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Sickness Absence Policy

This sickness absence policy explains what sick pay an employee is entitled to and it also sets out the procedure for reporting and managing sickness absence. This policy is suitable for a small to medium sized company.

What is a Sickness Absence Policy?

This sickness absence policy explains what sick pay an employee is entitled to and it also sets out the procedure for reporting and managing sickness absence. It should be drafted (and read in conjunction with) the sickness absence clauses in the company’s employment contracts.

Why is a Sickness Absence Policy important?

It is important that employees are aware of the procedures and requirements in relation to reporting and managing sickness absence. 

Without a clear procedure in place (which covers things like reporting procedures, providing evidence of incapacity, return to work interviews and a requirement to undergo a medical examination), it is more likely that employees will falsely claim that they are unable to attend work due to sickness and it will make it harder to manage employees who have persistent short term absence. 

It is also important to make clear that abuse of sickness absence (for example failing to report absence or falsely claiming sick pay) would be treated as misconduct under the company’s disciplinary procedure.

What are the common pitfalls of a Sickness Absence Policy?

  1. Not having a Sickness Absence Policy
    Without a sickness absence policy, an employer may not be complying with section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, which could lead to financial penalties in the Employment Tribunal. It may also lead to a lack of clarity over expectations and requirements in relation to sickness absence, which could lead to disputes. It may also make it difficult for an employer to manage persistent short term absence, and long term sickness absence of staff.

  2. Having a Sickness Absence Policy that contradicts the employment contract
    It is important to ensure that the sickness absence policy is consistent with the sickness absence clauses in the employment contract, to ensure that they do not conflict or contradict each other. This could lead to uncertainty and disputes with employees.

  3. Having a contractual Sickness Absence Policy
    The employment contract contains the terms and conditions that govern an employee’s employment. Generally, changes cannot be made to it without the consent of both parties.

    Normally an employer will want to make changes to its policies and procedures regularly, and in certain situations may not want to be tied to following them to the letter. For these reasons, it is usually advisable for the sickness absence policy to be non-contractual, so that it does not form part of the employment contract and changes can be made. Otherwise, it will need to obtain staff agreement to any changes, however small.

    The sickness absence policy should therefore clearly state that it is not contractual i.e. that it does not form part of the employment contract.

  4. Including too much legalese and detail
    The best policies are clear, concise and easy to navigate and understand. Policies that are long, unwieldy and full of jargon are unlikely to be used or understood.

  5. Not keeping the Sickness Absence Policy up to date
    Employment law in the UK changes frequently. Using a PocketLaw template, and regularly reviewing the finished policy, ensures that an employer remains legally compliant when changes to the law happen.

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