UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER SICKNESS POLICY 1. Introduction
The University sickness policy and procedures apply to all members of staff. The procedures are based on good practice and are intended to ensure that a consistent approach to the active management of sickness absence is adopted across the University. The broad aims of the policy are:
to provide a supportive environment for those members of staff affected by ill-health;
to provide a framework within which cases falling within the ambit of the disability discrimination legislation can be more readily identified and supported;
to balance the interests of the individual and the operational needs of the institution in cases of long-term sickness and debility;
to encourage and develop a positive culture towards attendance at work with a consequent benefit of reduced rates of absence due to sickness.
Reference should also be made to the Sick Leave and Sick Pay arrangements, set out in the Conditions of Service for the relevant category of staff, which operate in conjunction with the procedures outlined below. It should be noted that the sick pay arrangements relate solely to the absence of the member of staff due to ill-health and not to absences arising from the illness of dependants and others.
The Head of Department has overall managerial responsibility for managing sickness absence within this policy. Where the responsibilities are devolved to Section Heads, Chief Technicians and Departmental Secretaries, departmental arrangements should be such that the Head of Department is kept fully informed of and approves any action taken in relation to the procedures.
The Head of Department should ensure that knowledge of the established
departmental reporting arrangements is readily available and is disseminated to all departmental staff.
2. Reporting of Sickness Absence
Where circumstances are such that it is impossible for the member of staff to notify the Head of Department on the first morning of absence, arrangements should be made to do so at the first opportunity circumstances allow.
Absence not notified in accordance with the above procedure will be treated as unauthorised absence and not be eligible for payment, unless the reason for the delay given is considered acceptable by the Head of Department.
A member of staff is required to complete a self-certification form for absences of up to 7 calendar days, upon return to duty or as soon as possible after the expiry of the 7 day period whichever is the earlier. When the duration of illness exceeds 7 calendar days, the member of staff must obtain medical certificates from his/her General Practitioner.
Certificates must be forwarded as early as possible to the Head of Department (or nominee) who will, in turn forward the certificates to the Salaries and Wages Section. Staff must forward certificates to cover the whole absence period to qualify for payment under the University’s sick pay scheme.
Exceptionally, where the illness is of a personal nature, the certificate may be forwarded directly to the Personnel Office with the request that the Head of Department be advised that the member of staff is ill without giving the reason. It should be stressed that this is an exceptional procedure to be used only where the matter is one of some considerable sensitivity. However, it will not apply where there is a risk of contagion.
Departments should complete and forward the monthly summary of sickness absences for all categories of staff to the Salaries and Wages Section. Departments should ensure that records of sickness absence are maintained for the purposes of monitoring the position and to enable Heads of Department to determine if any future action is needed under these procedures.
3. Return to Work Interviews
The University has introduced return to work interviews, as set out below, to be conducted in the Department following the return to duty of a member of staff following a period of absence due to sickness. A return to work interview form will be completed (see attached). The information will be treated as confidential and the form will be kept by the Head of Department.
The University recognises that Heads of Departments will need to adopt a flexible approach to managing returner interviews in order to take account of the different nature and duration of sickness absence. Accordingly, during a rolling year (i.e. the previous 52 weeks), a decision should be taken about arranging a returner interview where a member of staff has been absent on:
more than three separate occasions, and/or
more than eight days in total during the rolling year
interview and where there are one or two lengthy absences of a well-documented nature which may not be seen to be such as to warrant formal review at that particular stage.
Where a returner interview is to be conducted, the immediate supervisor should arrange a meeting with the member of staff on the first day of return to work after each subsequent absence or as soon as possible thereafter to discuss the reasons for the absence and/or pattern of absences and to ascertain whether there may be any underlying cause with which the University could help.
The Head of Department should be kept informed as to the position. If the pattern of absence persists, the immediate supervisor should at an appropriate point refer the matter to the Head of Department who may subsequently arrange to see the member of staff personally in a returner interview. It is recognised that in large departments, the Head may well wish to delegate this task to a colleague of appropriate seniority. It shall be at the discretion of the Head of Department to determine whether, in the event of subsequent absences, the returner interview should be conducted by the immediate supervisor or whether, and at what time, continued participation by the Head of Department may be appropriate. (It will be open to a member of staff, who may be unhappy about a returner interview being conducted by the Head of
Department, to request that the interview be conducted by the Dean or in some circumstances by a PVC).
4. Advice from the Personnel Office
Heads of Department (or nominees) may contact the relevant Division within the Personnel Office to seek advice on dealing with any issues arising from the implementation of the University sickness policy, including:
concerns about possible underlying health or other causes which the University may be able to assist with support, or in resolving.
concerns about the sickness absence record of a member of staff in respect of the reasons given for absence(s), the pattern of absences (i.e. before or after weekends or holidays), or the total number of absences or days absent in the rolling year;
dissatisfaction with the information provided, including that arising from the return to work interviews, by a member of staff;
a failure to follow the procedures for notification and reporting of sickness absence, as outlined above;
5. Support Options
In any event where a single absence or a series of absences total four calendar weeks within the rolling 52-week period, the Head of Department (or nominee) should contact the relevant Head of Division in the Personnel Office (in the case of
Personnel staff the Registrar and Secretary will be consulted) to determine any future course of action.
Possible options include:
the Head of Department (or nominee) may at any stage contact a member of staff absent due to ill-health and will normally do so after two calendar weeks and periodically thereafter, and the member of staff will be asked to maintain regular contact with the department and to keep the Department advised as to the likely return date;
the member of staff may be required to attend a meeting with the Head of Department (or nominee) and, if deemed necessary, a member of the Personnel Office to discuss areas of concern;
the Personnel Office, in consultation with the Head of Department, may request the member of staff to complete the medical authorisation form required under the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 with a view to ascertaining whether there is an underlying medical explanation for absences and to obtain a prognosis as to the health of the member of staff;
the Personnel Office, in consultation with the Head of Department, may require a member of staff to attend for a medical examination and report conducted by the University’s own medical advisers;
if there are underlying proven medical reasons for absence, the University will endeavour to take a sympathetic view and consider reasonable assistance, where possible, taking account of the overall requirements of the University; reference to the Staff Welfare Officer, who may discuss with the Head of
Department and/or the member of staff possible options, including any re-organisation of the work, provision of additional support facilities, or a more flexible approach to assist the member of staff;
if sickness absences are due to an on-going medical condition, subject to confirmation of the need for regular treatment, the University will normally allow reasonable and appropriate time off for medical appointments and treatment, taking due account of departmental needs;
The University may seek medical reports at any stage of an absence or series of absences but will in any case do so where an absence is of three months’ duration. Subsequently updated medical reports may be requested from time to time.
Upon receipt of medical reports, the Personnel Office, in discussion with the Head of Department, will consider the most appropriate course of action. It should be noted that action taken under these procedures need not wait until the entitlement to sick pay is exhausted.
6. Review Meetings
In the light of its consideration of a case, the University may arrange a review
meeting with the member of staff concerned who may choose to be accompanied by a colleague or Union representative.
If after the review meeting there is doubt about the reasons for the absences, the Head of Department may require the member of staff to submit a medical certificate for each period of absence whatever the length of that absence. Depending upon the information available, there is also the possibility that the matter could be referred for consideration under the Disciplinary Procedures, e.g. possible falsification of reasons for absence, failure to comply with procedures, or failure to respond to reasonable requests for meetings.
If the medical evidence and the outcome of the review meeting indicates that the member of staff is in a position to return to work within a reasonable timescale, it may be necessary for Staff Welfare or other Personnel Office staff to liaise with the member of staff, the Head of Department, and appropriate external agencies if required to arrange adjustments to the work and/or the workplace where it is reasonable and practical.
If the medical evidence indicates that the member of staff is not in a position to return to work in a reasonable timescale (or not at all), the review meeting may discuss with the member of staff the available options. Consideration will be given to possible employment adjustments and alternative approaches including any redeployment opportunities.
Where nevertheless a decision is reached that the employment be terminated on ill-health grounds, the member of staff will be given the appropriate period of notice in writing in accordance with the Conditions of Service or statutory arrangements as appropriate.
Where a member of staff, whose employment is terminated on the grounds of ill-health, is a member of a University pension scheme (ie. USS, PAS, NHS, FSSU) it may be possible to make an application for ill-health retirement benefits under the pension scheme. The Personnel Office, in liaison with the member of staff, will submit medical reports to the pension trustees so that the case can be considered. The final decision on such requests lies with the trustees of the pension scheme.
7. Additional Advice
It is recommended that Heads of Departments review departmental sickness absence profiles on a six-monthly basis to establish patterns of absence.
Heads of Departments should aim at applying a consistent approach to all categories of staff making due allowance for the nature of the particular difficulties faced by individuals.