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Employment Law For Businesses

Managing Sickness Absences

Managing Sickness Absences Advice and assistance from Employment Solicitors in Manchester and London

Whilst we are all sympathetic when employees need to take time off work due to sickness, we are also aware of the challenges managing sickness absences can have on your business. They can affect the smooth running of day to day activity and for long absences it can have a serious impact on your business’s financial performance and the other staff members. 

Dealing with sickness absences is a tricky business and needs to be handled carefully. If the absence is due to an ongoing disability then you will need to take extra care to avoid any discrimination accusations. 

Employers need to be aware of the potential ramifications both short-term and long-term absences can have on the operations and performance of their business. These are delicate matters which need to be handled with the utmost care. Not doing so would risk employees bringing an unfair dismissal claim against your business.

What are the common issues with sickness absences?

The most common issues concerning sickness absences are:

  • Employees with mental health conditions linked to work
  • Employees avoiding a disciplinary hearing
  • Employees abusing the policy
  • Reasonable adjustments for disabled staff
  • Suspending an employee on medical grounds
  • Unfair dismissals

Why is it important to have a sickness absence policy?

It is important that you have a detailed policy that expresses the company’s sickness procedures. You should explain the procedure for calling in sick, adjustments that can be made for return to work, and the point in which you will consider suspension or disciplinary action. If you do not have grievance and disciplinary procedures in place we can help you.

Having a thoroughly detailed policy in place can allow you to manage unexpected sickness absences and deal with long-term absences appropriately in the best interests of the business, in terms of minimising disruptions, and prevent grounds on which employees can raise employment claims against you.

Effective management of sickness absences not only prevents disruptions to your business, it can also correlate to positive implications such as reduced costs, a motivated workforce, and improved efficiency and performance. 

What is the legal position on sickness absences and how to manage them?

In the majority of cases when an employee is off sick their contract of employment continues and they are entitled to sick pay. The minimum you must pay your employee is called statutory sick pay (SSP) which is the amount set by the government. You can also offer your employee contractual sick pay. This will be a rate set out in the employment contract, or your policy documents that offers sick pay above SSP.

It is legal to dismiss an employee for illness if they cannot do their job properly. However, in order to avoid an unfair dismissal claim there are some procedural steps you must take. These include:

  • Keep a record of all short-term sickness absences and the reasons for the absences
  • Give the employee an opportunity to improve their attendance record
  • Give your employee notice that they may be dismissed if they do not improve their attendance record

As an employer, you will need to be wary if your employee is disabled. You must make sure you are acting fairly and are transparent when dealing with an employee with a disability. If your employee is disabled you will need to take extra care because they are protected by the Equality Act 2010If you are not considered to be fair you could face an unfair dismissal and a disability discrimination claim. For a disabled employee you need to follow these procedures:

  • Keep in regular contact with the employee to check on their progress and well-being
  • Get evidence from a medical professional if they decide to return to work
  • Take advice on any adjustments you can make to help them return to work
  • Decide if these adjustments are considered reasonable and if you can make the adjustments 

Our employment solicitors can guide you through the process and help you make the decisions that is fair and right for your business. 

How can Monarch Solicitors help?

At Monarch Solicitors, we can help employers manage staff who have been unable to work due to a long-term sickness by advising on how to deal with such complex and delicate matters, and how to fairly dismiss employees if they are unable to return to work for the unforeseeable future. 

Our specialist employment solicitors have decades of experience dealing with employment issues. They are well equipped to deal with a whole manner of different cases no matter how big or small. 

Whether you require help updating your existing policies in line with any new or updated legislation, dealing with long-term absences, or help during the dismissal process, our team have had great success negotiating settlement offers, taking claims to the Employment Tribunal, and many more. Every person we represent receives the same high quality of treatment and personal service.

Legal Costs for Managing Sickness Absences & Service Transparency

If you are considering taking Court action due to a breach of employment law the legal costs should be weighed against the amount likely to be received in damages.

We know it’s important to your business that the legal costs of the dispute are kept under control so as to not affect your cash flow.

We’ll not only ensure that you’re aware of the costs implications from the outset, we’ll provide you with step-by-step cost estimates or fixed fees for each stage of the work. We’ll also consider funding options to suit your business needs so you can be sure that our legal services are cost effective.

For more information regarding legal funding options, please click here for more information.

About our Employment Team

At Monarch Solicitors, our employment lawyers have vast experience, expertise, and knowledge in resolving all kinds of domestic and international employment disputes, whether it be complex or technical or simply a disagreement over pay and working conditions.

We have particular expertise in relation to the following areas:

Contact our Employment Solicitors

Our expert employment lawyers are available to discuss all aspects of managing sickness absences.

Please contact our employment advisors for immediate assistance by sending an email to us at [email protected] and one of our employment solicitors shall call you back. 

Alternatively, please call our employment solicitors in Manchester on 0330 127 8888 for a no obligation discussion.

Monarch Solicitors is a leading UK law firm with specialist employment solicitors ready to offer their expertise. Our award-winning Manchester solicitorsLondon solicitors and Birmingham solicitors offer their legal expertise nationally and internationally.

We are also able to leverage an international network spanning across Hong Kong, Turkey and Dubai to provide seamless assistance with cross-border matters relating to managing sickness absences.

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Most frequent questions and answers

An adequate and transparent absence policy in place helps aid manage unexpected sicknesses and assists with managing long-term absences which can not only allow you to plan your human resources accordingly, but to prevent employees bring legal claims against you on the grounds of:

  • Unfair dismissal
  • Constructive dismissal
  • Disability discrimination
  • Personal injury

Employers must first acquire proof of sickness. If the employee qualifies as having a long-term sickness and that there is no justifiable method in which the employee could return to work under any capacity then an employer has the right to dismiss the employee. However, there is a burden for the employer to prove that they have complied with the Equality Act 2010 and have looked into every reasonable step possible to make the necessary adjustments according to the employee’s sickness to ensure whether it would be plausible to get the employee back to work. Therefore, dismissal must be seen as a last resort.

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