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Sickness Absence Policy

UCL policy on sickness absence

 Contents

  1. Purpose
  2. Scope
  3. Definitions
  4. Policy
  5. Monitoring and Review
  6. Appendices

1. Purpose

This policy is intended to:

  • enable UCL to strike a reasonable balance between the genuine needs of employees to take occasional periods of time off work because of ill-health and the pursuit of its academic, research, teaching and business needs;

  • ensure the health and wellbeing of employees of UCL is taken seriously;

  • provide procedures to be followed by employees and managers in regard to sickness absence, including the reporting, recording and management of sickness absence in a fair and consistent way across UCL;

  • provide a framework to support employees while they are absent and to help them to return to, and remain in, work wherever possible, including consideration of redeployment where appropriate; and,

  • to support retirement on the grounds of ill-health where possible, or

  • enable termination on the grounds of capability in a fair and consistent way, where continued employment is not a viable option.

2. Scope

2.1. This policy relates to all UCL employees.

2.2.Academic staff are also covered by the provisions laid out in UCL's Statute 18 1


2.3. Information regarding sickness absence for specific reasons e.g. pregnancy or disability can be found in Appendix A.

2.4. Time off work to care for dependents is covered by UCL's Policy on Leave for Domestic and Personal Reasons.

2.5. The responsibility for monitoring and managing sickness absence lies with the line manager.

3. Definitions

3.1 Fit Note (Statement of Fitness for Work) A medical certificate which must be provided for any sickness absence lasting more than 7 consecutive, calendar days. It is issued by GPs to confirm that someone is 'not fit for work', or 'may be fit for work' based on adjustments such as a phased return to work or lighter duties for a specified period. You can find out more here Fit Note 

3.2. Phased return An initial, temporary, adjustment to hours of work, duties or environment, immediately following a period of (usually long term) sickness absence, to help the employee back in to their normal work role or an amended work role, if it is an agreed reasonable adjustment.

3.3. Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) A statutory weekly amount of sick pay, determined by the Government, which becomes payable for absences of at least 4 calendar days in a row, for those who meet the minimum earnings requirement.

3.4. Occupational Sick Pay (OSP) An enhanced amount of sick pay, decided by the University, which is paid from the first day of an absence, provided notification and certification requirements are met and the maximum amount payable has not been exceeded.

3.5. Workplace Health is about how work and the work environment can affect an employee's health and equally how an employee's health can affect their ability to work' (HSE). UCL has a dedicated Workplace Health service (WH) that covers Occupational Health Service (OHS) and Wellbeing service concerned with the promotion and maintenance of the physical and mental well-being of all employees.

3.6. Disability A physical or mental impairment or condition which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on an individual’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities. Long term means it has lasted for at least 12 months; it is likely to last for at least 12 months, or it is likely to last for the rest of the life of the person affected.  Disability Equality at UCL has relevant information and guidance on disability and accessibility. Cancer, HIV and Multiple Sclerosis are automatically classed as a disability from the date of diagnosis.

4. Policy

4.1. Guidance on Employee and Manager Responsibilities can be found at Appendix B.

Sick Pay

4.2. Employees' who follow the correct sickness absence reporting procedures and provide fit notes as required, may receive occupational sick pay up to the following maximum amount:

Service  Full Pay  Half Pay
During first 3 months service2 weeks2 weeks
3 months service or more but less than 12 months service9 weeks9 weeks
12 months service or more but less than 3 years service13 weeks13 weeks
3 years service but less than 4 years service22 weeks22 weeks
Service of 4 years or more26 weeks26 weeks

4.3. Additional information about sick pay is contained within Appendix C.

4.4. For information concerning entitlement to accrued annual leave during periods of sickness absence see the Annual Leave Policy.

Absence Reporting

4.5. An employee who is unwell and cannot attend work must inform their manager at the start of their working day and provide additional information such as the anticipated length of absence and any important or urgent work that needs to be covered.

4.6. When an employee knows in advance that they are likely to be absent e.g. for routine surgery and recovery, they should inform their manager and provide any additional useful information such as the anticipated length of their absence.

4.7 Employees who are absent for longer than 7 calendar days, must provide Fit Notes to cover their absence from the 8th calendar day through to the last day of the absence. For Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) purposes, every day of the absence (from Day 8) must be covered by a Fit Note including weekends, bank holidays and UCL closure days at Easter or Christmas.

4.8 Fit Notes should be provided promptly (normally no later than a week after the start of the certifiable absence) and at regular intervals thereafter. Late submission of Fit Notes will result in pay being stopped. UCL will not backdate sick pay on late receipt of Fit Notes, without a reason acceptable to UCL.

4.9 Employees who are temporarily abroad and become unwell must follow the same process of notification and submit equivalent medical certification.

4.10 An employee who fails to follow the absence reporting procedures set out in this document in reporting and certifying sickness absence will be considered to have taken unauthorised absence and may be subject to action under the UCL Disciplinary Procedure.

Absence recording

4.11. Line managers are required to record all periods of sickness absence, including any part days

4.12. UCL must maintain accurate records of all sickness absence taken by staff and report this as a requirement under HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) rules.

4.13. Information on individual sickness absence is held on the MyHR Reports. It is the DA's responsibility to advise managers about any employees who reach trigger points for action under this policy.

4.14 If sickness absence is for a reason related to a disability, this should be recorded separately at a local level to ensure that any subsequent decisions take account of any reasonable adjustments.

Returning to work

4.15. When an employee returns to work, they should ensure the correct information has been recorded on-line through MyHR. Detailed classification of reasons for sickness absence can be found here. 

4.16. It is good practice for managers to ensure that on each occasion an employee returns from a period of sickness absence (of any length), a brief and informal return to work meeting is held with them, ideally on their first day back. More detailed meetings will be appropriate following a period of long term sickness absence.

4.17. When an employee indicates they will be returning to work following a period of long-term absence, it may help them to be offered a phased-return (Appendix D). Ideally this should be discussed in advance of the planned return date. Advice on adjustments or other additional support required during this period should be sought from UCL WH.

Managing sickness absence

4.18 If an employee's level of absence reaches 12 or more working days (pro-rata), or 6 or more episodes in any rolling 12 month period (or a single period of four weeks or more (long-term sickness absence), the Formal Procedures for Managing Sickness Absence at Appendix E will be triggered. The procedures are designed to offer support to enable individuals to achieve a satisfactory level of attendance and performance at work.

If the employee has a disability any proposed management action may be put on hold whilst agreed 'reasonable adjustments' are put in place and assessed for their  effectiveness.

4.19. If an employee is close to triggering the formal absence management procedures, they should be informed of this by their Line Manager, who should also seek to offer support.

4.20. Early referral to UCL WH during the first 2 weeks of absence for mental health reasons and stress-related conditions may reduce the risk of long-term absence as early intervention and support can assist in enabling a planned return to work, even where the employee is signed off for a longer period.  If an employee is off, or likely to be off sick, for 4 weeks or more their manager should refer them to UCL WH and in cases of recurrent short term absence referral is also advised in order to determine whether an underlying health condition or disability may be affecting attendance.

4.21. On occasion it may be deemed appropriate by the line manager to hold an individual Case Conference. This will be in addition to the formal procedures for managing sickness absence. The purpose of the conference will be to bring together the employee, line manager, a representative from UCL OHW and a representative from HR Business Partnering, to explore jointly how the employee's sickness absence can be managed and a successful planned return to work achieved. Areas discussed at the meeting will include what additional support can be provided and any other options available to help the individual return to work or improve their attendance. The employee may bring a workplace colleague or trade union rep if they wish. A case conference will not be necessary in all circumstances and each case should be considered on an individual basis.

4.22. If, through following the formal procedures and with the full support of line management, HR and UCL OHW, satisfactory levels of attendance and therefore performance cannot be achieved or maintained, it may be necessary to terminate employment on the grounds of capability.

4.23. An employee has the right to appeal against a formal warning or dismissal made on the grounds of capability. Full information about the appeal process is contained within the Formal Procedures for Managing Sickness Absence.

4.24. All procedures and documents relating to an individual's sickness absence will be treated confidentially and information will only be shared with those who have a genuine need to receive it.

Reasonable Adjustments and Redeployment

4.25. Upon returning to work after a prolonged period of sickness absence for a reason related to a disability, an individual may need reasonable adjustments to be made to the way in which their work is organised, their work station and/or equipment enabling them to undertake their duties. Such adjustments can include: agreed flexible working hours, a phased return, minor adjustments to duties, a reduction in working hours, and/or the provision of new equipment, adaptations and services. Managers must ensure all reasonable adjustments have been implemented and effectiveness assessed before proceeding through further stages of the sickness absence policy.

4.26. If the implementation of 'reasonable adjustments' will not enable a disabled employee to return to their previous post at UCL, it may be appropriate for the manager to seek suitable redeployment opportunities. This process will include a time limited period during which the employee is supported appropriately to look for vacancies at UCL which match their skills, knowledge, experience and competencies.

Ill-Health Retirement

4.27. If an employee becomes unable to carry out the duties of their post, because of permanent ill health or incapacity, and they can satisfy the medical evidence and eligibility conditions, they may be able to retire early and receive a pension. Further information is available at Appendix G.

Advice and Support

4.28. The HR Business Partnering team is available to advise and assist managers in the application of this Policy at any stage.

4.29. Advice on individual cases, particularly regarding disability or gender identity issues can also be sought from the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team.

4.30. UCL Workplace Health and Wellbeing is available to support employees and managers by providing professional Workplace health advice on fitness to work and adjustments to work tasks and/or the work environment. Further information about how WHW can support this policy is available at Appendix H.

4.31. A free, confidential and independent employee assistance programme is available to all employees of UCL, 24 hours a day/7 days per week. 'Care First' gives access to highly trained, professional staff with no referral necessary. Further information can be found at Employee Assistance Programme.

4.32. Line managers can contact the Government’s Fit for Work Service at any time for confidential advice on managing sickness absence. This service is complementary to, but does not replace UCL WH advice in the management of sickness absence casework.

5. Monitoring and Review

5.1. The HR Employment Policy Team will keep the monitoring of sickness absence and the operation of this policy under review.

HR Employment Policy Team 2021


6. Appendices

A) Absence for specific reasons
B) Employee and Manager Responsibilities
C) Sick Pay
D) Phased returns
E) Formal Procedures for Managing Sickness Absence
F) Flow Chart for Formal Procedures for Managing Sickness Absence
G) Ill-Health Retirement
H) Workplace Health Service

Sickness Absence Record Form

1 For Academic Staff, action which may result in an informal or formal warning being issued shall be managed in line with the provisions of this policy and the procedures detailed in Appendix E. If, with support, and following a formal warning, a satisfactory level of attendance has not been achieved or maintained, this may result in dismissal on the grounds of capability that shall be dealt with under the provisions of Statute 18, Part IV.