1 Attendance Procedure 1 Scope BT s attendance procedure sets out the roles, responsibilities and the steps for managing people where levels of sickness absence have an unacceptable operational impact on the business. The procedure ensures individuals with impaired capability will be supported appropriately and treated with fairness and consideration whilst allowing the company to provide a high quality service to its customers. 2 Roles and responsibilities All BT Employees have a responsibility to: Make every reasonable effort to maintain good health, attend for work and record attendance where required. Let their manager know as soon as possible if they are unable to attend work for any reason, giving an explanation for their absence. Obtain their manager s agreement to leave their workplace/activities during required hours of attendance or to return late from a break of specified duration. Inform their manager as soon as possible of any changes in their health which may affect their ability to carry out their work effectively. Comply with additional local arrangements for reporting and recording of absence/return. Provide fit notes promptly to their line manager to cover relevant periods of sick absence. If sick certificates are not provided, pay can be withheld. Communicate regularly and effectively with their manager during any period of absence and ensure they remain contactable. Advise their manager if they change their normal address, either permanently or temporarily during a period of absence. Refrain from undertaking activities during sickness absence that may adversely affect a return to work. Attend scheduled OHS appointments as required. If an individual declines the offer of an OHS appointment, any necessary decisions may be taken on the information available. Attend a return to work discussion with their manager. First Line Managers Have a responsibility to: Manage attendance in a compassionate and business like way using their judgement to ensure that procedures and processes are applied fairly and taking due account of all relevant circumstances. Ensure all their people's absences and returns are properly reported on the BT HR System. This includes recording details of medical certificates. Records of part day absences should be recorded on the BT HR System. Ensure that they and their people are aware of and understand BT s policy on attendance and sickness absence. Ensure their people understand the standards of attendance required and the reasons for any action taken under the procedure. Conduct a Return to Work Discussion following every absence and keep appropriate records Latest revision of this document: This revision:
2 Maintain regular contact with their people throughout an absence, including face to face meetings, and keep a record of all contact. Seek advice from their case advisor and the OHS as required in support of achieving a successful return to work. Encourage their people to update BT on any changes that may occur in their circumstances as soon as possible Offer the opportunity of contacting the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and any other support which may be available through the company. Properly investigate reasonable adjustments which will facilitate an individual s effective return to work and/or continued productive employment. Discuss and agree them with the employee and ensure effective implementation through a return to work plan. (see Adjustments) Apply the New Joiners Procedure if the individual is in the specified qualifying period. Advise individuals whose standard of attendance is causing concern of the possible implications of not achieving and sustaining improvement to acceptable levels. Prompts may be given through the HR System or by discussion with their case advisor, but advice should be provided at any time attendance is causing concern. Monitor the attendance of their people and take action if it is unsatisfactory, including the issuing of formal warnings where appropriate Refer individuals to the OHS for advice where there are health questions relating to an individual s absence and/or fitness to perform their normal duties. Ensure their people are actively encouraged and given practical support to attend OHS appointments. Establish, where necessary, monitoring periods, to enable people to demonstrate an improvement in their attendance and make individuals aware of how long each monitoring period will last. Inform individuals of progress at all stages of the process and that they may discuss their circumstances with their union representative. Undertake a job search under the Adjusted Job Search process when it is confirmed that an individual is unfit for their current role, that reasonable adjustments to their role cannot be identified and that it has been recommended by the OHS that they may be able to undertake alternative work. Complete and return all appropriate documentation in a timely manner. Seek advice and guidance from their HR Services case advisor where necessary and in all cases when applying the formal stages of this procedure. However, the final decision will rest with BT. Second Line Managers Have a responsibility to: Investigate, review and decide on cases where termination of employment is being recommended by First Line Managers. In each case where they are considering pursuing the recommendation, provide the individual with every reasonable opportunity to attend an interview. If an individual is unable or unwilling to attend a face to face meeting, advice must be taken from their HR Services case advisor before proceeding. Carefully consider every aspect of the case and review all opportunities for reasonable adjustments or redeployment. Ensure that any decision to terminate employment is made fairly and is supported by a robust business rationale.
3 Seek advice from their HR Services case advisor where necessary, and in all cases when applying the formal stages of this procedure. However, the final decision will rest with BT. Complete and return all appropriate documentation in a timely manner. Ensure there is a consistent approach to managing absence across the team. Third Line Managers Have a responsibility to: Consider any appeal against the second line manager s decision to terminate employment. Carefully consider every aspect of the case and review all opportunities for reasonable adjustments or redeployment. Ensure that the appeal decision is made fairly and that it is supported by a robust business rationale if taking the decision not to uphold the appeal. Provide the individual with a response to any points made on appeal and an explanation of the decision. HR Services Will provide the following support to BT Managers: Advice and guidance from the earliest stages of absence. Case manage the progress of all cases through to resolution, providing options and recommendations at key stages. Final decisions on action rest with BT managers. Provide draft letters and work with the manager on the production of final documents. Co-ordinate action where more than one procedure is involved (e.g. discipline, performance). Assist with preparation of referrals to the OHS or other 3 rd parties, such as those assisting with adjustments or rehabilitation. Assist managers in identifying reasonable adjustments and developing a return to work plan, engaging with external organisations as necessary. Help managers identify and produce an appropriate rehabilitation plan for an individual s return to work. Regularly review an individual s progress with their manager during the period if a phased return to normal work has been agreed with the individual. Occupational Health Service (OHS) Will provide the following support to BT Managers: Identify any long term health problem that, despite suitable and sufficient treatment, is likely to result in future spells of absence which are beyond the control of the individual. Provide advice to help individuals manage their own health better in order to improve their overall attendance. Assist in recommendations for workplace adjustments and return to work plans. Recommend other sources of help and assistance to support return to work where appropriate. Define ongoing capability including any permanent restrictions and measures to assist rehabilitation. Advise managers whether individuals are likely to fall within the scope of the Equality Act in the UK or the Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland. Input highly specialised advice on complex cases through dedicated Core OHS staff.
4 3 Return to work discussion A Return to Work Discussion should be held after every spell of sickness absence regardless of duration or reason. This demonstrates interest in the individual as well as offering a practical opportunity to address any employment difficulties - it is accepted good management practice. Every effort should be made to conduct the discussion in a caring and non-threatening way that facilitates the sharing of relevant information and the identification of any adjustments that might be indicated. Advice on conducting Return to Work Discussions can be accessed here. Where an absence has been for an extended period the discussion should include: Capability for the work to be undertaken. Arrangements for any rehabilitation plan and/or reasonable adjustments that might be required, including timescales and review periods. OHS or other specialist advice that might be required or which has been obtained. In the event of repeated spells of absence the Return to Work discussion should include: The attendance level expected, taking into account any recurring health problems or disability related reasonable adjustments. Any improvement that is required, supported by an action plan if appropriate. The potential consequences of a failure to improve to an acceptable level. A separate procedure covering adjustments can be accessed here. This procedure describes the practices and processes used to assist those employees who, due to injury or medical condition, become less able to complete their current duties effectively. This period of changed capability may be long term or temporary, but in all cases the key objective is to enable the individual to resume, or continue in, productive employment. That employment may be within their existing team, unit, Line of Business or BT as a whole. The requirement for external support such as OHS, Physiotherapy, Employee Assistance Programme or other specialist advisory services may be raised by the individual or manager at any point. 4 Extended absence Managers must keep in regular contact with individuals during extended spells of absence. This is a critical aspect of support which speeds recovery and aids rehabilitation it is therefore mandatory unless there are overriding considerations which should be discussed and agreed with the case advisor and suitable alternative arrangements made. A rehabilitation plan should be discussed with all people who are absent for an extended period, to consider how to ease their return into full productive employment. Temporary adjustments are often required but, in most cases, will not be required for more than one month. Circumstances may sometimes indicate that a longer rehabilitation period is required but extension of temporary adjustments beyond six months would be exceptional and should only be sanctioned on the basis of expert advice from Core OHS. If long term or permanent adjustments are required to prevent a person being placed at a substantial disadvantage in relation to maintaining regular attendance in effective
5 employment, these should be based on an up to date OHS capability assessment. Every reasonable effort should be made to accommodate permanent adjustments within the business unit but, where that is not possible, a comprehensive search for alternative duties must be undertaken. Details of how to support the individual and conduct an alternative duty search are given in the Adjusted Job Search procedure. If a spell of absence becomes extended to the point where it is operationally unacceptable or permanent adjustments are required to effect a return to work and neither these nor alternative duties are viable, then termination of employment must be considered. Such action requires most careful consideration which must include appropriate input from the HR Services Case Management Team Services and the OHS. Specialist input can help line managers not only with the decision making process but also with advice on associated issues such as pension or benefit entitlement and how best to communicate messages of particular sensitivity. 5 Repeated absence Some health problems result in fluctuating levels of capability so that the impact on attendance is of repeated spells rather than a single lengthy episode. However, the same principles apply of supporting the individual as far as is practicable and making adjustments or seeking alternative work, making use of the Occupational Health Service and the Adjusted Job Search Process where appropriate. More commonly, repeated absence cannot be related to any specific health issue but managers should satisfy themselves that this is the case by talking to the individual concerned and, where appropriate, by seeking OHS guidance when considering the overall impact on the business. Managers should monitor their people s patterns of attendance, which may include part day absences, and use the Return to Work Discussion to identify problems, enlist appropriate support and coach improvement. When it becomes clear that an individual s absence pattern is becoming unacceptable, the manager should additionally hold an informal discussion to advise them of the potential consequences of future absence. It is important to avoid being judgemental about the causes of repeated absence and attempts to identify whether reasons for absence are genuine or otherwise are inappropriate and unproductive. It is the impact absences are having on the business that determines whether management action is indicated and, while individual circumstances will influence the nature of any action taken, there are no automatic exclusions from giving the matter consideration. Similarly triggers generated by the BT HR System or HR Services Case Management team are simply a flag that management attention is required and should not be interpreted as the automatic initiator of a warning process. Initial Formal Warning for Repeated Absence When an individual s attendance is below the standard expected and normal supervisory/managerial guidance and support have not produced the necessary improvement, managers should seriously consider the issue of an initial formal warning. Full account should be taken of recurrent health problems or disability and the impact that this might have on ability to attain normal standards of attendance. If a manager believes that absence may be pregnancy related then advice should be sought from the HR services Case Management team before any action is taken. Any exceptional or mitigating circumstances should also be taken into account. If the individual has or may have a recurrent health problem or disability, OHS advice should be sought on whether this is affecting their attendance, if adjustments are indicated, whether medical management of the condition
6 can be improved and on the anticipated level of future associated absence. Managers must consider all relevant circumstances and make a conscious decision whether it is reasonable to discount any absences. If the indication is that an initial formal warning may be appropriate, the individual must be given due notice in a written invitation to attend a meeting at which there is a right be accompanied. Having considered all the evidence previously gathered and that presented at the meeting, the manager must decide whether to give a warning. Any such warning must be given in writing and include both the monitoring period and confirmation that a failure to achieve a sustained improvement to the stipulated standard may lead to a final formal warning. Whether or not it is decided to issue a warning, the line manager should seek guidance from the case advisor on procedural issues and confirm actions taken via the HR System. Final Formal Warning for Repeated Absence If a sustained improvement has not been achieved following an initial formal warning, the line manager should consider all the facts and circumstances of the case before deciding whether a final formal warning is appropriate. Particular attention should be paid to any factors, such as a deterioration in health and/or the development of a disability, which might alter the complexion of the case and indicate the need for additional specialist advice. If it is decided to proceed to consideration of a final formal warning, the line manager must again seek guidance from the case advisor. The individual must be given notice in a written invitation to attend a meeting at which there is a right to be accompanied. After due consideration of all the circumstances, a decision must be made by the manager whether to issue a formal warning or not. A final formal warning must be given in writing and guidance must be sought from the case advisor before it is issued. The individual must be advised that failure to achieve a sustained improvement in attendance following this final formal warning could lead to dismissal. Improvement after a Formal Warning for Repeated Absences Where, following a formal warning (either initial or final), an individual achieves and maintains a satisfactory level of attendance, the manager, having consulted the case advisor, will close the process on HR System and inform the individual, normally in writing. In cases where only a partial improvement has been achieved, the warning period may be extended if the manager decides not to progress to the next stage. If a clear cyclical pattern emerges (i.e. sequential improvements and relapses) the procedure will continue or be resumed without the need for the process to be restarted from the initial formal warning stage. If a formal warning has previously been given the case may progress to the final warning stage. If a final warning has previously been given the case can proceed directly to consideration of termination of employment. Such cases require especially careful consideration and guidance must always be sought from the case advisor. Termination of employment Termination of employment will need to be considered if there is failure to achieve/sustain improvement following a final formal warning for repeated absence or where an extended absence becomes unsustainable. Following consultation with the case advisor, the first line manager may recommend to the second line manager that consideration be given to termination of employment. When termination is recommended, the second line manager
7 must review the individual's case. The second line manager must ensure at this stage that procedures for determining eligibility for any pension benefits (e.g. retirement in the interests of efficiency or medical retirement) are activated. Additionally particular consideration must be given to issues such as grave ill health so that matters can be addressed with the degree of compassion that the company would expect of its people. A separate procedure covering the assessment of any medical retirement pension benefits that may be payable can be accessed here and information on retirement in the interests of efficiency can be found here. The individual must be given written notification that termination of employment is being considered. This should include: the grounds on which termination is being considered. the circumstances and evidence leading to the decision stage being reached. a statement of the pension implications where retirement is under consideration and will involve immediate payment of pension and/or a lump sum. a reminder of the availability of the OHS/Employee Assistance. an invitation to attend an interview to put forward their case, with a reminder of their right to be accompanied by a 'friend', for example, an accredited trade union representative or another BT employee. The second line manager must hold a decision meeting at which the individual should be given the opportunity to input any information which they feel is relevant to their continued employment. Advice on procedural aspects should be sought from the case advisor and will mirror those of the other formal stages of the procedure. Specifically the individual must be given every reasonable opportunity to attend the meeting in person and be represented. A flexible approach should be adopted to ensure that the individual's circumstances do not prevent fair consideration of all relevant factors (e.g. individuals who are hospitalised or house bound). In the rare circumstances where, despite all reasonable attempts to accommodate a face to face meeting, the individual indicates that he/she is unwilling or unable to attend then he/she must be given the opportunity to submit written representations. The second line manager must consider all aspects of the case carefully and should contact the case advisor before making any decision. The individual must be given written notification of the decision by the second line manager. If the case relates to repeated absence and the decision is not to dismiss, consideration should always be given to whether the final formal warning monitoring period should be extended. In the event of it being extended the individual should be advised that a satisfactory attendance record must be achieved and maintained and that failure to do so will mean that a further decision meeting will be held. If the decision is made to dismiss, the second line manager must prepare a robust business rationale which takes into account all of the circumstances of the case. Grounds for dismissal may be unsatisfactory attendance or, more usually where there is a specific underlying health problem, impaired capability due to ill health. In cases of dismissal the letter to the individual must include: the reason for the decision. any pension terms that will apply.
8 the notice period and arrangements that will apply. the last day of employment. the right to appeal against the decision. Where the grounds for dismissal are impaired capability due to ill health and Core OHS has indicated at the resolution stage that the individual is likely to meet the criteria for medical retirement, the case should not normally move to termination of employment until a definitive opinion on eligibility has been provided. However, termination may be progressed in these cases if there is a material delay in providing a definitive judgement caused by a failure of the individual or their medical advisers to co-operate or respond to reasonable requests for supporting evidence. 6 Right of appeal Individuals may appeal to a more senior manager against a decision to dismiss. Within the written notification of the decision to dismiss, individuals must be informed of their rights to appeal together with details of the required time limits. If an appeal is made the notice period will not be extended but an appeal may still be heard after the last day of service. The individual must be invited to attend an appeal hearing against a decision to dismiss at which they have the right to be accompanied. The results of any appeal and the reasons for the decision will be confirmed in writing. The procedure for appeals relating to medical retirement pension benefits can be accessed here. Appeal decisions are final. The Grievance procedure can be accessed here. If an appeal against termination of employment is successful the individual should normally be offered reinstatement. If last day of employment has already elapsed, the date of reinstatement will be backdated to reflect continuous employment. 7 Right to be accompanied At all formal stages of the procedure, individuals will have the right to be accompanied by a 'friend' to meetings. The 'friend' can be a BT employee, or an accredited representative from a trades union. The role of the friend will be to: Support the individual throughout the meeting, and act as a witness to the proceedings. If the individual wishes them to, a 'friend' can address the meeting, put the individual s case, sum up the case and respond on the individual s behalf to any view expressed at the hearing. They can also confer with the individual, ask questions and participate in the hearing. They will however not be able to answer questions on the individuals' behalf unless invited to do so by the investigating manager. 8 Notice period The contractual notice period is indicated in the Employee Terms and Conditions publication. Outstanding annual leave should be taken if possible during the notice period.
9 If individuals wish to waive their right to notice, wholly or partly, they must be permitted to do so. 9 Access to documents The individual or, with their written consent, their union representative will, on request, normally be given access to relevant BT papers (i.e. absence or monitoring records). These documents are intended to allow the individual to prepare and present their case adequately and will be provided on the condition that they are treated in confidence. 10 Summary of standard levels of authority Stage of procedure Initial Formal Warning Final Formal Warning Termination of Employment Appeal Independent Review Level of Authority First Line Manager First Line Manager Second Line Manager Third Line Manager See final stage of BT s Grievance Procedure The levels of authority specified above are based on an assumption that in any line organisation there will be 4 higher reporting levels below Board level. Where this is not the case, managers may be introduced into the process at appropriate points once a case has arisen. Normally, this will be a manager from the relevant operational specialism rather than from HR. 11 Related processes BT s policies and procedures covering: Grievance Discipline Equal Opportunities Conduct Standards New Joiners proceedure Adjusted Job Search Medical Retirement Benefits This procedure replaces the attendance components of: Poor Performance/Attendance Procedure - PNL/EMP/A035
10 Long Term Illness Procedure - PNL/EMP/K045