From time to time you may get a situation where an employee goes off sick part way through an investigation or during the disciplinary process – normally when the letter lands on their door mat inviting them to a hearing. It does not mean that we have to throw the towel in and drop the matter!If an employee goes off sick at the investigation stage, you should complete as much of the investigation as you can in the absence of the employee, including gathering relevant documents and interviewing any witnesses.
If the employee”s sickness absence is likely to last no more than a few days or so then you can wait until he/she returns to work and then continue with the process.
However, if the absence is likely to be prolonged you may wish to approach the employee”s Doctor to see if the employee would be well enough to participate in the process despite not being well enough to attend work. Alternatively, if you have the contractual right to, you can ask your employee to attend your own Company Doctor/Occupational Health for their expert opinion.
In order to assist the employee, you could suggest meeting at a neutral, public venue (but somewhere where you can talk without being overheard) near to the employee”s home and/or consider allowing the employee to be accompanied by a family online casino member or friend, depending on the nature of their illness.
If the employee is going to be off sick on a long term basis and is not well enough to take part in any aspect of the process, you may have no alternative but to place the disciplinary proceedings on hold. However, you can then continue managing the employee”s long term sickness absence through your capability procedure.
There may be instances where it is important that the matter is dealt with as a matter of priority and postponing an investigation/disciplinary hearing could cause problems. In these situations you could consider dealing with the disciplinary proceedings via written correspondence with the employee and ask that he/she puts his/her submissions in writing rather than attending any meetings. Alternatively, if this is not an option for the employee, you could ask him/her if there is a family member or friend who could attend a meeting on his/her behalf.
If you do decide that the matter cannot wait until the employee returns to work from long term sickness, and you want to hold a disciplinary hearing in the employee’s absence – especially where it may result in the employee being dismissed – we would urge you to take advice in the first instance to check that it would be reasonable in all the circumstances to avoid the risk of a potentially unfair dismissal.