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Sickness - Employee Guidance
This Guidance supplements the Sickness Absence Policy http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/docs/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 Statement of Fitness for Work (Fit Note) from your GP; the arrangements that apply to sickness and annual leave, medical appointments and pregnancy-related illness
- Referral to the UCL 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:
- Health surveillance for certain identified work place risks
- Early referral, where appropriate for short term physiotherapy or counselling services
- Advice on fitness to work and adjustments to work tasks and/or the work environment to enable employees with health problems or a disability to work effectively
- 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: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/occ_health/services/emp_assistance_program.php
- Mediation Service: UCL has contracted CiC, an external and independent provider of mediation services, to help staff resolve workplace disputes or difficulties. Further information can be found here http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/mediation/
Referrals are made to CiC via your HR consultant and his/her name and contact details can be accessed via the following link to the HR Staff Directory: http://ucl.ac.uk/hr/staff/hr_staff_contacts.php
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 suggested your consent is required to ensure your manager is given this advice from the OHS
More information on the OHS can be found on the OHS website: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/occ_health/
HR Policies, Procedures and Guidance
There are a number of policies and procedures which you may find helpful. These include:
- 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: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/docs/sickness_management.php
- Management Referral to OHS: this provides details of how managers can refer their staff to the OHS if they have concerns regarding the effect of work on a member of staff's health or the effects of a member of staff's health on their attendance or performance:
- The Policy on Disability in Employment: this provides guidance to managers and staff on employment issues, other than sickness absence, affecting disabled members of staff:
- Access to Work: if you have a disability, you may be eligible for a grant from the Access to Work Scheme; full details are provided in this document:
See also Section 6 below.
- 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:
- 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:
- 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:
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.
If you have been absent through illness for more than 7 calendar days you will need to provide a Fit Note from your GP which will be discussed at the interview.
The purpose of the interview
- To give your manager the opportunity to check that you are fit enough to return to work and, where applicable, make adjustments to your work in the light of the GP's suggestions. Where there is any doubt about suitable adjustments, 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
When your fit note has the 'may be fit to return to work' box ticked you should inform your manager that you are well enough to consider returning to work and consideration will be given to what assistance you might require. Additional advice from OHS may also be sought. Most individuals return to work after illness without needing any special adjustments to be made to their working arrangements. However, some individuals who have been absent with a condition that impacts on their capacity to carry out a particular aspect of their work, or are returning following a period of extended sick leave, or 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 adjustments to work to help them 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 with a condition that impacts on your capacity to undertake particular work activities
- 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 and you will automatically receive a copy of the OHS report, 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 Equality Act 2010 as a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person's ability to carry out normal day to day activities, which would include things like using a telephone, reading a book or using public transport.. Note that this definition is much broader than traditional definitions of "Disability". You may have a medical condition that affects your ability to do your job, without thinking about it as a "disability". All staff experiencing disability-related sickness absence, or who find that particular duties are impaired by their disability, will be managed in accordance with the Equality Act 2010 and related Codes of Practice. This means that UCL will endeavour to make reasonable adjustments to enable you to continue working. In order to do this you will need to disclose the "disability" to your manager. If you wish to obtain confidential advice on this question you can speak to HR Equal Opportunities Officer or your trade union.
Advice on what type of adjustments would make a significant difference to you will be sought from the OHS, in conjunction with the HR Consultancy Team. You can also make suggestions or requests of your own. It is for the manager to 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 could be an alternative role within the department or UCL. 'Reasonable adjustments' might include changes to computer equipment and the office environment, changes in duties, redeployment and even part-time working or changes in attendance hours.
Access to Work Programme
If you become disabled under the criteria of the Equality Act 2010 may be eligible for a grant from the 'Access to Work' Scheme. This is a programme run by the Department of Work and Pensions to provide support to disabled people to help them overcome work related obstacles resulting from their disability. As a person with a disability, you will need to contact Access to Work to request assistance, which can include a variety of practical help such as aids for communication, special equipment, alterations to premises or the working environment, and assistance with travel where a disabled person is unable to use public transport. In the case of special equipment being needed, the onus is on the department to purchase the equipment once Access to Work have agreed to fund it and then claim the costs back. Further details, including eligibility criteria and the application procedure can be found in the document Access to Work http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/docs/access_to_work.php or by contacting the Equal Opportunities Co-ordinator.
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 and how to apply to the Access to Work Scheme), can be obtained by contacting the Equal Opportunities Co-ordinator http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/docs/equal_opportunity.php
Updated November 2013