Understanding sickness, your rights and being disciplined whilst sick

Sarah Everton

31 May 2017

An employer will often managing attendance problems often means tackling possible causes of absence and sickness, where it affects the business.

This can also include addressing sickness as a discipline issue or through an absence management policy.

Key points

  • High levels of unauthorised absence, as in sick leave can cause lost or delayed production, low morale and reduce the standard of service within an organisation.
  • Measuring absence can show how much time is lost, where it occurs most and how often individual employees are absent.
  • Keeping individual attendance records will help monitor absence and lateness.
  • Having attendance and absence policies will help employees understand what standards are expected of them and will help managers deal with these issues in a fair and consistent way.
  • Expert employment solicitor Sarah Everton explains and answers some questions around sickness and your rights.


Understanding your rights in regards to sick leave:

  1. How easy is it for an employer to dismiss an employee as a result of sickness?
  2. Should an employer have an absence management policy?

How easy is it for an employer to dismiss an employee as a result of sickness?

Generally an employer is likely to want to you to wait for you to return to work, so if you've been off for a relatively short period of time is very unlikely that your employer is going to dismiss you.

If you've been off for a prolonged period of time or have frequent absences then your employer's unlikely to dismiss you without following a reasonable procedure because they may put themselves at risk of disability discrimination it may be that and so an employer will generally contact you and arrange to meet with you and if they are contemplating dismissal they should take medical evidence as to when you are likely to return and would be expected to wait a reasonable time for you to return.

The issues that the employer will need to weigh up are how problematic your absent is to the business and whether they can reasonably expected to wait the you to return so if your return is uncertain and you've been off for a long period of time, your employer may take the position to dismiss or if you are off for a set period of time are expected to make a full return, it's unlikely that it would be reasonable for your employer to dismiss you.

Should an employer have an absence management policy?

Employers often have an absence sickness policy which helps them and you if there is a period of absence.

Absence can you be a single long period or more frequent shorter periods. Some sickness absence policies will cover those quite reasonably and if there are frequent shorter absences there may be a serious of warnings given in accordance with policy if your absence is problematic. And if there is a longer absence and the duration isn’t clear then your employer is likely to meet with you in accordance with the policy and then will decide, based on medical evidence and discussions with you, whether dismissal would be a reasonable outcome.

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