Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Dismissing an employee for sickness: a legal perspective

It's great to hear from Activ Absence customers that they notice an almost instant reduction in short term sickness absence of 20-30%, which more than covers the cost of the product - but how can HR Managers tackle the remaining absences, and crucially, how and when should they consider dismissing a staff member for persistent sickness?

The return to work interview process is crucial for identifying and managing patterns of short term sickness. It helps you identify those employees who may be suffering from a hidden disability or stress and gives you a chance to see if you can assist them by making reasonable changes, such as letting them work from home, reducing their hours or changing their environment or tasks until or if they recover.

Activ Absence users are armed with a built in return to work process and a whole series of absence reports, such as which days of the week employees take off (typically Mondays and Fridays).  These will help in terms of providing the information you need to have an informal discussion, and for most employees that is enough.  It also conveniently gives HR Managers vital evidence if the matter escalates.

However, no matter what systems HR put in place, there are still employees who will continue to take frequent sick days with no real excuse.

Employers will at some point inevitably also have to deal with staff who are off sick for substantial periods and are unfortunately never likely to be well enough to ever return to work.  This is sad for both employer and employee, but nonetheless a situation that requires delicate handling.

Some cases will unfortunately reach a point when a decision has to be made to let an employee go.

It is obviously vital in these cases that employers handle dismissals for sickness absence sensitively and follow the correct procedure every step of the way.

In this article, HR News offers excellent general guidance from Employment Partner Kathryn Casey-Evans, Employment Partner at Trethowans solicitors.  It is a must-read for any HR Manager deciding how to handle persistent sickness absence challenges:

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