Dealing with workers who are on long-term sick leave can be difficult – the situation is commonly misunderstood and many employers handle it badly – either by rushing in and sacking the employee without due process – or by simply standing back and hoping everything will somehow sort itself out eventually.
Any responsible employer will of course do all they can to get a good employee back to work – but there does come a point when the absence of an employee, particularly one in a critical important role, can really damage a business. But what can employers actually do?
Our 5 top tips on handling long-term sickness
- Firstly make sure that you have a tight and well drafted employment contract, in particular, consider limiting sick pay – a maximum of 10 days paid sickness leave is something we use – and is, we feel, a reasonable and responsible compromise. And it doesn’t restrict in any way your ability to vary that – which is exactly what we have done a number of occasions, providing much longer paid sick leave for loyal and long serving members of staff.
- Secondly – if you really cannot wait any longer for the employee to return to work – consider looking at the question of the employee’s capability of doing their job. The first step to go down this route is to seek a medical report – although bear in mind that you will need to get the prior written consent of your employee first. As part of the instruction to the medical expert, make sure you request their opinion on whether any return to work is likely, and if so what is the likely timescale.
- Thirdly, make sure that you discuss the conclusions reached in any medical report you have commissioned with your employee.
- Fourthly, provided you followed these steps and you have gone through the right procedure, and provided of course that both the length of absence from work and the illness in question justifies it, long term incapacity can be a fair reason for dismissing one of your employees.
- Finally – be particular careful if your employee suffers from any disability as defined by the 2010 Equality Act. If they are classified as suffering from such a disability, then it is essential that you investigate whether any reasonable adjustments could be made to their working conditions to permit their return to work – failure to do so leaves you exposed to a claim for unfair dismissal and a disability discrimination claim
Don’t suffer in silence – call our employment specialists for FREE phone advice today
Needless to say, as with any other area of employment law, don’t take chances.
Unless you’re absolutely sure of your legal position, just call one of our employment lawyers. We might be able to put your mind at rest in a simple free phone call – if not the chances are that our competitively priced specialist employment law advice will be much cheaper than continuing to employ an worker absent through long-term sickness or worse still risking an employment tribunal claim.
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