Effective Management of Sickness Absence
Frequently Asked Questions
Reporting Sickness Absence
How do I report my sickness absence?
Each academic and service unit will establish clear procedures for the reporting of sickness absence which will be communicated to the whole team. It is important that all employees familiarise themselves with the reporting requirements. The standard approach is for one designated contact number to be made available within the unit to report sickness absence. However, due to the diverse nature of the university’s operations, it may be necessary for a unit or sub unit to establish a procedure specific to that unit e.g. reporting sickness absence direct to a line manager.
Can I text or e-mail my line manager to report my sickness absence?
This would not be sufficient on its own. Employees must follow their academic or service unit guidelines for reporting absence which will involve telephoning a number or an individual to report their absence verbally.
What do I do if I’ve called the designated number and nobody answers?
It is important that all sickness absence is reported promptly. All designated numbers will be fitted with an answer phone service. In this situation employees will be expected to leave a brief message to report their sickness absence and they may receive a call back for further details.
How much detail do I have to give about my sickness absence?
Employees are expected to disclose basic details regarding their absence in the form of the start date of the absence, the estimated duration of the absence and the possible reason for the absence.
How often do I call in if I’m sick for longer than a day?
Regular contact must be maintained between the employee and the line manager where a return to work date has not been established. For long term absence, the method and the frequency of contact will be agreed between the employee and the line manager which will be determined by the nature of the absence.
What do I do with my GP ‘Fit Note’?
GP fit notes must be sent directly to the line manager in a timely manner to cover the full period of absence. Failure to submit the note in a timely manner may result in an absence being classified as unauthorised.
Returning to Work
What forms do I need to complete upon my return to work?
All employees must complete the Self Certification of Sickness form on the first day of their return to work following a period of sickness absence of any duration. This includes sickness absence periods of a half day in duration. The form should be completed online and sent direct to the line manager who will review and forward it to payroll. This form notifies payroll of a return to work and ensures the accuracy of any Occupational or Statutory Sick Pay. Hard copies of this form should only be used when e-mail submission is not possible.
Line managers may complete a Return to Work Discussion form depending upon the circumstances of the absence (see question 8).
Who do I meet with upon my return to work?
Line managers or employees may request a ‘light touch’ return to work discussion after an employee has been absent from work, however return to work discussions are not compulsory for absences of 7 calendar days or less. A return to work discussion must take place where an employee returns to work after an absence of more than 7 calendar days or in situations where there is a possibility that an employee may reach a trigger point.
Short Term Sickness Absence
What happens if I reach a short term absence trigger?
Where an employee reaches a trigger point as set out in the Effective Management of Sickness Absence Procedure the line manager must arrange an Informal Absence Counselling Meeting. This will require a more detailed documentation of the discussion in order to understand the support requirements needed. The line manager must still complete the Return to Work Discussion form and guidance notes on conducting this meeting are attached to the form. The purpose of the meeting is to support the employee in sustaining attendance at work, to clarify ongoing expectations concerning attendance and the potential consequences if those standards are not achieved. The employee may be supported by a colleague at this meeting should they wish.
Does a half day sickness absence count towards a trigger?
Yes, a half day of absence will count as one period of absence which will count towards the short term absence triggers.
Does my disability related absence count towards a trigger?
A disability related absence, in most circumstances, will count towards the short term absence triggers, however, a reasonable adjustment for the purpose of supporting a disabled employee may include adjustment to the short-term absence triggers. This will be dependent upon the particular details of each case. Line managers must contact their local HR team before adjusting short term triggers.
Does my pregnancy related absence count towards a trigger?
No, pregnancy related absence will not count towards the short term absence triggers.
Long Term Sickness Absence
Who do I inform of my return to work?
Employees must inform their line manager of their expected return to work date in order for suitable arrangements to be made, particularly where the absence has been long term.
Can I book myself an appointment with Occupational Health?
No, Occupational Health does not offer a self-referral system as referrals must come via the line manager. In exceptional circumstances, referrals can be made via Human Resources.
I’ve been booked an appointment with Occupational Health – do I have to go?
Occupational Health is a service designed to identify support for employees who are experiencing health related problems. Employees are expected to fully co-operate with a reasonable request to attend an appointment with Occupational Health.
My GP has recommended a phased return to work – who do I inform?
Employees must inform their line manager as soon as possible where a phased return to work has been recommended either by a GP or by Occupational Health. The detail of the phased return to work will be agreed with the line manager and must be recorded on the Return to Work Discussion form and submitted to Human Resources.
Can I have more than one phased return to work per year?
During an agreed phased return to work an employee works reduced hours which are steadily increased over a period of up to four weeks. This is to support the employee to return to their full time equivalent hours and duties. In exceptional cases and following a recommendation from Occupational Health, it may be necessary to consider a short extension. This will be accommodated using annual leave or unpaid leave.
If a second phased return to work is required to support the employee, then this may be made in agreement with the employee using annual leave or unpaid leave to accommodate reduced hours. Only one paid phased return to work will be available in a 12 month rolling period.
My GP has referred me to the ‘Fit for Work Service’. What is this?
The government launched the new Fit for Work (FFW) service in 2015 which aims to provide employers with support in managing sickness absence via advice and guidance and through referrals to an external Occupational Health service. Employees who are, or who expect to be absence for a period of 4 weeks or more may be referred by their GP to the FFW service for a telephone consultation. All advice and recommendations from FFW will be reviewed by the university Occupational Health service before being implemented. It is recommended that employees inform their line manager if they have been referred to the FFW service.
Occupational Sick Pay (OSP)
When do the new OSP entitlements take effect and how will they work?
The new OSP entitlements will be effective from 1st August 2016. Any new absences on or after this date will be paid via the new OSP structure which is outlined in the new Effective Management of Sickness Absence Policy and Procedure.
What happens if I am absent across the transitional period?
All absences which begin on or before the 31st July 2016 and continue on and beyond the 1st August 2016 will be paid via the old OSP structure.
Will I be entitled to less OSP?
All employees with less than 5 years’ service will have a restructured OSP entitlement. This may mean that periods of full pay OSP have been reduced and replaced with periods of half pay OSP. Employees with over 5 years’ service will continue to receive OSP at six months full pay and will now receive an additional six months half pay. Please refer to the Effective Management of Sickness Absence Policy and Procedure for further details.
OSP is calculated on a rolling 12 month basis – what if I have already been absent in the previous 12 months?
Sickness absence from the previous 12 months will be taken into consideration when calculating OSP from the 1st August 2016. No employee will receive a deduction for OSP overtaken in the previous 12 months. HR will be running reports before the 1st August to identify employees with less than 5 years’ service who will be most at risk of exhausting OSP across the transition period and into the new OSP structure. These will be employees who have exhausted or who have almost exhausted their OSP in the old structure.