1. Aims and Objectives
Lancaster University is committed to ensuring that staff suffering from ill-health, including mental and physical illness and disability are treated with understanding and sensitivity whilst achieving an acceptable level of attendance. The University will demonstrate a sympathetic and supportive attitude towards staff who incur injury, who are abnormally prone to sickness or who suffer longer-term illness.
Reliable data on sickness absence is vital to informing effective policy and practice. A standard procedure for the reporting and recording of sickness absence is therefore an essential requirement so that the University can identify patterns and trends in absence and take action at institutional or individual levels, where appropriate. Equally important is the need for the University to adopt a fair and consistent approach to the management of sickness absence across all departments and for all categories of staff.
Other objectives that the policy aims to achieve are:
- the promotion of employees' health, safety and welfare;
- the identification of changes necessary in working practices or environment;
- ensuring that the University complies with the Equality Act 2010;
- effective operational management taking account of the points made above.
It should be stressed that the primary objective of this policy is neither to question the legitimacy of sickness absences nor to pressurise staff into returning to work before they are fully recovered. At the same time it recognises that staff absences do have an impact on other staff and workloads.
Responsibility for applying the provisions of the policy lies with heads of departments and their delegated representatives as well as HR.
2. Application of Policy
This policy applies to all staff, regardless of category. Whilst it is accepted that the working patterns of academic staff allow a large degree of flexibility, the provisions of the policy must apply to all categories of staff to ensure a consistent and equitable approach.
Sickness entitlement is based on the length of accrued service on the first day of absence, taking into account any periods of sickness absence in the 12 month period before the start date of the latest sickness absence:
|Full pay||Half pay|
|During first five months of service||one month||
|During 6th to 12th month of service||one month||
|During second year of service||three months||
|During third year of service||four months||
|In fourth year and beyond||six months||six months|
For periods of incapacity the University will (unless the incapacity is due, or believed to be due, to the negligence of a third party, when the payment will be by way of a loan repayable in whole or in part from any damages which may be recoverable from the negligent party) continue payment of full salary as set our above.
3. Recording of Sickness Absence
3.1 Reporting Procedure
Members of staff should keep their relevant manager informed of the circumstances of their absence and provide such certification as is necessary. All such information will be treated in the strictest confidence.
Staff should, wherever possible, personally telephone their manager by 10.00 am on the morning of the first day of absence.
Half day absences must be recorded. If a member of staff attends work but is unable to stay for more than half of their working day (3.5 hours for full time staff), this must be recorded as half day sick leave. If a member of staff goes home unwell after being at work for more than half of thier working day (3.5 hours for full time staff), this would not be recorded as half day absence. The absence would start the following day if the staff member is still absent from work.
Absences of four or more working days should be self certified using form HR/836 which is available from the Departmental Officer/Secretary. It must be completed immediately on return to work and passed to the relevant manager, who will forward it to Payroll. The University reserves the right to require form HR/836 to be completed for all absences where concern has been previously expressed about the level of recent absences.
Absences in excess of seven calendar days should be covered by a signed doctor's certificate. This must be sent to the relevant manager who will forward it to the HR partner team to send to Payroll. If the stated reason for the absence could result in personal embarrassment, the doctor's certificate may exceptionally be sent directly to Payroll, provided that the department are advised of the duration of any further absence.
Staff should stay in touch with their workplace during longer absences.
3.2 Recording Procedure
Each department or section will nominate a person to be responsible maintain a record of sickness absence.
Below are some flow charts that you may find useful:
It should be emphasised that employees have the right to confidentiality regarding illness. Such records constitute sensitive personal information under the Data Protection Act 1998 and considerable care must, therefore, be given to the security of records. Those responsible for maintaining sickness records must ensure that absence records are held in a secure place and made available only to authorised staff.
4. Monitoring of Short Term Sickness Absence
As an employer the University has a responsibility to ensure that all it’s staff are aware of their responsibilities in respect of the sick pay scheme and that the sick pay scheme is operated effectively.
Monitoring absence in a systematic fashion also facilitates an early identification of an employee's health problems and instances of working practices or environments, which may be contributing to sickness absence. In dealing with sickness absence, the University should ensure a consistent approach between departments and various categories of staff. HR will, therefore, play a major role in advising departments how to manage a particular case.
4.2 Monitoring Procedure
The manager will regularly review the sickness records of employees, exercising their discretion in determining what action is appropriate in each case. The following indicators may be used to prompt a review and decision in each case:
- 6 or more working days' absence in the previous three months;
- 10 or more working days' absence in the previous twelve months.
HR will discuss with the department's representative an appropriate course of action. Possible action will include:
- no action;
- keep case under review;
- action to make work safe/healthy i.e. undertaking a workstation assessment or redesign of job;
- referral of employee to the University's Occupational Health Advisor/Physician;
- referral to the Counselling service or other appropriate agency;
- counselling of employee regarding levels of absence;
- issuing of a warning, after appropriate counselling, in accordance with the University's procedures;
If departments are concerned about any case that does not meet the criteria, the matter should be discussed with HR.
5. Approaches to sickness absence
High levels of sickness absence, as specified in 4.2 and 7.1, can be categorised in one of the following ways:
- 1. a one-off absence (e.g. minor operation);
- 2. a series of absences due to one diagnosed cause;
- 3. serious long-term illness;
- 4. absences due to minor unrelated illnesses.
Each of these requires a different approach. In the first case, for example, a period of recuperation, and possibly therapy, following the operation will usually be sufficient to enable a complete return to work. The University may require confirmation that the problem will not recur by referring an employee to its Occupational Health Advisor/Physician prior to, or on a return to work. Absences falling into the second category may require an exploration of the possibility of redeployment of an employee into another job or job re-design as described in 7.3 below.
Absences falling into the third category, which do not lend themselves to adaptation of job duties or redeployment, may lead to ill-health early retirement or termination of employment and will be dealt with in accordance with 7.4 below.
A series of absences due to minor and unrelated illnesses will normally be discussed with an employee, at which time, referral to the University's Occupational Health Advisor/Physician maybe considered. In serious cases, where there is no improvement as a result of such counselling, this may lead to the issuing of a formal warning under the appropriate University's procedures. It should be stressed that the aim of any counselling or warning associated with absence would not be to cast doubt on the legitimacy of absences.
6. Return to Work
It is recommended, especially after long-term absence or where there is concern about high levels of sickness absence, that departments discuss the matter with an employee on returning to work. This meeting should be carried out sympathetically, in private, by a manager or a supervisor and should be aimed at confirming the cause of the absence and indicating the University's interest in the welfare of the employee. Advice on the conduct of such conversations can be obtained from HR.
7. Long Term Sickness Absence and Referrals for Medical Opinions
Long term absence is normally classified as one month or over. Where an absence falls into this category, it is recommended, that the department should contact HR in order to discuss an approach to the case. However, where there is a suggestion that the absence is in any sense work-related, the department should contact HR immediately.
Managers should stay in touch with a member of staff throughout a period of absence. This is especially important when the leave is extended.
The University will aim to make formal contact with the employee with the intention of referring him/her to the University's Occupational Health Advisor/Physician. This referral is in turn intended to provide the following information:
- a prognosis of the employee's illness in terms of when s/he is likely to be fit to return to work;
- whether adaptation of the job, working hours or environment might facilitate an early return to work;
- an early indication of whether a return to any form of work is unlikely;
- an opportunity for the Occupational Health Advisor/Physician to liaise with the treating doctors.
The Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 requires an employee's consent to be given prior to a medical report being made available to the University and this consent will be sought prior to referral. Should an employee refuse to give consent, any decision that the University might have to take will then be taken on only those facts that are already available.
The action that follows a referral will depend on the nature of the report and will be decided after discussion with HR and, where appropriate, the relevant Trades Union representatives.
7.3 Redeployment and Accommodation of Disability
As a matter of policy and in accordance with the provisions of the Equality Act 2010, the University will endeavour to accommodate an employee in his/her current post if s/he is suffering from ill health or disability. Accommodation may involve re-designing the individual's job, adapting the working environment or changing the hours of work. If accommodation proves impossible, every reasonable attempt will be made to redeploy the employee into a position for which s/he is capable. In pursuing its policy of attempting to accommodate or redeploy staff the University will make full use of the advice and assistance of the University's Occupational Health Advisor/Physician and external agencies such as the Placement, Assessment and Counselling Team (PACT), the Disability Employment Advisor and the “Access to Work” scheme. Employees will also be fully consulted regarding such options.
7.4 Ill Health Early Retirement/Termination of Employment
Where a member of staff is unable to return to their job and accommodation and redeployment are not viable options, ill health early retirement or termination of the individual's employment will be the only alternatives. No decision on these alternatives will be taken without first reviewing the medical evidence and consulting personally with the employee and, where appropriate, the relevant Trades Union representative.
Where an employee is a member of either pension scheme and is permanently incapable of performing his/her normal job duties, the University will refer a case for ill health early retirement with associated pension benefits to the trustees of the appropriate pension scheme. Whilst the decision is pending, the employee will normally remain in the University's employment. For employees who are ineligible for an ill health pension under the terms of either LGPS or USS, the sole option in the absence of redeployment or accommodation possibilities will be termination of employment.
8. Review of Policy and Procedure
The policy and procedure will be periodically reviewed.
Updated June 2009
Updated January 2013