Updated ACAS Guidance on Sickness Absence
Managing employee sickness absence is something we find many of our clients struggle with. Whether that be due to not addressing absences early enough, not following the correct processes, or not understanding employee rights. In this article, we will cover the updated guidance released by ACAS on managing sickness absence which covers:
- checking holiday entitlement and sick pay;
- fit notes and proof of sickness;
- time off for dependants/parents;
- returning to work after absence;
- creating absence policies;
- recording and reducing sickness absence; and
- absence trigger points.
The main changes employers need to be aware of are;
The definition of sickness absence has been amended in the update. Previously sickness absence was briefer. It only covered periods of time when an employee was unable to work due to illness. The update now defines the period where an employee is unable to work due to illness, injury, or other medical reasons, thus broadening the definition.
Advice on fit notes has also been expanded on. It now explains in more detail the guidance for employers and what they need to do when their employee receives a fit note from their medical professional.
Return to work guidance has been updated too. It includes how employers are advised to work with an employee on a return to work following a period of absence and support in phased and gradual returns which are manageable.
Stress and Anxiety along with all mental health and wellbeing absences are amongst the highest causes for sickness absence at work. The updated guidance also provides enhanced guidance on supporting employees in the workplace for absences related to this.
You can view the guidance in full here: https://www.acas.org.uk/holiday-sickness-leave
Next steps for employers
Firstly, what is key for all businesses, is to check their current policies correspond with the updated guidance. Ensuring these are up to date will mean that employers can effectively manage absences, support their employees appropriately, and reduce the yearly rise in costs that an employee’s absence brings to companies.
HPC can help minimise these costs for you by working with your business to implement a bespoke and effective policy that is not only aligned with ACAS guidance but relevant to your own workforce and company principles.
Some Key tips from HPC for managing sickness absence:
- Return to work interviews – These are essential and should be held before the employee starts their first shift back. Not only can they help in the recording and monitoring of absences, but they can identify patterns, create sustainable return to work plans to avoid future absences, recognise the need for additional support such as OH referrals or reasonable adjustments, and show a genuine management concern for the employee.
- Fit note or self-certification – Employees can self-certify for 7 days (this includes non-working days). This means they do not have to provide medical evidence of their absence. From day 8 employees must present a fit note from an approved medical professional to avoid the absence becoming unauthorised. Both the self-certification and the fit notes should be recorded and stored securely.
- Long term absence – This is typically triggered when an employee continues to be absent for longer than 21 days. Businesses need to have a good understanding of their obligations to employees who are on long term sick and work with them to support them back to work where possible. Keeping in touch with your employees on long term sick and maintaining regular open communication (where possible) throughout the absence is integral to managing long term sickness.
- Triggers – Some businesses use models such as the Bradford Factor to identify triggers for formal action. Whereas others use a number of absences such as 3 in 6 months. Regardless of what your policy is, it should be clear, communicated, and aligned with both your absence policy and your disciplinary policies if applicable. Businesses need to take extra care to avoid discriminating against employees due to their health. HPC advise employers to always take expert advice before deciding whether to take any formal action.
To find out more information or if you require any advice about managing sickness absence, get in contact with our team of experts.
T: 0330 107 1037