice for the employee and is not binding on the employer. Most GPs are not trained in occupational health. They have a limited amount of time to see patients and often have only the patient's account of the symptoms.

The government guidance for doctors (Getting the most out of the fit note: GP guidance) and employers (Getting the most out of the fit note: Guidance for employers and line managers), makes clear that fit notes are not binding on employers.

As part of the sickness absence process an individual may be seen by Occupational Health and any suggested adjustments or recommendations will need to be considered and implemented if the service is able to accommodate.

If you are a new manager or supervisor you can look at the online training that may be helpful. It is also good to ask a more experienced colleague for you to observe their meeting and /or, they attend the meeting with you for support. There is significant support available from PMP.

Learning and development have online training modules and other learning strategies such as coaching and advice on case management will be provided by Human Resources. Generally with the first stage Attendance Management Meetings and the Employee Support Meeting, managers are trying to identify appropriate support mechanisms for employees and these meetings are generally not contentious.


Having gathered as much information as possible about the circumstances, at a private meeting the manager should put the facts and any allegations to the employee, ask questions and seek to clarify any discrepancies or reasonable suspicions. However, the manager should make it clear that what is being put to the employee is not an accusation, but an attempt to make the employee aware of the situation that has arisen and give him or her the opportunity to present his or her side of the story so that the truth can be established.

It may be the case that your employee is covered by the Disability Definition under the Equalities Act 2010. (see link to Equalities Act 2010.) This does not mean that the employee is excluded from the procedures within the Sickness Absence Policy. As an Employer we are required to make reasonable adjustments in order to support employees who may be covered by protected characteristics. If those adjustments are not in place it may lead to you delaying the formal procedure or the latest stages of the formal procedure whilst you wait for those adjustments to take place e.g. for an adaption at the workstation or consideration of flexible working. However if all these are in place the procedure should follow as it would for all employees. Please obtain further advice from the HR team.

If an employee has a critical illness which has a longer period of recovery some consideration will be made before invoking the latest stages of the procedure but in all cases regular contact with the employee should be in place and consideration will be made of any information provided by Occupational Health Unit. In some cases however it may be that employees will proceed through the process quickly if there is a prognosis of an unlikely to return to work in the foreseeable future and therefore early release of pension can be given to the employee. Please telephone the HR team for further advice.

The policy states that they may stay at the same stage of the procedure as there are many occasions where the nature of the illness is so different that managers would need to get additional information from Occupational Health. As an Authority it could be deemed unfair if we acted hastily by immediately invoking the next stage of the procedure.

The important message is that in all cases the employee is still in the formal procedure and will not leave that procedure until such time that, following the 6 months extended review, that their absence record over a 12 month period does not invoke the formal process e.g. they should have less than 4 occasions off and or less than 15 days or the equivalent of 3 weeks in a 12 month period.

The examples that would invoke this part of the formal procedure is where an employee over a longer period may have had multiple absences that abutted annual leave or bank holidays or in some cases employees have over a number of years taken certain days or absence at the same time each year.

Whilst it may be frustrating for a manager to wait until the end of the prescribed period it is important to keep to the procedure in terms of the agreed review period. There may be some exceptions but in general the review period of 2 or 3 months should be adhered to. If further absences occur in the meantime, additional information may be required from Occupational Health or others prior to the formal review date.

Whilst dismissal for capability (health) is potentially a fair reason for dismissal, the Authority will need to ensure that in making this decision we have acted fairly and reasonably. They would need to check that you have followed the procedure and that all the required documentation is in place. You will also need to demonstrate that in view of all medical documentation and, in particular, advice from Occupational Health Professionals, everything has been done to support the employee to either return to work or in maintaining their good health for more regular attendance at work.

The manager may want to consider what the effect of the absence of the employee has on the department and to consider whether, as a large employer, we have done everything we possibly can for the employee.

All employees are entitled to their statutory notice based on their years of service up to a maximum of 12 weeks (different arrangements are in place for teachers who will have specific statutory notice periods). Notice can be paid in lieu in very exceptional circumstances.

Those employees in the Local Government Pension scheme may be given access to their pension only if the decision is to dismiss on health capability grounds. Similar arrangements apply to Teaching Staff.

Following a dismissal on grounds of health capability the employee has the right to have the original decision considered by an officers’ appeal panel which normally comprises of a Director or nominated officer and the Assistant Chief Executive (People Management) or nominated representative who will consider the evidence in respect of dismissal.

The decision to review will follow the 2nd stage procedure and /or a 3rd stage in the procedure if the decision is not to dismiss, and/or following a decision to stop occupational sick pay and or statutory sick pay. Whilst the process is similar, this panel may comprise of the Director or nominated representative with advice from the Assistant Chief Executive (People Management) or nominated representative.   Managers are reminded to contact the Attendance Management Team where they are intending to stop Occupational Sick Pay.

These are not included because they are generally not viewed as Sickness Absence. Please see Time off Policy  for details.

Generally time used for hospital/doctor appointments are not paid absence; flexi leave or other leave should be used to cover these absences.

Please note where employees are invited for day surgery but will require a period of recovery this will be considered as sickness absence and would be treated as any other sickness absence.

Yes, under European Working Time Regulations employees have the right to carry forward their entitlement to statutory holidays (28 days which includes Bank Holidays). Please note that this is not the full holiday entitlement.

Please liaise with the relevant HR Officer supporting who will provide support.

Please liaise with the relevant HR Officer supporting who will provide support.

Work related stress and stress-related illnesses are not reportable under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR). The Health and Safety Executive website explains:

This is because the causes of stress-related ill health are usually extremely complex and linking conditions to specific types of work activity would be very difficult. This does not mean that stress cannot be raised with the enforcing authorities nor does it mean that a complaint cannot be made which could result in an investigation. While work related stress is not reportable, employers have duties to assess and manage the risk of stress-related ill health arising from work activities.

Health and Safety Executive: Stress –Frequently Asked Question (Accessed 12 June 2015).

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Page updated: 26/03/2018 09:28:32