Managers' Guidance on Sickness Absence
The College is committed to ensuring staff wellbeing and does this by:
- ensuring equality of opportunity and consistent application of the Sickness Policy.
- ensuring adjustments to support staff who have disabilities, where reasonably possible.
- ensuring staff are supported as much as possible with their work-life balance.
- managing sickness absence using the Bradford Index Score.
This guidance has been designed to act as a point of reference. For further details please refer to the full policy, which can be downloaded from this page's sidebar.
As a manager you are expected to provide support to a member of staff at the earliest opportunity who is unwell with the aim to supporting their welfare and wellbeing as well as their return to work. It is important that you create an environment for staff to share and have open, frank discussions about their health.
Sickness drop-in sessions for managers are available from the Employee Relations HR team.
All managers in the College have a duty to apply the seven principles of Imperial Expectations.
Managing sickness absence
Responsibilities of manager
What are my responsibilities as a manager when a member of staff is unwell and unable to attend work?
- You are responsible for supporting a member of staff and effectively managing the sickness process.
- You are responsible for ensuring that staff are aware of sickness notification and TeamSeer requirements as well as any local sickness reporting arrangements.
- You are responsible for ensuring that copies of Statements of Fitness for Work (as issued by the individual's GP) are sent to Human Resources without delay.
- Ensuring clear lines of communication are established on how a member of staff should communicate their sickness absence and provide an update on their continued absence, particularly for long-term sick. You will also ensure that you will liaise with Human Resources or Occupational Health, as appropriate to ensure a member of staff receives the right level of support.
- You will advise staff of what support is available to them during their sickness absence, such as referral to Occupational Health or details on the College’s confidential counselling service, Confidential Care.
- Conducting a return to work meeting with the member of staff after each period of sickness absence, a Sickness absence - return to work meeting checklist will guide you through this.
- Putting the recommended reasonable workplace adjustments in place.
- Using the Staying Well (SWELL) Plan to ensure there is a plan to support your member of staff .
What types of sickness absence are there?
There are two types of absences – short-term and long-term. Short-term absence is described as being absent from work through sickness or injury on a number of occasions over a rolling 12 month period, or absences which fall into a pattern over the same period.
Long-term is when a staff member has been, or are expected to be absent from work for more than four consecutive weeks.
How are these absences identified?
The College uses the Bradford score index to assist with monitoring sickness absence levels. The Bradford Index is the total number of days absent multiplied by the number of episodes in the preceding 12 months squared. As examples:
- 30 days absence on one occasion is calculated with a Bradford score of 30 (30x(1x1)
- 12 days absence on seven occasions is calculated with a Bradford score of 588 (12x(7x7)
Short-term sickness absence
Managing Short-term sickness absence
- You need to monitor sickness absence for your staff and always bear in mind that an underlying condition, particularly one which is not diagnosed as yet may incur short-term sickness absence. It is important to support staff members as much as possible whilst balancing with operational needs.
- In line with College's objective to support staff, it is College procedure that a Bradford score index of 250 or more should lead to an informal discussion between you and the member of staff to address any concerns regarding the member of staff's sickness absence. During this discussion you can advise them that if there is no improvement the issue may proceed to the formal stage.
- When preparing for an informal discussion with a member of staff regarding their sickness absence, you can refer to the guidance available in the College’s People management guidance [pdf].
- Having this type of meeting can be daunting, so you can discuss how to approach this with your HR representative, role-play with a colleague or contact the Confidential Care Managers advice line for more support. Please call 0800 085 3805 Monday to Friday between 8am and 8pm or email email@example.com.
A Bradford score index of 350 or more will trigger a formal sickness meeting.
- It is normal but not always a requirement for an Occupational Health referral to take place prior to a formal meeting as it may be necessary to obtain medical advice beforehand.
- As the manager, you will lead the meeting with HR present to support the process and to take notes. During the meeting you will ask the member of staff for their comments on the level of their sickness absence and any support they require that may improve this. In consultation with HR you will review any medical advice previously received including details on any workplace adjustments, what further support can be put in place for them in doing their role and/or attending work regularly and finally to discuss the operational impact of their sickness absence.
- There are several possible outcomes of this meeting:
- No further action
- You may decide to issue a formal improvement notice (warning) and the reasons will be outlined in the outcome letter which will follow once the meeting has taken place.
Long-term sickness absence
Managing long-term sickness absence or recurring short-term sickness absence
- The process for dealing with sickness absence depends greatly on the individual’s circumstances, disability and/or long-term health condition.
- When dealing with long-term sickness absence or recurring short-term sickness absence which is or may be caused by an underlying condition, a sickness meeting will be held to review the situation.
- If the member of staff does have a disability or underlying condition, one or several sickness review meetings may take place. The purpose of the meeting (s) will be to find out the treatment the member of staff is receiving and its effectiveness in assisting with improving their health, the long-term prognosis of their health or wellbeing and sickness absence levels against the operational needs of the department. It is important that the member of staff is given full opportunity to comment on their health and wellbeing.
- If there is no improvement you may need to consider inviting the member of staff to a Capability Review Hearing.
Workplace adjustments and disability
- Where a member of staff has a disability, you are required to give full careful consideration to any workplace adjustments. If in doubt, contact your HR representative, Occupational Health or the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Centre (EDIC).
- There may be instances where a member of staff returns to work before an Occupational Health appointment can take place. In these instances, you should discuss with the member of staff what interim adjustments (including phased return to work) can be introduced.
- Where it is operationally impractical to implement workplace adjustments for a member of staff who is returning to work following sick leave, further advice must be sought from your Human Resources representative and Occupational Health.
- The College’s information and guidance for managing and supporting disabled staff is available to view.
There is no improvement
What if there is no improvement?
Where a staff member is unable to return to their role, the College will look at possible redeployment opportunities or medical retirement. This is of course discussed in more detail with them.
If there is no improvement, the decision to dismiss is seen as a last resort and will only be considered via a Capability Review Hearing.
A Capability Review Hearing is considered when a staff member has received two formal improvement notices (under the formal short-term absence process) or when they have been given opportunities to comment on their fitness to work and/or the likelihood of returning to work. Usually in these circumstances this happens when the medical advice received indicates that a staff member may not be able to return to their post for the foreseeable future and or redeployment (or any of the recommended workplace adjustments) have not been possible.
The purpose of the Capability Review Hearing is for a panel (usually the second line manager and a HR representative) to hear the case and decide whether and for how long the College can support continued employment. One of the outcomes of this meeting can be dismissal.
In these instances, the staff member will be fully briefed on the reasons why a Capability Review Hearing is being arranged and they can be entitled to be accompanied by a work colleague or trades union representative.