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How to manage an employee with a poor sickness absence record

Author: Tina Elliott


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  • When dealing with an employee with a poor sickness absence record, aim to reach a position where the employee is able to return to their duties.
  • Be aware that dismissal for ill health may be a potentially fair reason for dismissal, but take into account the protection given by the Equality Act 2010, as well as the need to follow fair procedures.
  • Be aware that return-to-work meetings may be helpful when dealing with persistent short-term absences.
  • Where there are persistent short-term absences but no underlying medical condition, consider moving towards dismissal based on poor attendance.
  • Where the employee is on long-term sickness absence or has intermittent short-term absences due to an underlying medical position, obtain a medical report.
  • Where the absence is prolonged, ensure that a fresh medical report is obtained so that decisions are taken in light of up-to-date information.
  • Keep in touch with an employee who is off sick on a long-term basis.
  • Schedule sickness review meetings to discuss the content of medical reports, and progress and prospects for a return to work.
  • Ensure that any warning that continued sickness absence may result in dismissal is given in a sensitive fashion.
  • Consider ill-health retirement and/or permanent health insurance where appropriate.
  • Be aware of the benefits of having a sickness absence policy in place.