From one time to another, employing organisations will experience absence by their staff due to illness. Illness absences are usually unplanned. This makes planning and covering work difficult for employers given the short notice of illness occurrences.
Absence management policy
Employers should ideally have a well-defined absence management policy to which all staff are familiar. (the agency can assist in the production of these)
The policy should dictate how employees report their sickness absence and how the employer will respond.
Where an employee does not follow the absence policy, it could warrant disciplinary action by the employer depending on the circumstances.
Reporting sickness and fit notes
If a worker is absent due to sickness for seven days or less they can self-certify their absence. This means the worker informs their employer that they are not well enough to work and do not need to provide any further medical evidence.
If a period of absence due to sickness lasts longer than seven calendar days(regardless of how many days they work each week) then a worker must provide their employer with a fit note.
A Fit Note (or The Statement for Fitness for Work), is a medical statement that GPs or hospital doctors issue. It aims to focus on what an employee may be able do at work rather than what they cannot do. A doctor can use a fit note to advise that a worker:
- is not fit for work
- may be fit for work.
When stating that an individual may be fit for work, the GP should consider fitness for work in general, not fitness for a specific job that the employee is doing.
If a worker may be fit for work, a doctor can suggest ways of helping the worker get back to work. This might mean recommending:
- a phased return to work
- flexible working
- amended duties
- workplace adaptations.
An employer should consider any recommendations made on a fit note. Accommodating the changes may help the employee be fully fit for work quicker.
If the absence is due to a disability, an employer must consider making 'reasonable adjustments' to help them return to work and carry out their job.
If an employer is unable or unwilling to make the recommended changes then the employee may remain off sick for the duration of the fit note.
Please see our statutory sick pay section.