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Sickness Absence Policy

Appendix E: Formal Procedures for Managing Sickness Absence

1. The formal procedures for managing sickness absence will be triggered if an individual reaches 12 or more working days of absence, or six or more episodes of absence, during any rolling 12 month period or a single absence of 4 or more weeks long-term sickness absence. 

2. Prior to the formal procedures being triggered, the line manager should normally provide informal indication to the employee that this may happen, for example during a previous return to work meeting. If, as part of this process, matters come to light which indicate that a member of staff has an impairment/condition which is directly relevant to the sickness absence, the manager should first seek advice from UCL OHS.  For further guidance on disability-related sickness absence see Appendix A: Absence for specific reasons.

3. A three stage process is outlined below and a flowchart representing the process can be found at Appendix F. It should be noted that each case will be treated individually and therefore some flexibility within the procedures may be required. 

4. Where an employee has had a single period of long-term sickness absence, e.g. following an operation, it may be sufficient to hold a return to work interview, to support and facilitate a return to work and not proceed to a Stage One sickness absence meeting.

5. Where there are repeated patterns of long-term sickness or a combination of short and long-term sickness the formal procedure (stages 1 - 3) should be followed. For circumstances where, following UCL OHS advice, an employee is unable to return to work consideration should be given to ill health retirement, see appendix G. Where ill health retirement is not agreed by the relevant Pension Scheme, managers may convene a Long-Term Sickness Review meeting, in line with arrangements at para 28 onwards.

6. At every stage, UCL will aim to provide as much support to the individual as is necessary for them to achieve and maintain a satisfactory level of attendance.

7. If a target is set at any stage and has been met, but another Sickness Absence Meeting is then triggered within 6 months, this procedure can be restarted from the next stage.

8. If, with support, a satisfactory level of attendance has not been achieved or maintained it may become necessary to issue a formal warning, to inform the employee that his/her job may be at risk if attendance levels do not improve

9. If, with support, and following a formal warning, a satisfactory level of attendance has not been achieved or maintained, it may become necessary to dismiss the employee on the grounds of capability. 

Guidance for arranging and facilitating the meetings


10. An employee who has reached the absence triggers should be provided with a copy of this Policy at the time they receive notification to attend a Stage 1 Sickness Absence Meeting or Long-Term Sickness Absence Review meeting. They should be reminded of it and where it can be found before each meeting at any further stage.

11. The employee must be given at least 5 working days notice of any meeting, in writing.  However, a meeting can be held with less notice if the employee agrees to this. 

Who should be present?

12. A Stage 1 meeting will be held by the employee's Line Manager.  A representative from the HR Advisory Services Team may also be present. 

13. A Stage 2 meeting will be held by the Head of Department (or person deputed by him/her) and a representative of the HR Advisory Services Team.

14. A Stage 3 meeting will be held by the Head of Department (or person deputed by him/her), the employee's Line Manager and a representative of the HR Advisory Services Team.

15. A Long-Term Sickness Absence review meeting will be held by the Head of Department (or person deputed by him/her), the employee's line manager and a representative of the HR Advisory Services Team.

16. The employee must be informed that they are entitled to be accompanied at any formal meeting by a workplace colleague or trade union rep if they wish. If the individual's workplace colleague or trade union representative is unable to attend the meeting at the appointed time, s/he may request a postponement and suggest an alternative time and date. Where the suggested alternative is reasonable and within 5 working days of the original date, the meeting will be rescheduled. 

Occupational Health advice

17. At any stage of the process, a referral to UCL Occupational Health Service can be arranged. A further meeting with the employee will be arranged on receipt of the report, to discuss any additional support or work adjustments that have been recommended.

Targets & Monitoring

18. Managers will set minimum targets for improved attendance in consultation with the HR Advisory Services Team. They will need to take into account the individual circumstances of the case, any advice received from UCL OHS, the impact of any underlying impairment/condition and any reasonable workplace adjustments that need to be put in place to enable the employee to improve their attendance.

19. When a target is set, the employee's level of sickness absence will be monitored over an appropriate, specified period, for example; 'no more than 5 days absence or 2 episodes within the next 6 months’. 

20. The outcome of any Sickness Absence Review meeting must be confirmed to the individual in writing, by the manager who held the meeting, within 10 working days and a copy sent to the HR Advisory Services Team.

Review meetings

21. If an attendance target set has been met, a review meeting should be held at the end of the specified monitoring period. The employee should be told that their attendance has improved and it is expected that their improved attendance will continue. They should also be informed that should another sickness absence meeting be triggered, further action will be taken and if the trigger occurs within the next 6 months, action could be taken at the next stage of the procedure.

22. If the target set has been exceeded, the procedure can move to the next stage and the review meeting can be arranged before the end of the specified monitoring period. This meeting will provide the opportunity to review the employee's attendance, give them an opportunity to discuss any problems they have encountered, discuss the need for any further UCL OHS 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 1 Sickness Absence Meeting

23. The purpose of the Stage 1 Meeting will be as follows:

Stage 2 Sickness Absence Meeting

24. The purpose of the Stage 2 Meeting will be as follows:

Stage 3 Sickness Absence Meeting

25. The purpose of the Stage 3 Meeting will be as follows:

26. The option of extending the formal warning to allow further time for improved attendance should only be considered if some signs of improvement have already been shown and it is expected that allowing further time will lead to an acceptable, sustained improvement in attendance.

27. If following an extension of the formal warning and after a period of satisfactory improvement based on the target set, the individual's absence levels deteriorate and a further review is triggered, Stage 3 of the Sickness Absence Policy will be repeated. This may result in a decision to dismiss the employee on the grounds of capability. At this stage, the provisions under Statute 18, part 1V  will apply for Academic Staff.

Long-Term Sickness Absence Review Meeting

28. Following referral to UCL OHS where professional advice has been received that the employee is unlikely to return to work, or is substantially or permanently unfit to perform their duties, the individual will be invited in writing to a meeting with his/her manager and a representative from the HR Advisory Services Team to discuss the advice.

29. If the employee 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, written representation can be submitted.

30. If the employee is considered by UCL 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 UCL OHS. In some cases more than one meeting will be necessary. 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 see appendix G.

31. If an employee is deemed unfit for employment, and after all the above options have been explored, consideration will be given to termination of his/her employment. The employee will be invited to attend a meeting with their manager and a representative of the HR Advisory Services Team to discuss the proposed termination of their employment. Following consultation, if termination of employment is appropriate this will be confirmed in writing by the Head of Department. The right of appeal against the decision and the appeals procedure will also be explained.

32. In the case of academic staff who are deemed to be permanently unfit for work, Statute 18, part 1V will apply.

33. If an employee is considered by UCL 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 disciplinary action may be taken. Entitlement to Statutory Sick Pay will not be affected if the continued absence is covered by a fit note.


34. An employee has the right to appeal against a formal warning or dismissal for capability, including for one or more of the following reasons:

35. An employee wishing to appeal should submit notice in writing to their Dean or Director of Professional Services and copied to the Director, HR Advisory Services. 

36. The employee must be specific about the grounds of appeal as these will form the agenda for the hearing.

37. An appeal must be submitted within 5 working days of the employee's receipt of the formal letter confirming the action taken. The formal action taken will remain in force unless and until it is modified as a result of the appeal.

38. Arrangements will be made for appeals to be heard as soon as reasonably practicable.

39. The employee will be notified as soon as possible of the time, date and place of the appeal hearing with a minimum of 10 working days notice. The employee will be advised that they may be accompanied by a workplace colleague or Trade Union representative.

40. Appeals against formal warnings will be heard by a senior manager who has not previously been involved in the case.

41. Appeals against dismissal will be heard by a panel of three managers who have not previously been involved in the case.  A member of the HR Advisory Services Team will provide professional HR advice to the panel and HR will provide a separate person to be note taker.

42. The possible outcomes of the Appeal are;

43. The result of the appeal will normally be notified to the employee orally within one working day and in writing within 10 working days of the hearing.

44. The decision of the Appeal Panel is final.

45. Appeals against dismissals in line with Statute 18, part 1V, should follow procedures laid out in Statute 18, part V