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Sickness Absence Procedure

These conditions of service are only applicable for those staff employed at UCL Qatar

1 Purpose

1.1 This procedure lays out guidance in managing short and long term sickness absences in a fair and consistent way and in line with UCL’s equality statement.

1.2 This procedure is designed to ensure that staff who are ill will be treated sympathetically and every effort will be made to assist recovery and safeguard employment. It is recognised, however, that the loss of working days through repeated or long term sickness absence can be a significant cost to UCL Qatar in terms of work not completed or the costs of arranging absence cover. Repeated sickness absence also places additional pressure on colleagues. The procedure sets out trigger points at which time action should be taken by managers.

1.3 Where a member of staff’s absence level continues above an acceptable level the procedure lays out the routes by which employment may be terminated fairly.

2 Scope

2.1 This policy relates to all categories of UCL Qatar staff. It sets out procedures for reporting and recording sickness absence, and for managing short and long-term absence.

3 Key Principles in Managing Sickness Absence

4 Sickness Absence Reporting Procedures

4.1 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.

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

4.3 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.

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

5 Sickness Absence Recording and Monitoring Procedures

5.1 Managers are expected to:

5.2 Individuals are responsible for ensuring that they follow the correct certification procedures. For absences of between 1 and 7 consecutive calendar days a Sickness Absence Record Form (see Appendix A) must be completed and signed by the member of staff upon return to work. If the absence is likely to exceed 7 calendar days (including non-working days), the employee must obtain a medical certificate from a GP. The original must be forwarded to his/her manager as soon as possible and within two weeks. If the absence continues, further medical certificates must be provided for the whole period of absence. Any period of absence not covered by a medical certificate will not be eligible for Occupational Sick Pay.

5.3 A member of staff may be fit to return to work in some capacity even though s/he has a medical certificate, stating they are unfit to undertake all their duties. The manager, in consultation with HR and medical advice, should give consideration to the possibilities of:

5.4 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 immediately on return to work. If the employee is unable to travel, medical confirmation along with full contact details must be provided.

5.5 Medical appointments

Arrangements covering medical and dentist appointments are covered by UCL Qatar's Policy on Leave for Domestic and Personal Reasons; such appointments should not be recorded as sickness absence unless the appointment requires a whole day's absence.

5.6 Pregnancy-related sickness

Pregnancy-related sickness absence should be recorded separately and should not be taken into account when looking at targets or trigger points. An employee who is absent due to a pregnancy-related illness during the four week period prior to her due date will be required to start her maternity leave, and will be entitled to occupational maternity pay and not sick pay. Odd days of pregnancy-related illness during this period may be disregarded if the employee wishes to defer the start of her maternity leave period, and a risk assessment does not indicate that carrying out work will endanger her pregnancy.

5.7 Disability-related sickness

Disability-related sickness absence must be managed sensitively and consideration given to appropriate workplace adjustments. Advice on specific cases can be sought from the Occupational Health Service (OHS) in consultation with the HR Director. General advice can be found in the UCL Policy on Disability in Employment, or obtained from the Equality and Diversity Advisor.

5.8 Absences due to Injuries caused by accidents

If an employee is absent due to an accident, normal sick pay provision would apply. Where the employee may receive compensation from a third party, reimbursement of sick pay will be repayable to UCL

5.9 The manager (or designated person) will pass the Sickness Absence Record Form with any medical certificate where appropriate, to the HR Director. They will be required to record the sickness absence on MyView. The manager (or designated person) should contact the HR Director to discuss individual cases if there is repeated absence or continued absence for a period of 4 weeks or more, or there is any concern that the absence is work related or for the individual’s wellbeing.

6. Sick Pay

6.1 Staff following the sickness absence procedure, laid out in this document, are entitled to receive sick pay up to the following:

Service

Full Pay

Half Pay

During first 3 months service

2 weeks

2 weeks

3 months service or more but less than 12 months service

9 weeks

9 weeks

12 months service or more but less than 3 years service

13 weeks

13 weeks

3 years service but less than 4 years service

22 weeks

22 weeks

Service of 4 years or more

26 weeks

26 weeks

6.2 Occupational sick pay takes into account the number of days of sickness absence taken within the previous 12 month period and is determined by length of service on the first day of a period of sickness absence.

6.3 Where it is apparent that there is a long term health issue or repeated unacceptable levels of short term illness and the short or long term sickness absence procedures have been followed, the employee’s contract may be terminated before all entitlements to sick pay have been exhausted.

7 Occupational Health / Medical Advice

7.1 If absence is related to a musculoskeletal disorder or a mental health problem, early referral to short term physiotherapy or counselling support is proven to assist early recovery. In such cases a service referral should be made, preferably within the first two weeks.

7.2 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, a management referral for medical advice should be discussed with the HR Director.

7.3 Medical advice should also be considered during any of the stages of the formal procedures for managing sickness absence. 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.

7.4 Management referral should seek advice regarding:

7.5 If an individual does not attend their appointment arranged through the management referral process, the manager will arrange a review meeting with the individual. 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 appointment as requested.

8 Short term absence

8.1 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).

8.2 1st Sickness Absence Review Meeting

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

8.3 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 work colleague. If the individual's 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 5 working days of the original date, the meeting will be postponed. The HR Director may also be present.

8.4 When setting targets for improvement, managers will need to take into account the individual circumstances of the case, any medical advice received 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.

8.5 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 HR.

8.6 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 medical 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.

2nd Sickness Absence Review Meeting

8.7 If at any time during the specified monitoring period absence exceeds the improvement target set this will trigger a 2nd Sickness Absence Review meeting with the manager. The HR Director may also be present.

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

8.9 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 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 5 working days of the original date, the meeting will be postponed.

8.10 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 HR.

8.11The 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 any medical advice.

8.12 Regular reviews should be undertaken by the manager during the monitoring period

8.13 If it has been decided not to issue a final caution, but to extend the monitoring period, the individual's sickness absence pattern will be monitored over an appropriate period and as specified above.

Final Absence Review Meeting: Dismissal

8.14 If absence exceeds the improvement target this will trigger a Final Sickness Absence Review meeting. The meeting will be with the Director / Chief Operating Officer (or person deputed by them), the manager and the HR Director.

8.15 The purpose of this meeting will be as follows:

8.16 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 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 5 working days of the original date, the meeting will be postponed.

8.17 Having heard and considered the evidence presented, a decision will be taken by the Director / Chief Operating Officer to either dismiss the member of staff on the grounds of capability, or to extend the final warning to allow further time for a sustained improvement. The option of allowing further time for improvement will only be considered if there is evidence that this is likely to lead to the required improvement in attendance.

8.18 In the event that the final warning is extended, the individual's sickness absence pattern will be monitored over an appropriate, specified period, as specified above.

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

8.20 If, following an extension of the final caution satisfactory improvement is not reached a further Final Review Meeting will be convened which may result in a decision to dismiss the member of staff on the grounds of incapacity.

8.21 If at any stage of the short term procedure a sustained improvement is made during the formal monitoring period, but deteriorates shortly after, management reserves the right to continue action under this policy, as if improvement had not been reached during the formal period.

9 Long-term Sickness Absence

9.1 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

9.2 Managers 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.

9.3 In such cases, a medical referral 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.

9.4 Where appropriate, once medical advice has been received, the individual will be invited in writing to a meeting with his/her manager and the HR Director to discuss the advice. S/he may choose to be accompanied by a workplace colleague, and at least 7 calendar days notice will be given (unless the employee agrees in writing to less). If the individual's workplace 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 5 working 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.

9.5 If the member of staff is considered 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. Medical advice 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. 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. Following the meeting, the content of the discussion and any action to be taken, will be confirmed in writing.

9.6 If a member of staff 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 member of staff will be invited to attend a meeting with their manager and the HR Director to discuss the proposed termination of their employment. They 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 workplace colleague. If the individual's workplace 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 5 working days of the original date, the meeting will be postponed. Following consultation, if termination of employment is appropriate this will be confirmed in writing by the HR Consultancy Team. The right of appeal against the decision and the appeals procedure will also be explained.

9.7 In the case of academic staff who are deemed to be permanently unfit for work, the Procedure for Removal for Incapacity on Medical Grounds will apply.
9.8 If the member of staff is considered 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.

9.9 Once the member of staff has returned to work, the manager should hold a return to work interview with them. At this meeting, any medical advice 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.

9.10 If following a period of long term absence and return to work further absences follow, either short term or long term, the circumstances should be reviewed. If further medical evidence suggest the employee is not permanently unfit for work, the short term sickness procedure should be commenced at the 2nd Review stage.

9.11 Where medical advice indicates the person is now permanently unfit for work a meeting will be convened in line with para 9.6 above.

10. Appeal Procedure

10.1 A member of staff wishing to appeal against any formal action (final warning or dismissal) taken under this policy should submit a letter to the Director, HR Consultancy and OSD, within seven calendar days of the receipt of the formal letter confirming the action to be taken, stating the grounds of appeal. The formal action taken will remain in force unless and until it is modified as a result of the appeal.

10.2 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:

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

10.4 The appellant will be notified as soon as possible of the time, date and place of the appeal hearing with a minimum of 7 working day's notice. The appellant will be advised that s/he may be accompanied by his/her workplace colleague.

10.5 The appeal will be heard by a senior manager, who has not previously been involved in the case. The HR Director will provide professional HR advice. A separate note taker will also be present.

10.6 Where the appeal is upheld, the formal action specified will no longer be applied. If the appeal is not upheld but the Appeal Manager considered the sanction to be inappropriate, this may be reviewed. Where an appeal against dismissal is upheld, the member of staff shall be paid in full for the period from the date of dismissal and continuity of service will be maintained.

10.7 The result of the appeal will normally be notified to the appellant orally within one day and in writing within 7 working days of the hearing.

10.8 The decision of the Appeal Manager is final.

11 Other Relevant Documents and Procedures

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

These documents may be accessed via the UCL Qatar and UCL HR web pages or may be obtained from the HR Director. Advice on their implementation or interpretation is available from the HR Director.

Appendix A - Sickness Absence Record Form

HR Policy and Planning
February 2013