Risky Responses to Family Emergencies

As we emerge from the Half Term holiday, many working parents may be breathing a sigh of relief to return to work and get home life back to normal.

But as parents and employers are only too aware, a family crisis can occur at any time and ‘normal life’ doesn’t necessarily stay normal for very long.  Continue Reading

What’s in a Fit Note?

After the much awaited Fit Note arriving on the scene back in April 2010 – has it really helped businesses to manage absence more effectively and improve attendance levels? It would appear that the sick note has not had any positive impact on reducing absence levels.

The fit note was introduced so that GP’s could provide advice on how to facilitate an employee’s return to work. Recent studies have received mixed reviews.  Some employers believing it is a mere ‘box ticking’ exercise for GP’s with little helpful information provided and others believing that employees are signed off as unfit to work when in fact, they may be fit to do some work if adjustments were made.

Despite these results the Government has gone on to gradually introduce the computer generated fit note which will be rolled out across the country over time.

Where the GP has indicated that the employee may be fit to return to work the most common advice GP’s are scribing  is ‘a phased return’ or ‘amended duties’ but without any supporting advice as to what that means in practice – which is of little help to the employer.  A large proportion of my clients have certainly been experiencing this lack of additional information.

Despite any recommendations that are made by the GP, it does not mean that the employer is in anyway obligated to make the adjustment. The aim of this ‘advice’ is to enable the employer and the employee to explore this as a possible route to get the employee back to work rather than remaining off sick for a longer period.

The employer should consider the ‘advice’ and decide whether or not it is feasible to provide the support/adjustment suggested taking into account the impact this will have on the employee’s ability to do his job, the impact on others and the workplace more generally. There may of course be other adjustments that we could put forward to the employee that have not previously been mentioned by the GP or the employee that could enable a return to work. If the employer is unable to provide any adjustments (as recommended by the GP or otherwise) then the employee would have to remain off sick until such a time that they are fully recovered or other adjustments can be made.

BUT, employers do need to be mindful of their duties under the Equality Act 2010 in the case of disabled employees (as defined within the Act). If the employer declines, without good reason, to make an adjustment suggested on the fit note (or otherwise) that could enable the disabled employee to return to work, the employer may be in breach of its duty under the Equality Act.  If in doubt… take advice!

Overall, the introduction of the fit note hasn’t, it would appear hindered the process of getting our employees back to work but it hasn’t necessarily helped much either! We understand the Government is aiming to provide more guidance to GP’s on the use of Fit Notes as well as offering an independent assessment service to help employers.  The jury is out on whether this will help employers to make more informed decisions about reasonable adjustments and continued employment of their long term sick employees.  Watch this space……

If you would like to share your views and experiences with us about the effectiveness of fit notes and managing employee absences please leave your comments.

If you would like advice or management training on managing sick employees back to work or you are considering dismissing, please get in touch.

Olympic Impact

It may seem a long way off, but the 2012 Olympics may cause more of an impact to your business than you would anticipate.  Some employees may be lucky enough to have tickets, others may have volunteered to steward, and some may face impossible journeys to work.

Get ahead of the issues you may need to consider….

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Is depression a disability?

As business continues to be tough many companies are finding it hard to continue employing people who are absent due to long term or regular sickness.  When considering bringing someone’s employment to an end due to ill health one of the key factors employers have to be mindful of is whether the person’s ill health might be classed as a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

One particularly merky area is depression.  If it has been a long term condition is it classed as a disability?  Continue Reading

Time off for training

From 6 April this year, employees working for companies with more than 250 employees can request time off work to train or study.  These new rules will apply to all companies in 2011.

The new rules – The Employee Study and Training Regulations 2010 – allow employees the right to request time off work to undergo training or to study and to have their request properly considered in line with a statutory procedure.

The rules do not give an absolute right to take time off for training, merely the right to request it and have that request properly considered and in the event a request is granted, there is no requirement for employers to pay employees during the time off or to pay for the training.

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Illness During Holiday

In practice, if an employee is sick immediately before or during their holiday, they have a choice. Their first option would be to take the holiday as planned and be paid for it. Their other option would be to postpone the holiday (or part of the holiday during which they were sick), receive sick pay in the normal way and take the holiday another time, possibly even in the next holiday year if it is impossible to reschedule the postponed holiday in the current year. Continue Reading

Sick Notes

The End of Sick Notes

Evidence has revealed that the longer employees are absent from work, the harder it is for them to return. Being out of work leads to a decline in physical and mental health. Following a recent government review, it looks like the “sick note” has had its day and in April 2010 we are going to see the new “fit note” system. Continue Reading

Unauthorised Absence

Despite there being a wide range of types of time off available to employees – from 28 days holiday per year to time off for dependants – employers are still regularly faced with situations where employees do not turn up for work when expected. Continue Reading

Swine Flu – Be Prepared

With the number of cases of swine flu on the rise daily and the worst of it yet to come from autumn onwards, the impact on your business could be huge!  However, there are steps you can take to prepare for an outbreak of swine flu within your organisation. Continue Reading