Sickness Policy Advice for Employers

Whether you employ one person or one hundred, the ill health of any employee is a sensitive subject; one which needs to be handled with care and a proper understanding of your legal responsibilities.

Having a robust and fair workplace sickness policy in place can help ensure that both you and your workforce are protected.

Our sickness policy expertise

Our experienced employment solicitors work with employers and business owners across the UK, helping them to implement sickness policies for their employees and advising on any sick leave disputes.

Our sickness policy advice includes:

  • Advising employers on legal issues around repeated or extended sickness absence
  • Drafting and amending sickness policies
  • Providing guidance on what to do if you suspect an employee is taking sick leave fraudulently, including what investigations and medical reports you can request to confirm or refute their sickness claim
  • Advising employers on dismissing an employee due to illness, i.e. if they are incapable of carrying out their role

Dealing with workplace absence

Absence from work doesn’t always mean that a person is unwell. Employees may also need time off work for medical appointments, antenatal appointments or classes, bereavement and time to look after loved ones.

A sickness and absence policy should cover what you as an employer considers to be an acceptable reason for absence and what you will or will not pay.

What should be included in a sickness policy?

Having a clear sickness and absence policy in place can not only help avoid the risk of discrimination claims against you but help employees to know what to do should they be unable to work due to sickness.

A sickness absence policy should include:

  • How employees should report absences, e.g. notifying their line manager and whether this needs to be in writing or verbally
  • What types of absences are and are not included, e.g. travel disruption (there is no legal right for an employee to be paid for this)
  • Whether sick pay is provided and how long for
  • When the employee needs to provide a fit note (‘sick note’)
  • How you and the employee can keep in touch, if relevant
  • What to do if someone needs time off due to their disability
  • How you track absence and when it is reviewed
  • What action will be taken if an employee takes sick leave fraudulently
  • When return to work discussions will take place
  • Whether any medical examinations need to be arranged to consider the employee’s ill health

When drafting an absence policy, it is important to seek legal advice from a specialist employment lawyer. They can review your policy and check whether it is robust and fair, as well as advise you on anything you may have missed or overlooked.

Dismissing an employee due to illness

Prolonged or frequent sickness absence can seriously affect your business, regardless of size. For this reason, it’s sometimes necessary to dismiss an employee if they’re taking too much time off and/or they are no longer capable of doing their job due to their ill health.

Dismissing an employee due to illness is a tough decision to make as an employer, however, it is sometimes essential if the employee is no longer capable of doing the job and it is required to protect your business’ interests.

If the employee has more than two years’ continuous service, they may be able to take legal action against you for unfair dismissal. Our employment law solicitors can advise you on how to avoid this situation, or what to do if you’re subject to an unfair dismissal claim.

Even if an employee hasn’t worked for you for two years, if their illness relates to a disability then they could still take legal action against you. To avoid a legal claim under the Equality Act on grounds of discrimination, it’s important that you talk to a legal expert if you’re considering dismissing an employee due to ill health.

Get in touch with our employment solicitors regarding sickness policy advice

Our employment lawyers work with business owners across the UK from our offices across Bristol and South Gloucestershire, located in Bedminster, Bishopston, Clifton, Kingswood, Queen Square and Thornbury.

To speak to our employment law solicitors about sickness policy advice, employee absence or terminating an employee’s contract due to sickness, call us on 0117 325 2929 or complete our online enquiry form.

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