Businesses lose a lot of money through sickness absence, not all of it medically justified. While many of the issues can be handled on the basis of give and take, there are times when clear policies and decisive action are needed.
This briefing covers:
SSP is the minimum level of payment you must make to any employee unable to work because of physical or mental illness or disablement.
Employers must issue Form SSP1 by the end of the 23rd week to let the employee know when SSP will be ending.
A qualifying day is a day on which the employee would normally have worked.
SSP is for all qualifying employees, who are unable to work because of sickness. This includes part time and temporary staff and agency workers working on a fixed-term contract, regardless of the contract length.
You must have clear rules and show employees they are enforced.
It indicates whether an individual:
A ‘may be fit for work’ statement would be given if the doctor believes your worker’s health condition may allow them to work, if you give them appropriate support.
Bad backs, stress and headaches cause more pain and suspicion in the workplace than any other sickness issues.
The key to controlling this kind of absence is to stress that repeated absence may put their job at risk, whether the absence is genuine or not.
Employees with any persistent health problems should be encouraged to seek proper medical advice.
No business can afford to carry employees who keep missing work, especially if other employees believe the sickness is exaggerated. The costs must be judged in terms of cash and morale.
If you believe someone is exploiting the system, consider dismissing the offender (after following disciplinary procedures). See 9.
Those who set out to exploit the system unfairly often fall into habits of abuse. These habits may show up as patterns in your personnel records.
Whichever it is, you need to know. Consider providing counselling, instead of embarking on the formal disciplinary procedure.
All your employees share an interest in seeing that the few who try to exploit the sickness provisions are brought into line.
If you dismiss, you may have to be able to satisfy an employment tribunal that the dismissal was fair (see 9).
Once HMRC has decided whether or not SSP should be paid, they will inform both you and the employee.
A long-term health problem may amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010.
If you can show you have considered all the alternatives and consulted the employee, you can dismiss a person for reasons of sickness.
In case of doubt, ask the employee to agree to an independent examination.
Employees will occasionally need time off for visits to the doctor or dentist or for hospital treatment. Be sympathetic, but let employees know that you expect them to take a reasonably constructive attitude.
Make it clear that you expect employees, where possible, to arrange appointments for the beginning or end of the day to minimise lost time.
You may ask to see an appointment letter or card.
Encourage people recovering from injury or illness not to prolong their absence.
Recognise that NHS patients may have little choice about when to have important but non-urgent surgery.
You may insist that paid holiday time be taken for purely cosmetic surgery.