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Sickness - Employee Guidance

This Guide is only applicable for those staff employed in UCL Australia

1. Introduction

This Guidance supplements the Sickness Absence Policy Australia/sickness_absence.php which covers the following issues:

  • Sickness absence reporting procedures - the procedure you should follow to inform your department that you are sick and unable to attend work
  • Sickness absence recording and monitoring procedures - how information about your sickness is collected and monitored; when you are required to provide a medical certificate; the arrangements that apply to sickness and annual leave, medical appointments and pregnancy-related illness
  • Referral to the Occupational Health Service (OHS) - information about why your manager may refer you to the OHS and how this is done
  • Long-term sickness absence - the procedure that your manager will follow if you have been absent for 4 weeks or more
  • Repeated short-term absence - the procedure that your manager will follow if you have had 6 episodes of absence in a rolling 12 month period, more than 12 working days within a rolling 12 month period.

These guidance notes should therefore be read in conjunction with the Sickness Absence Policy.

2. Support Available to Staff

Occupational Health Advice

The OHS assists UCL in promoting the physical and psychological well being of its employees by advising managers and staff on the effects of health on work, and of work on health. The OHS also aims to assist UCL in the prevention of illness and injury arising from work activity. Services include:

  • Advice on fitness to work and adjustments to work tasks and/or the work environment so as to accommodate employee with health problems or a disability
  • Other aspects tbc when local OHS provision sourced
  • An Employee Assistance Programme. This is a free and confidential service available to you and your family which can help you resolve personal and work-related issues which may affect your health, well-being and work performance (e.g. emotional health, family or relationship issues, and legal or financial issues). More details can be found at:

If you think that your health problems may be caused by your work, or may be affecting your attendance or performance, you should discuss this with your manager and ask for a management referral to the OHS. You can also self-refer. However, if adjustments to your work are required your manager will need to receive advice from the OHS about these.

HR Policies, Procedures and Guidance

There are a number of policies and procedures which you may find helpful. These include:

  • A Brief Guide to the Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 This gives an overview of the relevant Australian disability legislation Australia/federal_disability.php

  • Policy on Alcohol and Substance Misuse: where it is established that an attendance problem may be related to the misuse of alcohol or another substance(s), this policy is used in conjunction with the Sickness Absence Policy:

  • 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:

  • UCL Australia 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 information relating to medical appointments: Australia/leave_domestic_personal.php

  • 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:

These documents can also be obtained from the HR Division in printed form.

3. Staff responsibilities

All staff are responsible for:

  • Reporting sickness absence according to the procedures set out in the Sickness Absence Policy and/or in line with your departmental reporting arrangements
  • Completing a Sickness Absence Record Form on your return from each episode of absence
  • Attending and participating in the Return to Work interviews arranged by your manager following each episode of sickness absence, and ensuring any agreed actions arising from this are undertaken by you
  • Attending appointments with the OHS if you are referred
  • Alerting your manager to any health-related or personal problems which may have an impact on your attendance so that they can offer suitable support
  • Alerting your manager to any problems you are experiencing at work which may be having an impact on your health, attendance or performance
  • Ensuring your manager has as much information as possible about your absence to enable them to provide appropriate support and advice
  • Keeping in contact with your manager during your absence, and updating them on your likely return date
  • Adopting a flexible approach to reasonable adjustments which have been suggested to assist you in improving your attendance
  • Ensuring that you use the appropriate procedures to request time off from work for reasons other than sickness, such as dealing with family or home responsibilities; seeking advice from your manager when necessary

4. Return to Work interviews - what you can expect

When you return to work following an episode of sickness, your manager will arrange an interview with you on your first day back or as soon as possible thereafter. This will be done for all staff at UCL after every episode of sickness. Managers will need to make a judgement on a case by case basis as to the detail discussed and length of these meetings. It is anticipated that the vast majority of these meetings will be very brief and informal.

The purpose of the interview

  • To give your manager the opportunity to check that you are fit enough to return to work. Where there is any doubt, your manager will seek advice from the OHS
  • To give you an opportunity to voice any concerns that you may have, and to discuss any domestic, welfare or work related problems in an appropriate forum
  • To discuss the option of you being referred to the OHS where such advice is needed (see Section 5 below)
  • To give your manager the opportunity to update you on events which have occurred in your absence.

Before the interview, your manager will have gathered together all relevant information regarding your absence record including whether you have complied with the procedures, any identifiable absence patterns, the reasons given for your absence and information on how your absence record compares with that of your colleagues.
Your manager will explore the following areas with you:

  • Whether your absence was work-related
  • What steps you have taken towards your recovery e.g. seeking medical advice
  • What preventative measures you are taking to reduce the likelihood of such absence occurring in the future.

They will explain how your work was covered during your absence and discuss any future action, such as referral to the OHS, with you. It is important that there is agreement over what action is to be taken, who will be taking them and agreement on any review of these actions.

5. Returning to work following long-term sickness

As soon as you inform your manager that you are well enough to consider returning to work, consideration will start to be given to what assistance you might require. Most individuals return to work after illness without needing any special adjustments to be made to their working arrangements. However, some individuals who are either returning following a period of extended sick leave, have been absent with a disability-related illness, or who suffer from a progressive illness that affects their health in the workplace, may need particular arrangements to be made.

In general terms, a rehabilitation programme may be helpful where an employee is well enough to do some of their work, but may need additional time to recover completely and will be able to return to their normal working pattern within a prescribed period of time. The following circumstances could mean that special arrangements will need to be made to assist you to return to work:

  • You have been absent for 4 weeks or more
  • You have been suffering from serious, long-term physical or mental ill health
  • You have had surgery or a long stay in hospital
  • You have a new disability or a new restriction to your physical capacities
  • You will continue to need treatment for your illness following your return to work

If your manager feels that a rehabilitation programme will assist you, you will be referred to the OHS for further advice.

You will be consulted on any proposed arrangements or adjustments. Although the OHS will have discussed these with you, your manager will also discuss them with you before arrangements are finalised and implemented to ensure that your needs are balanced with the operational needs of the department. It is essential that everyone involved in the process has a common understanding of what is going to happen, when and whose responsibility it is.

The OHS may recommend that you either work your normal number of days each week but return on reduced hours which are gradually built up, or reduce the number of days you work each week building up to a full week. 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 four weeks. If the normal hours of work are reduced over a longer period, a corresponding reduction in salary is likely to result. However, the individual circumstances of your case will be taken into account.

6. Guidance for staff with disabilities

Disability is defined in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 includes:

  • Physical
  • Intellectual
  • Psychiatric
  • Sensory
  • Neurological, and
  • Learning disabilities, as well as
  • Physical disfigurement, and
  • The presence in the body of disease-causing organisms.

This broad definition is meant to ensure that everyone with a disability is protected.
The DDA covers a disability which people:

  • Have now,
  • Had in the past (for example: a past episode of mental illness),
  • May have in the future (eg: a family history of a disability which a person may also develop),
  • Are believed to have (for example: if people think someone has AIDS).

All staff experiencing disability-related sickness absence will be managed in accordance with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 guidance from the Australian Human Rights Commission . This means that UCL will try to make workplace adjustments to enable staff to continue working.

Advice on what type of adjustments would make a significant difference will be sought from the OHS, in conjunction with the HR Consultancy Team. It is for the manager to then decide in consultation with the HR Consultancy Team, whether the adjustments recommended by the OHS are reasonable to implement within that particular workplace and if not, whether there is an alternative role within the department or UCL.

The Equal Opportunities Co-ordinator

Advice on issues which apply to staff with disabilities, other than those related to sickness absence (e.g. information on the types of aids and adaptations generally available), can be obtained by contacting the Equal Opportunities Co-ordinator (see )