Sickness absence management policy and procedure

Updated on 4 February 2021

The policy and procedure on managing sickness absence, including recording, monitoring, and procedures the University may use concerning sickness management

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Policy statement

The University of Dundee recognises the importance of a positive approach in the management of sickness absence. Sickness is one of the major causes of absence from work and it constitutes a significant cost to employees and the University. Such costs and the consequent effect on the operation of the University can be reduced where there is an effective policy on Sickness Absence Management and reasonable procedures on implementing the policy.

Having a policy and procedure to deal with this gives the University, employees and their representatives a structured framework to work within and assists in ensuring fair and consistent treatment of all employees.

This policy and the following procedure apply equally to all employees of the University of Dundee.

It has been agreed jointly between the University and the recognised trade unions within the University.

Its purpose is to:

  • ensure all employees are aware of their rights and obligations under this policy and understand the recording, monitoring and procedures the University may use in regard to sickness absence management.
  • provide Discipline Leads/Dean of Schools/Directors, managers and supervisors with a structured framework to assist them in managing sickness absence within their own Disciplines/Schools/Directorates.
  • ensure all employees are treated with fairness and consistency.
  • create an opportunity for positive action to be taken to improve the welfare of employees by assisting them to overcome any difficulties that may affect their ability to work effectively.
  • ensure that the highest levels of quality and service can be maintained to allow the University to fulfil its obligations to all users of its services.

Nominated Persons within an academic or administrative department are expected to undertake the primary management of sickness absence. They should not, however, take steps beyond routine absence reporting and guidance/counselling discussions with employees without first seeking advice from the People Support team.

Nominated Person refers to Discipline Lead/Dean of School/Director or other senior nominated person.

Notification of sickness absence procedure

Day one

Any employee who is prevented by illness from attending work should contact their Nominated Person by telephone as early as possible on the first day of absence (normally within one hour of notional starting time) to explain the reason for their absence and to give an estimate of its probable duration. This will allow the Discipline/School/Directorate to plan its work schedule and review the need for any temporary cover. In most circumstances, it is expected that the employee would contact their Nominated Person personally rather than pass the information through a third party, although it is recognised there may be occasions when the employee, because of the nature of their illness, is unable to do so.

At the appropriate time, employees should log into the One University System and submit details of their absence, attaching as relevant completed Self Certification forms and/or Fit Notes.

Where an employee becomes sick while at work they must normally report to the Nominated Person before leaving.

Absences of four to seven days (Self Certified Leave)

For a period of absence which lasts four, five, six or seven days, including non working days (e.g. Saturdays/Sundays and rest days), an employee's statement of sickness form (SC2) i.e. "self certificate" must be completed by the employee themselves to show the reason for their sickness absence. It is the employee's responsibility to obtain, complete and submit this form by attaching it to their period of absence in the Team Leave Calendar within the One University System.

These forms are available from General Practitioners' surgeries, from Hospital Outpatients, from Department of Work & Pensions offices and online on the HMRC site.

Where an employee normally works for less than five days per week the employee's statement of sickness form (SC2) must be submitted where the period of incapacity or sickness including non working days amounts to four or more days. Employees who have no entitlement to occupational or statutory sick pay must submit the form as evidence of the cause of the absence.

Absences of more than seven days

For a period of sickness absence which continues beyond seven days in total an employee will be required to submit an employee's statement of sickness form (SC2) and a Form Med 3 i.e. 'medical certificate' from their General Practitioner.

If the sickness absence continues beyond the initial period specified on the Form Med 3, the employee must provide further Forms Med 3 to cover all further periods of sickness absence until they return to work. These should be submitted, where possible, before the expiry date on the current Form Med 3.

Employees should log into the One University System and attach their Fit Note/s (Medical Certificate/s) to their period of absence in the Team Leave Calendar within the One University System.

Return to work

Return to work certification

On the first day of an employee’s return to work following sickness absence, they should ensure that their sickness absence dates are entered correctly by checking their calendar in the One University System and attaching any final supporting documents (e.g. final Fit Note).

Where an employee has been on sickness absence for a continuous period of four weeks or more, or if they have sustained a physical injury they should be given a signed 'or until' date by their General Practitioner on the Form Med 3 before they report back for work. This acts as their 'fit to return to work' date. This may be given on the initial Form Med 3 but where it is not, a further Form Med 3 with this information must be obtained. Where this is given at short notice employees are requested to contact their Nominated Person before they return to work to confirm their 'fit to return to work' date. This will allow the Discipline/School/Directorate to review work schedules and any temporary cover arrangements.

An employee will not be allowed to return to work before the date on their last Form Med 3 unless it is with the written consent of their Medical Adviser.

Return to work meeting

Following the return to work after any period of sickness absence it is appropriate for a Nominated Person to contact an employee and arrange a return to work meeting, as soon as is practicable. This does not need to be a lengthy discussion, and can be informal and brief. The employee will be given an opportunity to raise any temporary or permanent difficulties they may experience with their duties or working environment in view of their recent sickness absence. In addition, it gives the Nominated Person an opportunity to bring the employee up-to-date with work issues. The meeting should be summarised by completion of a Return to Work Form, which once complete, line manager’s should attach to the relevant period of sickness absence in the One University System.

This meeting should not become a formal investigation or disciplinary meeting and any such meetings would be notified separately.

Entitlement to pay during sick leave

Employees are entitled to receive occupational sick pay (full pay or half pay) as detailed in their contract of employment. Entitlement is calculated on a rolling basis over a maximum of 12 months. As this entitlement is dependent on length of service and employee group it will vary from one individual to another as detailed in the terms and conditions of employment. Employees in receipt of occupational sick pay will be notified on expiry of the full and half pay.

Employees who are not entitled to receive occupational sick pay may be eligible to receive statutory sick pay.

Notification of sickness absence

Uncertified sickness absence

From initial notification of sickness absence, where the required medical certificates have not been received, the University reserves the right not to make any payments for this period until the appropriate certificates have been received. Once the appropriate certificates have been received, the University reserves the right not to pay backdated occupational sick pay but will pay any statutory sick pay due.

No notification of absence

Absence that has not been notified in accordance with University procedures will be treated as unauthorised and unpaid absence unless an acceptable reason is given subsequently. If an employee does not report for work and has not informed the Nominated Person why they have not attended, the Nominated Person will take all reasonable steps to contact the employee, by telephoning or writing and any actions taken will be recorded. If it is not possible for contact to be made, the Nominated Person should contact the People Support team for advice.

The degree of urgency in finding why the employee has not reported in will vary according to the known personal circumstances of the employee, but where the employee lives alone consideration should be given to the possibility that they are in need of assistance.

Monitoring and recording

In order to deal consistently and fairly with all employees and to monitor organisational absence levels it is essential that the University centrally records all sickness absences. By obtaining timely information on absence the University is then in a position to help absent employees by taking action where appropriate.

Disciplines/Schools/Directorates must monitor the sickness absence of all employees and ensure instances are promptly and accurately recorded in the One University System.

The OneUniversity System will hold details all sickness absence for any employees' absence of one day or more. Periodic reports detailing dates and duration will be issued to Discipline Leads/Deans of School/Directors by the People Support team to enable them to monitor the sickness absence within their own Discipline/School/Directorate and, where necessary, take positive action towards investigating and resolving any incidents of long term or frequent sickness absence, having first sought advice from the People Support team.

Absence will be recorded centrally in 'days'. Where existing terms and conditions refer to 'weeks' and 'months', seven days will equal one week and 30 days will equal one month.

Annual leave

Holiday accrual during sickness absence

While an employee is on occupational paid sickness absence holiday will accrue at the usual rate as detailed in their contract of employment. When an employee is on occupational unpaid sickness absence, holiday entitlement will no longer accrue. (This is subject to the minimum requirements as stated in the Working Time Regulations). An employee is entitled to request to take annual leave while on sick leave. This request must be made via the One University system.

Designated days

When an employee is on occupational paid sickness absence, deductions from their overall annual leave entitlement will be made for any designated days, including the Christmas/New Year designated days, which fall during this period.

Designated days are those specified by the University or the Discipline Lead/Dean of School/Director, which must be taken by employees as part of their annual leave entitlement. The number of designated days varies with employee group and are as agreed with the recognised trade unions and specified in the terms and conditions of employment.

Leave untaken at end of leave year

Any annual leave left untaken when an employee is on sickness absence at the end of the annual leave year (31 December) can be carried forward but the entitlement would not exceed the statutory entitlement of 28 days.

Reclaiming annual leave

If an employee is ill while they are on annual leave, this time can be regarded as sickness absence if the period of sickness absence lasts for generally 8 or more days and they can provide a Form Med 3 confirming that they would not have been fit enough to carry out their usual duties at that time. Designated days cannot be reclaimed.

Work related injuries

Sickness absence as a result of accident at work or work related ill health

Absence in this category must be reported in the Departmental Accident/Incident Book and notified to Safety Services. An employee will receive their normal entitlement to occupational sick pay unless there are circumstances where the employee has been found to have been grossly negligent or involved in serious misconduct when the University will reserve the right to withhold any benefits.

Sickness absence as a result of other paid work

Where sickness absence is caused by an employee working in their own time on their own account or for another employer for private gain, the University reserves the right to withhold occupational sick pay. Where the University has consented to this other paid work in writing occupational sick pay will not be withheld.

Sickness absence for plastic or cosmetic surgery

Where plastic/cosmetic surgery is certified by a Medical Adviser indicating that surgery is essential to the employee's health or wellbeing then this would be a valid reason for an employee to receive occupational and statutory sick pay.

If surgery is to be carried out without this certification and absence from work is required then arrangements for Annual Leave or Unpaid Leave (where approved) must be made in advance.

Reviewing sickness absence

Where sickness absence is found to be lengthy or frequent, the Nominated Person should consider meeting with the employee. This meeting should be initiated when sickness absence:

  • lasts for a consecutive period of more than four weeks OR
  • exceeds a total of 20 days in any twelve month period OR
  • exceeds four separate occasions in any six month period OR
  • falls regularly on specific days e.g. a Friday and/or Monday

The employee should be notified of the meeting in advance, in writing, with the reason for the meeting clearly stated. The employee should be advised that they may be accompanied, if they wish, by a work colleague or union representative. The Nominated Person is advised to contact the People Support team for advice before initiating the meeting and it may be appropriate to request a member of the People Support team to attend the meeting. This meeting should be kept confidential and information confined to those who have an operational need to know or are involved in the administration of the meeting.

This meeting is intended to draw the employee's attention to their sickness absence record. It is meant to be supportive, to give guidance and counselling and to explore ways of improving the employee's sickness absence. It is not intended to be intrusive and it is reasonable for the employee to request a meeting with an alternative Nominated Person if they would find this less intrusive.

The outcomes of the meeting may include:

  • to monitor more closely the sickness absence of an employee over a period of time.
  • to arrange follow up meetings.
  • to advise the employee that an improvement in their sickness absence is required.
  • to contact the People Support team for advice in supporting or otherwise assisting an employee.
  • to request the employee's written consent for a health assessment or medical report to be obtained.

The People Support team can offer advice and support in monitoring sickness absence.

Medical referrals

The University may wish to obtain a health assessment and/or a medical report from the employee's General Practitioner and/or refer the employee to an Occupational Health Physician. Such referrals will be as a result of concerns by the University regarding the employee's health status and/or if the employee has lengthy or frequent sickness absence.

A health assessment and medical report is likely to include:

  • the current health status of the employee.
  • whether there is an underlying medical cause.
  • the likely return to work date (if applicable).
  • any reasonable steps that can be taken as preventative measures to accommodate an employee with a particular condition.
  • whether a period of phased return to work is required.
  • an indication of the long term ability of the employee to carry out his/her agreed duties.

The health assessment and medical report will aid discussions between the employee, their Discipline Lead/Dean of School/Director, Nominated Person and the People Support team regarding the employee's fitness for work and ability to carry out their duties.

If an employee refuses to give consent for a health assessment and/or medical report to be obtained or to attend an appointment with an Occupational Health Physician, future decisions regarding the employee will be made without the benefit of medical evidence. The employee may be asked to confirm a refusal in writing.

The University reserves the right to require any employee to attend the University's chosen Occupational Health provider where it considers that to fulfil its legal obligations under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and subsidiary legislation, as well as its duty of care, such Occupational Health surveillance or examination is necessary for the well being of that individual.

Managing sickness absence

Every effort will be made to assist employees whose level of sickness absence is causing concern and support and encouragement to reduce their level of sickness absence will be given.

When a health problem is identified reasonable adjustments to working practices and duties will be implemented and/or alternative employment offered where there is a reasonable expectation this might improve the level of sickness absence. If an employee refuses these options or they are found to be unsuccessful then alternative action may have to be considered. This may include early retirement on the grounds of ill health or dismissal for incapacity due to ill health. If no underlying medical cause is found, the use of the disciplinary procedures may be implemented.

There is no entitlement for occupational sick pay to be exhausted before any of the above measures can be considered. The University will consider all cases on reasonable criteria including length of service, contractual arrangements for sickness absence, nature of illness, previous sickness absence record and the requirements of the Discipline/School/Directorate.

Early retirement on the grounds of ill health

If an employee in a Superannuation Scheme has a permanent illness or incapacity which makes them unfit for work, they may be considered for early retirement on the grounds of ill health. Where an employee submits a request in writing, or agrees to be considered for early retirement on the grounds of ill health, the People Support team will then inform the Pensions Officer. The Pensions Officer and the People Support team in conjunction with the Occupational Health Physician will follow the appropriate procedure to allow the relevant Superannuation Scheme to consider the case and inform the employee of the outcome.

Dismissal for incapacity due to ill health

Where an employee is considered for dismissal for incapacity due to ill health a further meeting must be held with the employee. As with previous meetings, the employee should be advised that they may be accompanied, if they wish, by a work colleague or union representative. The employee will be advised that as their sickness absence has not improved to a satisfactory level they are being dismissed for incapacity due to ill health. The employee will either be dismissed immediately and will receive payment in lieu of notice, or will be put under notice of dismissal which will take effect when that notice period has elapsed. Where an employee is covered by Statute 16 of the University of Dundee Calendar the procedure and regulations laid down in this Statute will instead be followed.

The employee will have the right of appeal against this dismissal.


People Support team

From People
Corporate information category Absences and related
Collection Staff absence