NHS North Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group

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1 NHS North Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group HR Policies Managing Sickness Absence Approved by: Quality and Assurance Ratification date: November 2016 Review date: November

2 Contents 1 Policy Statement Principles Scheme of Delegation (if appropriate) Part 2 Short Term Absence Appeals.9 6 Part 3 Long Term Absence Appendix A Conducting a Hearing Appeals Hearing Procedure 15 2

3 1 Policy Statement 1.1 This Sickness Absence (Managing Work Performance) applies to all staff who are outside their probationary period. The organisation aims to encourage all its employees to maximise their attendance at work. It recognises that from time to time employees will be unable to come to work for short periods due to sickness and occasionally some employees will require a longer period off work due to injury or illness. Part 1 of this Policy will address the organisation s approach to short-term absence and Part 2 will deal with long term absence. 1.2 The Organisation is committed to valuing all of its employees and will encourage them, through guidance, monitoring and support to sustain regular attendance at work. 1.3 Where necessary, appropriate individuals from outside the organisation may take part in these procedures either in the role of HR support or as a member of any Sickness Absence panel hearing. 1.4 This policy does not form part of any employee s contract of employment and may be amended from time to time. 1.5 The organisation offers all its employees access to Health Assured which offers employee assistance to deal with a range of work and personal issues. Its resources can be accessed via the web site: (login details are available on the CCG Noticeboard and from Human Resources) 2 Principles 2.1 Where the attendance of an employee is affected by a disability, as defined in accordance with the Equality Act 2010, reasonable adjustments will be considered in any aspect of work arrangements to support the employee maintain regular attendance at work. 2.3 Employees have the following responsibilities in respect of their attendance: Ensure that they are familiar with this policy Ensure regular attendance at work Communicate with their line manager in line with this policy when absent from work Co-operate fully in the use of these procedures Participate in a consultation with the organisation s Occupational Health (OH) practitioner if required Attend review meetings with their Line Manager when discussing periods of absence or return to work interviews Not to participate in any activity out of work that would hinder recuperation or 3

4 prolong sickness absence Not to attend paid, secondary employment without GP recommendation and approval from line manager Provide without delay, when necessary, Statement of Fitness to Work Certificates to their manager 2.4 Managers have the following responsibilities in respect of managing staff sickness absence: Ensure that they are familiar with this policy Communicate regularly with staff who are absent from work due to sickness Support staff to return to work Report sickness absence so that it can be collated and monitored Maintain confidentiality and compliance with the Data Protection Act Hold return to work interview after each individual episode of sicknessensure that, in their absence, they appoint a deputy to communicate and support staff on sick leave Attend any relevant training that the organisation may provide Be alert to any patterns of absence which may indicate a cause other than genuine sickness absence Review and support their Staff s periods of rehabilitation and therapeutic treatments to enable returning to work or remaining in work. 2.5 After each period of sickness, the Return to Work form and a Self-Certificate Form should be completed. These forms can be found on the NSCCG ConsultHR portal. 2.6 Procedure detailed in this policy will be implemented where the manager considers that an employee is failing to achieve and maintain defined levels of attendance. 2.7 Employees are entitled to be accompanied at all formal meetings by a Trade Union Representative or a CCG work colleague. At management s discretion, a colleague from a different organisation may be permitted to attend if it is not practicable to be accompanied by a staff member of the CCG. The employee may not insist on being accompanied by a colleague whose presence would prejudice the meeting or who might have a conflict of interest. It would also be unreasonable for an employee to ask to be accompanied by a colleague from a remote location when someone suitably qualified was available on site. Should there be any dispute regarding the chosen companion that cannot be resolved, the matter will be escalated to the HR Business Partner. 2.8 Employees are required to attend all meetings relating to the Sickness Absence Policy. If they, or their companion, are unable to attend the arranged meeting, they must give notice and reasons why they are unable to attend. The meeting will then be rescheduled to a mutually convenient time, within 10 working days of the original date wherever possible. However, where an 4

5 employee fails to attend such meetings without reasonable grounds, then the meeting may be held in their absence. The employee will be informed of this in writing. 2.9 The employee will have the right of appeal against any warning or sanction issued in the formal stages of the procedure. Please refer to Part 3 Appeals If an employee knowingly gives any false information, or makes false statement about their sickness, it may be treated as misconduct and may result in the disciplinary policy being applied. In proven cases of gross misconduct, it could lead to dismissal eg absent on sick leave and working elsewhere without permission The organisation reserves the right to dismiss an employee whilst in receipt of sick pay An employee who unreasonably fails to comply with this policy and procedures may have their occupational sick pay withheld A GP s statement of fitness to work certificate will be required for every absence of after seven days calendar or more. An employee can selfcertificate for up to the seven days Entitlements to occupational sick pay will be in line with the provisions of Agenda for Change Terms and Conditions and is calculated on a rolling 12 month period For the purposes of calculating sick pay, a previous period or periods of NHS service will be counted towards the employee s entitlement to sick leave with pay where there has been a break, or breaks, in service of 12 months or less An employee who is absent as a result of an accident is not entitled to sick pay if damages are received from a third party. Under these circumstances the employee will be advanced a sum not exceeding the amount of sick pay payable providing the employee pays the full amount of sickness allowance when damages are received If an employee falls sick during a period of annual leave and the period of incapacity seriously interrupts the period of leave, then they may count the absence as sick leave rather than annual leave. A serious interruption is defined as sickness absence that is of four days continuation duration or more. In order to reclaim annual leave, the employee must notify their line manager by the fourth day of illness and provide evidence (a fit note) from a medical practitioner of the nature of the illness and its duration If an employee absent on sick leave has pre-booked annual leave, he/she must notify their line manager to confirm whether or not they wish to cancel their annual leave as a result of incapacity. If no communication is received, it will be assumed that the employee has been able to take their leave as planned and this period will not be counted as sickness absence. Where the 5

6 request to continue with a pre-booked holiday is not supported by a medical practitioner, then annual leave will be taken Employees will not be entitled to an additional day off if they are sick on a statutory holiday Sickness will be recorded in whole days and any sickness of half a shift s duration or more will be recorded as a whole day. Sickness lasting less than half a day s duration will not be recorded as sickness. 3 Procedure The procedures for addressing short-term absence is detailed in Part 1 and long-term in Part 2. 4 Scheme of Delegation (if appropriate) Each policy will contain a scheme of delegation specific to the stages and actions associated to the policy. All Schemes will adopt the levels as outlined below therefore ensuring consistency throughout all policies and clarity within the organisation Informal procedure Formal procedure Stages 1 and 2 Formal procedure Stage 3 Hearing Formal procedure Stage 4 Appeal Line Manager Line Manager Line Manager s Manager or equivalent line manager and another line manager or HR Rep not involved in Stages 1 and 2 Two senior managers eg 8a or equivalent Head of Department, Director, Chief Operating Officer, Lay Member and/or a senior HR Rep not involved in Stages 1, 2 or 3. An HR member will be involved if the appeal is against dismissal. 5 Equality Statement In applying this policy, the Organisation will have due regard for the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, promote equality of opportunity, and provide for good relations between people of diverse groups, in particular on the grounds of the following characteristics protected by the Equality Act (2010); age, disability, gender, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, and sexual orientation, in addition to offending background, trade union membership, or any other personal characteristic. 6 Monitoring and Review The implementation of this policy will be audited on an annual basis and reported to the Management by HR. 6

7 The policy will be reviewed by HR at least every three years or earlier if statutory changes are required. 7

8 7 Part 2 Procedure for Managing Short-term Absence 1. Definition The Organisation deals with short-term sickness absence as any absence which is of less than one four weeks duration. To ensure consistency with the application of the policy, trigger points will be used to monitor short-term absence. These are: Four absences in any 12 month period and/or Reaching a Bradford factor of 64 in a rolling 12 month period. The Bradford factor is calculated by multiplying the frequency x frequency x total number of days sickness Where there appears to be a pattern to the absence If an employee reaches the trigger, the procedure outlined below will be put in place. 1. Informal Sickness Review Meeting 1.1 In cases where an employee reaches a trigger point an informal sickness review meeting will be convened. In addition, a line manager may convene a review meeting at any point that they are concerned about a member of staff s health. 1.2 The purpose of this meeting is to provide support and assistance to overcome any short-term issues, patterns or problems which are identified. This may involve referral to an OH consultant if this is deemed helpful. An agreed action plan with timescales for improvement will be set to enable the employee to attain and maintain the expected level of attendance. This timescale will be reasonable and fair and agreed e.g. between three and six months with the targets being pro-rated ie one absence in the next three months and two absences in the next six months or not exceeding a Bradford factor of 32 in the next six months. 2. Formal Procedure (Stages 1 and 2) 2.1 Where there is a failure to improve or maintain the agreed attendance level, this must be discussed with the employee concerned under Stage 1 at a formal meeting. This discussion will focus on the issues regarding the unsatisfactory level of attendance, as well as having the opportunity to discuss any further problems and solutions. A record of any action and agreed targets will be documented together with a timescale for the expected improvement to be achieved. This timescale will be reasonable and fair and agreed e.g. between three and six months with targets being pro-rated accordingly. If the target is breached, the line manager will arrange a review meeting and will issue a formal warning which will be live for 12 months and then move to Stage 2. Any warnings will be confirmed in writing and provide 8

9 a right of appeal. The line manager should continue to support the employee to attain and maintain regular attendance. 2.2 At Stage 2, the line manager will provide the employee with a further period to improve in a timescale of between three and six months. The line manager will continue to provide supportive measures as outlined in this policy. In such cases advice should be sought from the appropriate Human Resources Representative. If the target is breached, the line manager will arrange a review meeting and will issue a formal warning which will remain live for 12 months and then move to Stage 3. Any warnings will be confirmed in writing and provide a right of appeal. The line manager should continue to support the employee to attain and maintain regular attendance. 2.3 Employees will have the right to be accompanied and/or represented by a recognised trade union representative or work colleague during the formal stages of the Sickness Absence Policy. Employees will be given rights of representation and appeal in respect of formal warnings, as outlined within the Sickness Absence policy. 2.4 If the employee reaches the required performance level at either Stage 1 or 2, the process will be suspended at that stage but may be resumed at the point it was left if the attendance level drops within 12 months from the stage meeting. After 12 months, the warning will be removed from the file and not be considered in any future incident. 2.5 If the employee fails to reach the required level of attendance at the end of stage 2, the line manager will write a report outlining the action taken to date which will be presented to a panel at stage Formal Procedure (Stage 3 Hearing) 3.1 A panel hearing will be convened in line with the delegation of responsibility in Part 1, section The individual will be given a minimum of 5 working days notice of the sickness absence hearing and furnished with a copy of the line manager s report. If the individual, or their chosen companion, is not available to attend on the date proposed, the Organisation will endeavour to offer an alternative reasonable date within 10 working days of the original date wherever possible. Note: This meeting will normally only be re-arranged once, except in exceptional circumstances. 3.3 Should either party wish to call any witnesses to the sickness absence hearing they must give at least 2 working days notice to the Panel. Each party is responsible for arranging attendance of its own witnesses. 3.4 Additional information gathered by the employee, that they wish to present at the meeting, must also be made available to the panel at least 3 working days prior to the meeting. 9

10 3.5 Adjournments may be called by the panel at any time during the hearing should new evidence emerge which require investigation or clarification. If the employee becomes distressed an adjournment may be called in order for them to regain their composure. Should the employee be unable to continue, the meeting will be adjourned to a later date. 3.6 At the conclusion of the evidence, an adjournment must be held in order that there can be a period of dispassionate reflection by the sickness absence panel to consider what action, if any, is to be taken. Where possible, both parties will be verbally informed of the outcome after the adjournment. 3.7 The panel may decide on a range of outcomes, namely: Due to extreme, extenuating or mitigating circumstances, to adjourn the hearing to a future date to allow the employee a further opportunity to attain the attendance targets. Due to extreme, extenuating or mitigating circumstances, to adjourn the hearing to a future date to allow for further medical evidence to be obtained. To dismiss the employee with notice on the grounds of sickness absence, ill health. 3.8 The Chair of the Panel will arrange for the employee to be advised in writing of the outcome of the sickness absence hearing within 7 working days unless a longer period is specified and can be justified. The letter must include the date of the hearing and the reason for the decision and the right of appeal. It should also be noted whether the employee invoked their right to be accompanied. 4. APPEALS 4.1 An employee in receipt of a warning or notice of dismissal has the right of appeal. 4.2 Appeals, outlining the grounds on which the appeal is being made, must be lodged in writing to the person specified in the notification letter within 5 working days of the receipt of the written notice of sickness absence action or dismissal. The letter must include details of their grounds for appeal. In exceptional circumstances this period may be extended. 4.3 The employee must submit details of their grounds for appeal, plus any new evidence they wish to present, to the Appeal Hearing Panel at least 2 working days prior to the appeal meeting. 4.4 Appeals will be heard within 5 weeks of receipt of the letter requesting the appeal but either party may, with the consent of the other and in exceptional circumstances, be entitled to extend this period. 4.5 The employee must be given at least 5 working days notice of the date of the 10

11 appeal hearing. 4.6 The Appeals Hearing Procedure (Appendix C) must be followed. 4.7 Appeals will normally be heard by a more senior manager to the person taking the sickness absence action unless directed otherwise by the Chief Operating Officer. Appeals will include an HR representative wherever possible. 4.8 The employee will have the right to be accompanied at the Appeal Hearing by either a TU representative or workplace colleague not acting in a legal capacity although their non-attendance will not delay the hearing. 4.9 Both parties must provide to the Chair of the Appeal Hearing Panel at least 3 days prior to the Appeal Hearing, a full written statement of case including the grounds upon which the appeal is presented/resisted, with copies of any documents the party concerned intends to use in evidence, and, the identities of any witnesses the party concerned intends to call The decision of the panel will be communicated to both parties verbally, following the adjournment wherever possible, and in any case will be confirmed later in writing (again to either party), no later than 5 working days after the Appeal Hearing The decision of the appeal panel is final and there is no further right of internal appeal. 11

12 8 Part 3 Procedure for Managing Long-term Absence 8.1. Definition The Organisation defines long-term sickness absence as any absence which is of four weeks duration or more. In most cases of long term absence, occupational advice will be sought and will always be obtained if a dismissal is considered a potential outcome. 8.2 Equality Act Line managers must familiarise themselves with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 which defines the meaning of disability and explains the requirement to make reasonable adjustments for an employee with a disability. 8.3 Formal Reviews In cases of long-term absence, the line manager must conduct regular reviews meetings to discuss possible courses of action should the absence continue. These will include the following: rehabilitation return to work options and any reasonable adjustments possible redeployment potential dismissal on the grounds of capability (ill health) outcome if absence continues ill-health retirement Notes of the meeting should be taken and a summary of what was discussed at the meeting sent to the employee in writing. Employees may be accompanied by a TU Representative or a work colleague not acting in a legal capacity. The frequency of the meetings will depend upon the circumstances of the individual case but at least two formal review meetings before will be held prior to a Hearing being convened. If the sickness continues following the reviews and there is unlikely to be a return to work in the next two months, a formal hearing will be convened. See section 3 for Procedure. All reviews and the hearing should be conducted in person unless the nature of the employee s sickness makes this impossible. In these circumstances, they will be invited to participate by telephone. In exceptional circumstances, where the employee is unable to participate at all, the review may take place in their absence. 12

13 CONDUCTING A SICKNESS ABSENCE HEARING - STAGE 3 APPENDIX A A sickness absence hearing will normally be held by a panel consisting of a manager, who has not been previously involved in the matter, who will act as the Panel Chair. They will either be accompanied by another appropriate manager or an HR Representative. The organisation reserves the right to invite an appropriate person from outside the organisation to sit on the panel. The hearing will follow the following stages: Opening the meeting by Panel Chair Management side present their case (summary of report and action to date by the line manager), including calling of any witnesses Employee side, then the Panel, will have the opportunity to ask questions Employee side to present their case, including calling of any witnesses Management side, then the Panel, will have the opportunity to ask questions Summing up by management side, then by employee side Adjournment Action to be taken (if any) Establishment of a review date (if appropriate) Opening the Sickness Absence Hearing All employees are entitled to be accompanied by their Trade Union representative or a work colleague not acting in a legal capacity. Where an employee is not 13

14 accompanied, the employee must be reminded of this right, and if declined, this must be recorded. Those hearing the sickness absence must introduce those present and outline the reasons for the sickness absence hearing taking place (the reason/s outlined in the invite to hearing letter) and the format the meeting will take). Management Side presents a Summary of Sickness Absence History At this stage the line manager must summarise the case on behalf of management. The line manager presenting the case must adhere to the facts and not introduce opinions, hearsay or issues that have not previously been mentioned. All documentation that will be used as evidence will already have been made available to the individual prior to the sickness absence hearing taking place (copies will have been sent with the invite to sickness absence hearing letter). Should a new, pertinent issue arise during the course of the sickness absence meeting then the Panel should adjourn in order that consideration may be given to the appropriateness of the introduction of this new issue. To avoid unnecessary duplication of the process as well as ensuring fairness, it may be more beneficial to adjourn the sickness absence hearing in order that further investigations may be carried out in relation to the new matter. The aim of the sickness absence hearing is to seek verification and clarification about the attendance issues causing concern, through questions. Where it is appropriate to call witnesses, either party may call and question them. After the line manager has stated the management case the employee will be given the opportunity to ask questions and state their case. The employee s representative will be able to ask questions for clarification purposes. Exploration of any differences in facts, as they appear to the manager and employee should be carried out in a constructive manner in order to gain an understanding of the facts which are, as far as possible, acceptable to both manager and employee. The line manager should remain present during the hearing to allow for any questions. Both parties will be given the opportunity to sum up their case if they so wish. The summing up shall not introduce any new matter. If at any stage new facts are alleged or new evidence produced, the Sickness absence Panel may adjourn the meeting (of its own volition or at the request of one of the parties) for so long as it thinks fit. Adjournment Before any decision is taken, it is necessary to adjourn the sickness absence hearing to give adequate consideration to the facts as they have been presented and the responses that have been given to the performance issues including any extenuating or mitigating circumstances. At this stage both parties will be asked to leave the room and the panel must decide the facts of the case, with advice from an HR 14

15 Representative, where appropriate, and whether the performance issues requires action to be taken and if so, at what level. Where possible, an indication of the length of time of the adjournment should be given, including the reasons for the adjournment, i.e. to consider what action to take, if any. The sickness absence hearing may also be adjourned to consider other issues, e.g. to direct further enquiries to take place or to investigate new information/evidence that have been brought to light. There is no set time for an adjournment and adjournments can be called at any time during the sickness absence meeting, by either party but should be reasonable in the circumstances. Action When the sickness absence hearing is reconvened the Panel Chair should explain that consideration has been given to all of the issues raised at the beginning of the hearing, and all of the facts and issues raised during the course of the hearing. The Panel Chair must then outline what action, if any, will be taken including. It is important that where a sanction or dismissal is given, the employee is informed of their right of appeal, the procedure that will be followed in relation to confirming the action in writing. 15

16 APPENDIX B APPEALS HEARING PROCEDURE Appeals Hearing will normally be chaired by a more senior manager to the person who chaired the sickness absence hearing. Panels will comprise of a minimum of two people and three when the appeal is against dismissal. All appeals will include an HR representative An employee may choose to appeal if, for example: They think a sanction is unfair or too severe New evidence comes to light which would have affected the decision They believe he Sickness absence procedure was not applied correctly The procedure for an appeal hearing is as follows: The management side will present their case first, explaining the reasons for the action they have taken, including calling of any witnesses. The employee side will then be able to ask any questions about the case management side have presented. The appeal panel members will also have an opportunity to ask any questions. The employee side will then be asked to present their case to the panel, including calling of any witnesses. The management side may then wish to ask the appellant any questions about their case. The appeal panel members will also have the opportunity to ask any questions. Both parties will have the chance to sum up their case. There will then be an adjournment when both sides will be asked to leave the room while the appeal panel consider the information they have heard and reach their decision. The decision of the panel will be communicated to both parties verbally, following the adjournment wherever possible, and in writing no later than 5 working days after the Appeal Hearing. 16

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