Long Term Sickness Absence (LTSA) can have a huge impact on a business and more so if that business is a small to medium enterprise or indeed a rural business where skills to cover the LTSA are hard to come by. Therefore managing the workplace due to an individuals long term sickness absence is important, this needs a robust policy which can be followed to ensure minimum impact other employees and the needs of the business.
What is long term sickness absence? There is no statutory definition but healthcare guidance suggests this is absence from the workplace for 4 weeks or more weeks.
Dawsons law advise Small businesses to look at defining within the Sick Policy or Handbook a lesser time period than 4 weeks being LTSA (For Example two weeks away from the workplace due to Sickness being defines as LTSA). The benefit of a robust policy and procedure being Employers will intervene sooner by seeking cover to replace the individual whilst absent.
A Written policy and procedure dealing with LTSA focusses Employers. This prevents the absence drag on without internal action. Waiting to find a solution to the absence could impact the other employees potentially causing a snowball of absence effect as those left behind may find the increased workload for the long-term too difficult to deal with.
Intervening earlier and managing the individual on LTSA can also help Employers consider the individuals needs on returning back to the workplace. A phased return may require consideration. Again the sooner this is established and managed the easier the transition back to the workplace will be for both the Employee and Employer. Changes in role or responsibilities of the individual may need to be considered depending on the reason for the sickness absence. If sick absence is due to age related sickness, the considerations for intervention will differ to that of an Employee with depression. Your business needs clarity on how to deal with individuals on LTSA.
Do you know in your business whose responsibility it is to manage LTSA? And do they know what procedures to follow? Do you have any procedures to follow?
Employers should consider securing a medical report for the individual in order to understand and best assist the transition back to the workplace. Use the support of Occupational Health services and those who know the law to help with reasonable adjustments that may need to be made. We can advise as to when, how and from who, a Medical Report should be requested.
Should you keep in touch with an individual on LTSA? Yes, it keeps the individual connected to the business and keeps communication alive. Sometimes individuals feel isolated from the workplace due to LTSA. keeping in touch is off course dependent on the circumstances of the absence. Dawsons Law can advise on what is appropriate given each individual circumstance.
In order to retain the Employee, Employers may look to alternatives to ensure the individual is able to return to work, these could be reduced hours, flexible hours, home-working, reduction of responsibility.
In the event the employee is not able to return the Employer may consider dismissal on Capability Grounds. Alternatives could be a Settlement Agreement or early Retirement
If you require advice do call for an appointment. We undertake onsite appointments or you could attend our office in Watton or Hethersett.