How To Deal With Long Term Sickness

Peninsula Team

November 04 2009

If you are a Peninsula client, we can discuss your sickness absence policy and help to tailor-make a policy to suit your business needs. Just call one of our specialists on 0844 892 2772, they are on hand 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Reducing genuine sickness absence is difficult, but as is always the case, prevention is better than cure. Employers may wish to consider ways of encouraging healthier lifestyles, dealing with sickness at an earlier stage and implementation of a clear absence policy. If you suspect that sickness is not genuine, you can consider dismissing an employee for fraud although you will need to show that you have carried out a proper investigation and have reasonable grounds for believing that their actions are false. This can be difficult and costly involving independent medical practitioners. Remember that statutory sick pay (SSP) falls under the auspices of HMRC. If you have good grounds for believing that your employee is fraudulently claiming SSP, then you could consider contacting HMRC and they may be willing to investigate. An investigation by HMRC is a good way of getting people to re-evaluate their situation. Unfortunately, generous sick pay schemes can be exploited by employees, whose recovery often coincides with the ending of their sick pay entitlement. Reducing these for new starters may be the first place to start when trying to reduce the cost of sickness. If an employee has been off sick for some time, then you may have the option of dismissal on medical capability grounds. However, you need to exercise caution with employees who have been signed off long-term sick by a medical professional, you would need to have good justifiable grounds for contemplating dismissal and have forewarned the employee that their continued absence may result in dismissal. Ask your employee for permission to contact their GP, or specialist if they have one, for a report on their condition and how long it is likely to last. Another factor to consider is the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA). An employee suffering with long-standing health problems is likely to be 'disabled' for the purposes of the DDA. In such cases, employers are under more onerous obligations in managing and assisting such employees. Employers must make 'reasonable' adjustments to assist an employee's return to work. What is 'reasonable' will depend on many factors, including the size and financial resources of an employer. Employers should refer to GPs and Occupational Health Practitioners to establish whether or not an employee is suffering from a disability. You can then invite the employee to a capability meeting to discuss the report and to consider the options including whether any reasonable adjustments can be made and any possibility of suitable alternative work. If the medical evidence supports that they will be incapable of work for the foreseeable future, no reasonable adjustments can be made, no suitable alternative work is available and you have a genuine need to replace the employee on a permanent basis then you should be in a position to give notice of termination on the grounds of capability. On a positive note the Government plans to change the GP sick notes scheme that generally are unhelpful, providing little detail of an employee's condition. Hopefully, the introduction of the replacement fit notes’ will assist employers in assessing their employees' health and getting them back to work quickly. Remember, as a Peninsula client you are able to receive support from our trained advisors 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Just call through to the Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.

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