Informal discussion (addressing concerns regarding sickness absence)

The informal discussion meeting (extended version of the return to work discussion) should take place immediately after the employee has returned to work, with the intention to:

  • establish the reason(s) for the absence: if the discussion highlights any concerns about the employee’s health (for example, work-related stress), advice from the UOHS and the appropriate HRBP should be sought;
  • discuss the employee’s current sickness absence levels and highlight any concerns;
  • identify any remedial measures to support the employee in improving attendance;
  • explain that if such absence levels continue, a formal disciplinary / medical capability process may be invoked;
  • agree on the follow-up steps and set a timescale;
  • set up a review meeting(s).

If the manager has good reason to believe the employee’s absence is not due to genuine sickness, the matter should be thoroughly and carefully investigated, and sick pay may be withheld.

Managers should always keep a record of the dates the meeting(s) occurred, with a brief note of the discussion, and follow up on any action agreed, via the use of the 'Return to work discussion pro-forma' (found on the right hand-side). Ensure that the employee is fully aware that their sickness absence is being monitored. Attendance should be reviewed at appropriate intervals by the manager, and regular discussions with the employee must take place (e.g. monthly). Where the employee’s frequent short-term absence persists without any improvement, the department should contact the HRBP without delay who can advise on the next steps.

Where there is no adequate or reasonable explanation for the absence, such cases may be treated as misconduct.

See below the formal process for addressing poor attendance.

Formal process for addressing frequent short-term absence

This procedure only applies following an unsuccessful outcome of the informal discussion process, outlined above. Before commencing and throughout this process the relevant HRBP should be consulted.

All cases must always be thoroughly investigated to ensure any underlying reasons for absence have been carefully considered. Wherever possible, it may be necessary to obtain a medical report if an underlying medical cause is established, especially so if such medical condition could result in a disability under the Equality Act. In all such cases the UOHS should be consulted.

In cases where an employee’s short-term absence levels remain unacceptably high, despite having followed the informal procedure, formal disciplinary action may be considered.

It should be noted that for a fair dismissal on the grounds of poor attendance, the University must be able to demonstrate that the employee failed to meet the expected attendance standards as set and explained by the University.

Where there is no adequate or reasonable explanation for the absence, such cases may be treated as misconduct.

The specific procedure to follow is outlined in the staff handbooks:

  • For support staff, section 8.2 of the staff handbook applies

For academic and academic-related groups of staff, the following procedures apply: