Sickness Absence FAQs

Guidance for Staff

Q. Does the Sickness Absence Procedure apply to all categories of staff?

A. Yes, the Sickness Absence Procedure does apply to all categories of staff.

Q. How do I report my sickness absence?

A. You must contact your line manager or nominee in your department by telephone to inform them of your sickness at the start of the University day within one hour of your normal starting time. In exceptional circumstances eg when you are hospitalised or too unwell and the employee is unable to contact their line manager, the employee can nominate another person to do so on their behalf.

Q. The procedure states that employees are expected to personally contact their Supervisor/Manager or designated person in their Department. Is it acceptable for me to text or e-mail to report my absence?

A. You are expected to notify their absence by telephone. It provides an opportunity for managers to establish the expected duration of absence in order to ensure operational requirements are covered and also to establish whether it is appropriate to offer any support to an employee to assist them back to work. Text and e-mail will not be acceptable unless there is an exceptional reason as to why you were unable to telephone.

Q. Why must I call in again on the fourth day of absence and continue to keep in touch when I am off sick?

A. It is important that you keep your manager informed about your health and sickness absence as arrangements may need to be put in place to cover your work. Staff often keep in contact more often but if you have not spoken with your manager since your first day of absence, you should contact them on the 4th day of absence to let them know how you are and when you are likely to return to work.

Q. Why must I keep in touch with my manager if I am on long term sickness absence?

A. The University believes that it is a reasonable requirement for you to have regular contact with your manager if you are absent for a long period. Long term absence in the procedure is defined as absence of 4 weeks (20 working days) or more. It is important for you to keep your manager updated with how you are progressing and the general prognosis.  This is so that any support can be offered to try and assist you back to work where appropriate and to ensure that the operational needs continue to be met in your absence. Your manager will be concerned for your health and wellbeing and, in the majority of cases; employees appreciate the contact from their manager to keep them abreast of work developments. Research shows that early intervention and support offered to staff on long term absence has a higher chance of achieving a successful return to work. This could include a home visit.

Q. Is my manager allowed to contact me whilst I am away from work due to sickness?

A. Yes, your manager or nominated University contact is able to contact you when you are off sick to see how you are and keep you updated with anything you need to know. You will be expected to provide contact details.

Q. What documents do I need to complete in relation to my sickness absence?

A. Part 1 of  Sickness Absence Form (SAF) will be completed by your manager when you are absent from work for a half day or more. Part 2 of this form will be completed by you and your manager when you return to work.

Q. At what point do I need to submit a Doctor’s Certificate (Fit Note)?  

A. If your absence lasts longer than 7 calendar days (including Saturdays and Sundays), a Doctor's certificate (fit note) must be forwarded direct to your manager.     

Q. If I have a gap between fit notes, am I required to get the missing days covered?

A. Yes, you must go back to your GP to request a fit note to cover any missing days (it is always helpful for you to note the last date covered by the  fit note).

Q. When do I return to work when I have a fit note?

A.  Your fit note will state that you should refrain from work for a specified period of time or until a specified date eg if you are signed off work until 14 May, you should return to work on 15 May. If the day for return to work falls on a day that would not normally be a work day for you eg. Sunday, then you will return to work on your next normal scheduled working day eg Monday.

Q. Can I return to work before the end of a ‘not fit for work’ Statement?

 A. Yes. As long as your manager agrees, you can go back to work or return to your normal duties before the end date on your fit note. For example, you may want to go back to work sooner if:

- you’ve recovered from your illness or injury more quickly than expected

- your employer can offer you support, to help you return to work

Q. If I fail to follow the requirements of the procedure for notifying or reporting my absence, can sick pay be stopped?

A. Yes, failure to comply with the reporting requirements could mean that a period of absence will be treated as unauthorised absence and sick payments withheld.

Q. What is my entitlement to sick pay?

A.  An employee absent due to sickness is entitled to payment in accordance with the following scale:

 

Full Pay

Half Pay

During the first 3 months of service 2 weeks 2 weeks
During the remaining 9 months of the 1st year of service 2 months 2 months
2nd and 3rd year of service  3 months 3 months
4th and 5th year of service 5 months 5 months
after 5th year of service 6 months 6 months

You can find further details on our Sickness Absence Pages

Q. Will I be interviewed on my return to work from a period of absence?

A. Yes, you can expect to have a brief chat with your manager called a Return to Work discussion. In the majority of cases this will be an informal chat welcoming you back to work and bringing you up to date with events at work during your absence and ensuring you are fit enough to return to work. Part 2 of the  Sickness Absence Form (SAF) will be normally be completed at this meeting.

Q. Can I be dismissed for having a poor attendance record?

A. If your absence record is such that you are continuously reaching the trigger points in the procedure you could be dismissed from your post as a result of a fair process in line with the Sickness Absence Procedure provisions. Also, if you are absent for a period of time and there is no prognosis of a return to work then it is possible that you may be incapable of fulfilling your role on the grounds of ill health and you may be dismissed due to ill health capability. Please refer to Sickness Absence Procedure for more details on trigger points.

Q. What are the absence threshold points within the Procedure that trigger formal action being taken?

A. A First Stage  meeting with your manager will take place when, in any 12 month rolling period, a threshold index of 45 is exceeded. Examples of how the threshold index is calculated are provided below.  

Example 1

5 days + 5 days + 5 days = 15 days x 3 occasions of absence = 45 (on threshold)

Example 2

1 day + 1 day + 1 day + 1 day + 1 day + 1 day + 1 day = 7 days x 7 occasions of absence = 49 ( above threshold of 45)

Example 3

3 days + 2 days + 3 days = 8 days x 3 occasions = 24 (below threshold of 45)

If, following a First Stage Meeting, you are absent for a further 7 days or more in the next 12 months you will normally be invited to a Second Stage Meeting with your manager.  

Q. Can I be represented by a trade union representative at meetings to discuss my sickness absence?

A. In most cases, it is expected that matters relating to sickness absence will be dealt with informally and union representatives or work colleagues will not attend these meetings. However, if your manager asks you to attend a formal meeting ie  Second Stage Meeting or an absence review meeting to discuss your sickness absence, you have the right to be accompanied by a trade union representative or a work colleague.  

Q. Why is Occupational Health mentioned in the Sickness Absence Procedure?

A. Occupational Health is an invaluable service to assist the University to effectively manage the health of its workforce. It is necessary to refer to Occupational Health as it is a service that provides support to both employees and managers in the management of sickness absence.

Q. Why does Occupational Health need to be involved if I am off sick? My own doctor is the one who looks after me

A. The University’s Occupational Health Physician is a specialist in looking at health in relation to work. Your GP is primarily concerned with your care from a clinical perspective and may not consider your work apart from issuing a fit note.  If the cause of your absence is work-related stress/injury you will be referred immediately to Occupational Health.   If you refuse to attend an Occupational Health appointment and/or engage in the medical examination process you may also forfeit your right to occupational sick pay and this may become a disciplinary matter.

Q. If I am sick during a period of authorised paid leave, can I claim back my leave?

A. If you inform your manager when you become ill and provide confirmation from your GP of your sickness absence during a period of leave, your annual leave may be reimbursed.  Please refer to the policy on the accrual and carry over of holiday and other leave for further details.

Q. What if my absence is due to a reason other than sickness e.g. childcare, compassionate reasons?

A. This should be addressed using the University’s Work Life Balance policies. Such absence should not be recorded as sickness absence.

Can my manager meet with me to discuss my absence even if I haven't reached a trigger point?

Yes, if your attendance pattern is such that it can be reasonably assumed that there is deliberate abuse or manipulation of the University's absence procedure or sickness payment entitlements then that matter may also be treated as misconduct and investigated appropriately.  For example:

a pattern of sickness absence that maximises pay or enhancement entitlements;
a regular pattern of absence immediately following public or recognised holidays or weekends;
a pattern of absence that coincides with certain events;
a pattern of absence that is designed to frustrate the University's threshold levels/warning systems.

Q. When is a Phased Return To Work (PRTW) appropriate?

A. Most individuals return to work after illness without needing any adjustments or a PRTW.  However, a PRTW may be appropriate when:

An individual has been absent on long term sickness (normally more than 20 days) and it has been agreed with their line manager that they should ease themselves back to work on a gradual basis.

A fit note from a GP has the 'may be fit to return to work' box ticked.
An individual may be well enough to do some of their work, but may need a PRTW to help them return to their normal working pattern/duties within a prescribed period of time.

The University’s Occupational Health Physician advises that a PRTW is appropriate. 

Q. How long can a PRTW period be and what is the payment?

A. A PRTW period will normally not exceed a period of two weeks, when pay will be protected. Where it is agreed to extend the PRTW period additional days will be managed through the use of accrued annual leave and/or unpaid leave. 

Q. When should I schedule routine health appointments?

You should try to make doctors, dentists, opticians and other routine health appointments outside working hours. Where this is not possible, appointments should be made at such times that they cause minimum disruption to the working day (i.e. at the start or end of the working day or at lunchtime).