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Sickness Absence Policy

This Policy is only applicable to UCL staff seconded to Nazarbayev University, Astana, Kazakhstan

1 Purpose and Scope of the policy

1.1 This policy sets out procedures for reporting and recording sickness absence, and for managing short and long-term absence in a consistent and fair way. All arrangements for managing sickness absence are conducted in keeping with UCL's Equal Opportunities Policy Statement. Further guidance on sickness absence is provided in the Management Guidance on Sickness Absence, and Employee Guidance on Sickness Absence (see Section 9 for further details).

1.2 It may be the case that an individual's sickness is disability-related - see Appendix A. Such cases will be managed in accordance with UCL policy, and advice on specific cases can be sought from the local OHS (OHS) or UCL's Occupational Health Service (UCL OHS) in consultation with the HR Consultancy Team. General advice can be found in the UCL Policy on Disability in Employment (see Section 9 below for further details), or obtained from the Equal Opportunities Co-ordinator. Additionally, it is recognised that absence from work may be required for a range of reasons and therefore staff should also be aware of provisions in the policies in section 9 of this policy.

1.3 Staff who are ill will be treated sympathetically and every effort will be made to assist recovery and safeguard employment whilst managing sickness absence in accordance with this Policy. It is recognised, however, that the loss of working days through repeated sickness absence can be a significant cost to UCL in terms of work not completed or the costs of arranging absence cover. Repeated sickness absence also places additional pressure on colleagues. The responsibility for monitoring and controlling sickness absence lies with the Head of the CPS and with those to whom the day-to-day supervision of staff is delegated, and this policy provides details of UCL's arrangements for managing absence due to sickness.

1.4 Members of the HR Consultancy Team are available to advise managers in the application of this policy at any stage.

2. Key Principles in Managing Sickness Absence

  • Accurate records of all sickness absences and actions taken should be kept, and monitored on a regular basis.
  • Managers should conduct a return to work interview following each episode of absence so that support and advice can be given at an early stage. Guidance on return to work interviews is provided in the Management Guidance on Sickness Absence (see Section 9 below for further details).
  • Managers should explore the reason(s) for an employee's sickness absence at the earliest opportunity and follow the procedures set out in this policy.
  • Where work may be impacting on an employee's health, or where health problems may be affecting an employee's attendance or performance, managers should obtain advice from the OHS in consultation with the HR Consultancy Team.

3 Sickness Absence Reporting Procedures

3.1 A member of staff who is sick and cannot attend work should normally contact his/her manager (or the person designated for the purpose within the department) by telephone within 30 minutes of the time when s/he is expected to start work. Where no expected work start time exists staff must endeavour to contact their manager as early as possible on the first day of absence. Staff should not normally ask anyone else to make contact on their behalf unless it is not possible for them to do it. Staff with a flexible or irregular work pattern should make contact as early in the day as possible, if they are expected at work. Where departments have specific arrangements for reporting absences, these should be communicated to staff on a regular basis and must be observed by all staff.

3.2 When reporting absence from work due to sickness, staff will be asked to give as much of following information as possible:

  • The nature of illness - if the employee does not wish to reveal the exact nature of the illness s/he must indicate broadly the cause of the absence. If they are not willing to disclose this, the nature of the illness should be described as personal;
  • The anticipated length of absence (only an estimated indication is expected i.e. "I'll be back tomorrow" or "I don't expect to be in for the rest of the week") ;
  • If the absence is expected to be of 7 calendar days or more, any steps s/he is taking in relation to it e.g. details of any doctor's appointments arranged;
  • Details of any outstanding or urgent work that needs to be dealt with during the absence;
  • Details of how s/he can be contacted if necessary, especially where the employee is staying at a different address during their absence.

3.3 Where a member of staff becomes ill while at work and feels too unwell to continue working, s/he must speak to his/her manager who will give permission for the individual to leave their work (either temporarily or for the day) and for him/her to seek medical advice where appropriate. Absence from work for part of a working day is not recorded as sickness absence but a note should be made of a part day absence and this may be taken into account when looking at patterns of absence.

3.4 Managers must be aware of UCL's accident reporting process, which can be found at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/efd/safety_services_www/guidance/accidents/index.htm

Safety Services should be contacted for advice on accident reporting.

3.5 A member of staff who fails to follow the sickness absence procedures set out in this document may be subject to action under the Disciplinary Procedure. Unauthorised absence is considered to be misconduct and will be considered in accordance with the Disciplinary Procedure. In exceptional circumstances, UCL reserves the right to withhold Occupational Sick Pay if an individual does not co-operate with reasonable requests from the HR Division, or does not comply with the requirements within this Policy.

4 Sickness Absence Recording and Monitoring Procedures

4.1 The Head of the CPS are expected to:

  • Ensure that a record is kept of the whereabouts of the staff in their department (for example who is on holiday, sickness absence or special leave and the general location of staff working off-site);
  • Ensure that all incidents of sickness absence amongst all the staff in the department are accurately recorded, kept confidential and stored securely;
  • Ensure that all incidents/accidents at work are accurately recorded;
  • Regularly review sickness absence to ensure that the department is able to function effectively and to check for patterns that indicate the possibility of health problems which may be exacerbated by the working environment.
  • Ensure that all staff are informed of the sickness absence reporting procedure and the sickness absence policy.

4.2 Individuals are responsible for ensuring that they follow the correct certification procedures. For absences up to 7 consecutive calendar days a Sickness Absence Record Form (see Appendix B) must be completed and signed by the member of staff upon return to work. If the absence is likely to exceed 7 calendar days, the employee must obtain a medical certificate from a GP to claim occupational sick pay for absences exceeding 7 calendar days. The original must be forwarded to his/her manager as soon as possible. If the absence continues, medical certificates must be provided for the whole period of absence. UCL reserves the right to withhold Occupational Sick Pay for any period of absence not covered by a medical certificate.

4.3 The OHS may advise that a member of staff is fit to return to work in some capacity even though s/he has a GP's medical certificate. The manager, in consultation with HR, will make a decision on the course of action to follow in such circumstances, based the advice provided by the OHS. Any decision may affect entitlement to Occupational Sick Pay.

4.4 Sickness and annual leave

If an employee falls sick whilst on annual leave or on a day adjacent to annual leave, normal reporting and certification arrangements apply. Annual leave may be reclaimed for the days that s/he is sick provided that a medical certificate is supplied to cover these days. Medical certificates (or equivalent) issued abroad should be copied and sent to the manager where the absence is going to be four weeks or longer. The original documents must be supplied on the return to work. If the employee is unable to travel, medical confirmation along with full contact details must be provided.

4.5 Medical appointments

Arrangements covering medical and dentist appointments are covered by the Policy on Leave for Domestic and Personal Reasons (see Section 9 for further details); such appointments should not be recorded as sickness absence unless the appointment requires a whole day's absence.

4.6 Pregnancy-related sickness

Pregnancy-related sickness absence should be recorded separately and should not be taken into account when looking at targets. Odd days of pregnancy-related illness during this period may be disregarded prior to the start of her maternity leave period, and a risk assessment does not indicate that carrying out work will endanger her pregnancy.

4.7 The manager (or designated person) will pass the Sickness Absence Record Form with any medical certificate(s) where appropriate, to whoever maintains the sickness absence records for the department. They will be required to record the departmental sickness absence records on MyView, and file the medical certificates. The manager (or designated person) should contact the HR Consultancy Team directly to discuss individual cases if the reason given for the absence may be caused by work or may impact on his/her ability to undertake a particular work activity, or if there is repeated absence or continued absence for a period of 4 weeks or more.

4.8 Analysis of sickness absence data is reported to the HR Policy Committee on a regular basis by the Occupational Health Service Manager who also presents reports to the Safety Committee and the Health & Safety Management Team in accordance with their terms of reference.

5 Making Referrals to Occupational Health

5.1 Ill health, of whatever nature, may affect the work performance of the individual and may also have an impact on their colleagues. If a manager has any concerns about the effects of work on an employee's health, or the effects of a health problem on an employee's attendance or performance particularly during any of the stages of the formal procedures for managing sickness absence (sections 6 and 7 below), a management referral to the OHS should be discussed with the appropriate member of the HR Consultancy Team. Managers should discuss the referral with the employee giving reason(s) and encouraging open exchange of information. Similarly, if a member of staff believes that his/her condition may be related to an activity at work s/he should inform his/her manager.

Management referral should be made to an OHS to seek advice regarding:

  • The impact of a health problem on the staff member's ability to work;
  • Timescales for expected improvement;
  • Temporary or permanent adjustments to the work place or tasks that would assist in maintaining health and reducing the effects of the health problem on attendance and performance;
  • An opinion on suitability for redeployment;
  • Proposals for case management or a rehabilitation programme where appropriate.

5.2 Occupational health advice given to the manager will not contain confidential medical detail, but is concerned with the effects of a health problem on an employee's work attendance or performance, or the effects of work on an employee's health.

5.3 If an individual does not attend their occupational health appointment arranged through the management referral process, a further appointment will be made. If an appointment is missed for a second time, the manager will arrange a review meeting with the individual at which another manager may be present. Any decisions made at this meeting regarding the on-going management of the individual's absence will be based on the information available at that time and in the absence of advice that would have been available had the employee attended the occupational health appointment as requested.

6 Repeated short term absence

6.1 The absence of a member of staff due to sickness for 6 periods of absence in a rolling 12 month period or a total of more than 12 working days within the same period, will trigger the formal Sickness Absence Procedure as follows (pro rata for part time staff).

6.2 Stage 1 - 1st Sickness Absence Review Meeting

The purpose of the 1st Review Meeting will be as follows:

  • To review the member of staff's attendance record during the relevant period;
  • To give the member of staff the opportunity to discuss any problems or raise any concerns;
  • To decide whether any further action is required such as a referral to the local OHS (see section 5 above);
  • To set a target for improvement (see 6.4 below) and a period over which absence levels will be monitored;
  • To arrange for support or work adjustments as recommended by the OHS;
  • To inform the member of staff that if attendance does not improve within the time period being monitored, a 2nd Sickness Absence Review meeting will be held.

6.3 The employee will be given at least 7 calendar days' written notice of the meeting (unless the employee agrees, in writing, to less) and s/he may choose to be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague. If the individual's trade union representative or work colleague is unavailable to attend the meeting at the appointed time, s/he may request postponement and suggest an alternative time and date. Where the suggested alternative is reasonable and within 7 calendar days of the original date, the meeting will be postponed.

6.4 When setting targets for improvement, managers will, in consultation with their contact in the HR Consultancy Team, need to take into account the individual circumstances of the case, any advice received from the OHS, the impact of any underlying medical condition or disability, and any reasonable work place adjustments that need to be put in place to enable the employee to improve their attendance.

6.5 The outcome of the Sickness Absence Review meeting will be confirmed to the individual in writing by their manager within 10 working days, and a copy sent to their contact in the HR Consultancy Team.

6.6 As confirmed at the Sickness Absence Review the individual's sickness absence pattern will be monitored over an appropriate, specified period. During this period, regular reviews should be undertaken by the manager to review the member of staff's attendance, give them an opportunity to discuss any problems they have encountered, discuss the need for further occupational health advice and ensure that any reasonable adjustments recommended have been put in place and that they are receiving the support needed to improve their attendance at work.

Stage 2 - 2nd Sickness Absence Review Meeting

6.7 If during the specified monitoring period following the 1st Sickness Absence Review meeting, absence exceeds the improvement target set this will trigger a 2nd Sickness Absence Review meeting with the manager.

6.8 The purpose of the 2nd Review Meeting will be as follows:

  • To review the member of staff's attendance record during the relevant period;
  • To review the steps that have been taken to support him/her in achieving the required level of attendance;
  • To give the member of staff the opportunity to discuss any problems or raise any concerns;
  • To discuss any occupational health advice that has been received;
  • To decide whether any new information requires further referral to the OHS (see section 5 above);
  • To set a target for improvement (see 6.4 above) and a period over which absence levels will be monitored;
  • To inform the member of staff that if attendance does not improve a 3rd Sickness Absence Review meeting will be held.

6.9 The employee will be given at least 7 calendar days' written notice of the meeting (unless the employee agrees, in writing, to less) and s/he may choose to be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague. If the individual's trade union representative or work colleague is unavailable to attend the meeting at the appointed time, s/he may request postponement and suggest an alternative time and date. Where the suggested alternative is reasonable and within 7 calendar days of the original date, the meeting will be postponed.

6.10 The outcome of the 2nd Sickness Absence Review meeting will be confirmed to the individual in writing by their manager within 10 working days and a copy sent to their contact in the HR Consultancy Team.

6.11 As confirmed at the 2nd Sickness Absence Review meeting, the individual's sickness absence pattern will be monitored over an appropriate, specified period and appropriate targets will be set within this period depending on the improvement in attendance that is required and taking into account the factors outlined in 6.4 above.

6.12 Regular reviews should be undertaken by the manager during the monitoring period (see 6.6 above).

6.13 If, after a period of satisfactory improvement based on the targets set, the individual's absence levels reach those defined in 6.1 above (repeated short term absence), Stage 2 of the Sickness Absence Policy will be repeated.

Stage 3 - 3rd Sickness Absence Review Meeting

6.14 If during the specified monitoring period following the 2nd Sickness Absence Review meeting, absence exceeds the improvement target this will trigger a 3rd Sickness Absence Review Meeting. The meeting will be with the Head of the CPS (or person deputed by him/her).

6.15 The purpose of the 3rd Review meeting will be as follows:

  • To review the member of staff's attendance record during the relevant period;
  • To review the steps that have been taken to support him/her in achieving the required level of attendance;
  • To give the member of staff the opportunity to discuss any problems or raise any concerns, or to highlight any mitigating circumstances that they wish to be taken into account;
  • To discuss any OH advice that has been received;
  • To decide whether any new information requires further referral to the OHS (see section 5 above);
  • To decide whether the employee should be referred to the Medical Social Expert Commission to determine whether s/he is fit to perform his/her duties in terms of Article 54.1 (4) of the Labour Code.

6.16 The employee will be given at least 7 calendar days' written notice of the meeting (unless the employee agrees, in writing, to less) and s/he may choose to be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague. If the individual's trade union representative or work colleague is unavailable to attend the meeting at the appointed time, s/he may request postponement and suggest an alternative time and date. Where the suggested alternative is reasonable and within 7 calendar days of the original date, the meeting will be postponed.

6.17 If it has been decided not to refer the employee to the Commission, but to extend the monitoring period, the individual's sickness absence pattern will be monitored over an appropriate, specified period.

6.18 Regular reviews should be undertaken by the manager during the monitoring period (see 6.6 above).

6.19 If, after a period of satisfactory improvement based on the targets set, the individual's absence levels reach those defined in 6.1 above (repeated short term absence), Stage 3 of the Sickness Absence Policy will be repeated.

7 Long-term Sickness Absences

7.1 Managers should seek the advice of the HR Consultancy Team in cases of long-term sickness absence of 4 weeks or more, sooner if there is indication that the health issue may be related to work. Evidence based guidelines recommend early intervention, particularly for mental health or musculoskeletal problems

7.2 They should also maintain contact with the member of staff in order to reduce feelings of isolation, to remain informed about the likely duration of the sickness absence and to keep them in touch with any major workplace developments. Managers should not, however, have detailed discussions regarding work-related issues with staff who are absent. The member of staff has a responsibility to update his/her manager regularly on his/her likely date of return to work.

7.3 In such cases, a referral to the OHS will usually be made for advice on the employee's fitness for work, a likely date of return and advice on a rehabilitation programme, if necessary, to enable the employee to return to work. Where the hours of work are reduced as part of a rehabilitation programme, this would normally be on full pay for a limited period of up to 4 weeks. If the normal hours of work are reduced over a longer period, a corresponding reduction in salary may result. However, the individual circumstances of the case will be taken into account.

7.4 Where appropriate, once advice has been received from the OHS, the individual will be invited in writing to a meeting with his/her manager. S/he may choose to be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague, and at least 7 calendar days’ notice will be given (unless the employee agrees in writing to less). If the individual's trade union representative or work colleague is unavailable to attend the meeting at the appointed time, s/he may request postponement and suggest an alternative time and date. Where the suggested alternative is reasonable and within 7 calendar days of the original date, the meeting will be postponed. If the individual is unable to travel, the meeting will be conducted via the telephone or, in exceptional circumstances, a meeting may take place at a venue nearer to his/her home. Alternatively, a written representation can be submitted.

7.5 Notwithstanding any prior meeting held in terms of 7.4 above, if the employee is absent for a continuous period in excess of two months as a consequence of illness/temporary disability this will trigger a Final Sickness Absence Review meeting. The meeting will be with the Head of the CPS (or person deputed by him/her).

7.5.1 The purpose of this meeting will be as follows:

  • To review the member of staff's attendance record during the relevant period;
  • To review the steps that have been taken to support him/her to return to work
  • To give him/her the opportunity to discuss any problems or raise any concerns, or to highlight any mitigating circumstances that they wish to be taken into account;
  • To discuss any occupational health advice that has been received;
  • To decide whether any new information requires further referral to the OHS (see section 5 above);
  • To inform them of whether they will be dismissed in terms of Article 54.1 (17) of the Labour Code or whether further time will be granted for the employee's recovery.
  • If an extension is granted, to set a review date at which time the prolonged absence meeting in 6.21 will be repeated.

7.5.2 The employee will be given at least 7 calendar days' written notice of the meeting (unless the employee agrees, in writing, to less) and s/he may choose to be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague. If the individual's trade union representative or work colleague is unavailable to attend the meeting at the appointed time, s/he may request postponement and suggest an alternative time and date. Where the suggested alternative is reasonable and within 7 calendar days of the original date, the meeting will be postponed.

7.5.3 If the member of staff is considered by the OHS to be unfit to resume his/her duties, despite reasonable adjustments being made, job redesign, an amendment to the job description or redeployment into another type of work will be explored with advice from the OHS. Advice provided by the OHS and the individual's views will be taken into account in the exploration of options. In some cases more than one meeting will be necessary. Redeployment to a more suitable job should be considered and if this is possible it is subject to the consent of the employee and approval by the Medical Social Expert Commission. If reasonable adjustments or redeployment is not possible, early retirement on the grounds of ill health may be pursued in accordance with the arrangements of the relevant Pension Scheme. The Pensions Office will advise individuals of their entitlements in such circumstances.

7.5.4 Following the meeting, a decision will be taken by the Head of the CPS to either dismiss the member of staff on the grounds of continuous absence in excess of two months, or to extend the time for the employee's recovery. The option of allowing further time for recovery will only be considered if there is evidence that this is likely to lead to the return of the employee to work.

7.5.5 In the event that additional time is granted to effect a return to work, the employee should maintain regular contact with his/her manager to inform him/her informed of their progress.

7.5.6 The Head of the CPS will confirm the decision, the reasons for it and the right of appeal in the case of dismissal, in writing to the individual.

7.6 If the member of staff is considered by the OHS to be fit for work, this will be discussed with the individual and a return to work date will be set. In exceptional circumstances, if s/he does not return to work on the date advised, entitlement to Occupational Sick Pay may be withdrawn and they will be dismissed in terms of Article 54.1 (17) of the Labour Code.

7.7 Once the member of staff has returned to work, the manager should hold a return to work interview with them. At this meeting, any advice given by the OHS for rehabilitation and support to facilitate a sustained return to work will be discussed, as well as any re-training that may be necessary and any expectations by the member of staff of any further periods of absence.

8. Appeal Procedure

8.1 A member of staff wishing to appeal against the termination of their contract of employment under this policy should submit a letter to the Director of HR within three months of the receipt of the formal letter confirming the termination of employment, stating the grounds of appeal. The decision taken will remain in force unless and until it is modified as a result of the appeal.

8.2 An Appeal Hearing is not designed to re-hear the case but to examine the grounds of appeal. The appellant must be specific about the grounds of appeal; these will effectively form the agenda for the hearing. Appeals will be raised on one of the following grounds:

  • the procedure: a failure to follow procedure had a material effect on the decision
  • the decision - the evidence did not support the conclusion reached
  • the penalty - was too severe given the circumstances of the case
  • new evidence - which has genuinely come to light since the first hearing.

8.3 Arrangements will be made for appeals to be heard within seven days of the application (Article 171.4 Labour Code).

8.4 The appellant will be notified as soon as possible of the time, date and place of the appeal hearing. The appellant will be advised that s/he may be accompanied by his/her Trade Union representative or workplace colleague.

8.5 The Appeal will be heard by a Mediation Commission set up in terms of Article 171 of the Labour Code, consisting of an equal number of employer and employee representatives. The size, procedure and powers of the Commission shall be established by agreement between the SoE or CPS and the employees at a general meeting of the employees

8.6 Where the appeal is upheld, the employee will be reinstated and paid for the period of enforced suspension in terms of Article 177. 2 and continuity of service will be maintained, or, at the request of the employee, only pay the amount due in terms of Article 177.3

8.7 The result of the appeal will normally be notified to the appellant orally within one day and in writing within 3 working days of the hearing. A copy will also be sent to any representative.

8.8 The decision of the Mediation Commission is final.

9 Other Relevant Documents and Procedures

9.1 At any time during the implementation of the Sickness Absence Policy it may be appropriate to refer to the following UCL procedures:

  • Management Guidance on Sickness Absence: this document supplements the Sickness Absence Policy and provides additional information to managers to enable them to manage sickness absence within their department
  • Employee Guidance on Sickness Absence: this document supplements the Sickness Absence Policy and provides additional guidance for staff in relation to the management of sickness absence at UCL, and the support available to them
  • The Policy on Disability in Employment: this will apply where a member of staff becomes disabled while employed with UCL or where s/he develops a medical condition which is considered to be a 'disability' under the Kazakhstan laws.
  • Policy on Alcohol and Substance Misuse: where it is established that an attendance problem may be related to the alcohol dependency or another substance(s) dependency, this policy should be used in conjunction with these procedures.
  • Managing Stress at Work: this establishes guidelines for managers and encourages staff who are experiencing stress to seek assistance and receive the advice and support they need when they need it
  • Policy on Leave for Personal and Domestic Reasons: this should be referred to where absence is due to a personal or domestic reason, or for absence relating to medical appointments.
  • Requests for Flexible Working to Care for Children: the purpose of this document is to establish a clear procedure for the consideration of requests from staff with young children to change their working arrangements to enable them to care for their children
  • Work Life Balance: this policy provides guidelines on how all staff, not only parents, can request a change to their working arrangements, on a permanent basis, to enable them to achieve an effective balance between work and life outside the workplace.
  • Harassment & Bullying policy : outlines different ways that allegations or concerns about harassment or bullying can be dealt with, including speaking or writing directly to the individual concerned, either alone or with another colleague; asking a manager or a Harassment Advisor to facilitate an informal meeting; mediation or making a formal complaint.

The general UCL documents may be accessed via the HR Division Web pages at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/policy_procedure/ or may be obtained from the HR Division in printed form. Advice on their implementation or interpretation is available from the HR Consultancy Team.

10 Monitoring of the Policy

10.1 The HR Division and the HR Policy Committee in conjunction with the recognised Trade Unions will keep the monitoring of sickness absence and the operation of this policy under review.

HR Policy and Planning

January 2014