Managing Long Term Absence

PUBLISHED: 16:52 07 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:50 20 February 2013

Managing Long Term Absence

Managing Long Term Absence

HR Expert Cathy O'Donoghue of HR Champions gives some advice that should be applied when managing cases of Long Term Absence

Managing Long Term Absence

HR Expert Cathy ODonoghue of HR Champions gives some advice that should be applied when managing cases of Long Term Absence.

Over the summer, several clients have asked us to support them in managing cases of Long Term Absence. We were a little taken aback by how long some of the cases had been ongoing for, but for an issue that can be both time consuming and a drain on resources, its little wonder that the inclination is to put the matter to one side to be dealt with when time allows. Long term sickness cases do take a degree of effort to manage effectively and each case has its own intricacies and anomalies, however here we have compiled a few golden rules that should be employed under all circumstances.

  • Four weeks is the usual threshold for long term absence however this may vary depending on your own companys policy so make sure you activate your long term absence policy at the right time.

  • Dont ignore the situation. The biggest problems we encounter are when no action has been taken for several months and the employer suddenly wants to do something about it.

  • Ascertain the medical condition from which the employee is suffering, the nature of investigations/treatment that they have had to date, and the likely time scale in which they expect to return to work

  • Regular communication is vital. We recommend every two to four weeks that the employee is off and seek to establish:

    • Is the employee recovering?

    • Is there any more support they can be offered?

    • Are there company issues that he or she should be kept up to date with?

    • What you are doing to manage in the workplace during his or her absence?

  • Arranging a medical report from the employees GP should be part of your process if the absence looks likely to be extended. However GPs can sometimes be reluctant to release medical details to people with no medical background. We recommend commissioning an Occupational Health Advisor (OHA) who will be able to interpret the results of a medical report and recommend any adjustments required in the workplace to assist the employees return to work.

  • Remember the employees rights under the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 which must be explained to them, and you must get a Medical Report Consent form signed.

  • If the employee refuses you access to a medical report, you should explain that you will proceed with just the information you already have which may be out of date.

  • The results of the medical report will determine how to proceed. Whether the employee will return to work and if a support plan needs to be put in place to assist this; or if the future of the employee remaining with the company needs to be considered. Each case should be assessed individually depending on the advice from the OHA

  • Regardless of the potential outcome arrange to discuss the results with the employee.

  • Very often, underpinning Long Term Asence is the potential for disability and employers should ensure that every effort to consider reasonable adjustment should be taken. Disability Discrimination under the Equalities Act 2010 carries unlimited penalties so make sure you exhaust all possibilities before considering dismissal.

  • Get updated Medical Reports as required. Dont base decisions on a report that is three months old.

  • As an employer you may have limits for accepting reasonable adjustments in the business, so only after all possible adjustments have been exhausted in line with ACAS best practices will dismissal be the only reasonable outcome. However you must make sure the whole process has been managed properly; including the dismissal itself.

HR Champions Ltd

43 Brunswick Road, Gloucester, GL1 1JS

Tel: 01452 331331

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