When employees become ill

When employees become ill

A domestic staff member, housekeeper, carer, nanny, etc. can very quickly become someone  who is heavily relied on (nobody really being indispensable, although we often use that term).

When they are off sick, we generally manage or muddle through in the anticipation that they will not be away from work for too long a period. But what happens when that sickness absence becomes extended?

What can you do and what are your options? Of course it depends  upon a whole variety of circumstances and the relationship you and perhaps your family has with the person in question. In many instances you will cut them as much slack as possible and hope that the issue will be resolved. But there are occasions when the sickness absence becomes  a long term sick issue. But do we know when that is? What our rights are? How to resolve the unsatisfactory situation? So let’s look at some of the rules and some of the guidance.

·         Employees who are off work sick for more than 4 weeks may be considered long-term sick.

·         Whilst you can dismiss an employee is on long term sick, a proper procedure must be followed and we would recommend you take appropriate legal advice before you do so to minimise the risk of any claims being brought against you.

·         If an employee has a disability, it is important that you consider and implement appropriate reasonable adjustments to enable the employee to do their job (for example adjusting working hours or providing appropriate equipment).

This is a duty required by law.  If you require assistance with this duty, then we strongly recommend legal advice is sought before any action is taken. The rules regarding sickness and a doctor’s note have changed  in recent years. Essentially, the old concept of a sick note from the doctor was phased  out in 2010 and replaced by what is termed a “Fit note”.

An employee only needs  to provide such a note after seven days of sickness absence to satisfy the certification requirement for statutory sick pay.  Employers can ask employees to fill in a form when they return to work to confirm they’ve been off sick.

This is called ‘self-certification’. Some employers provide their own version of this form. The fit note issued by a GP, or doctor at a hospital, will say the employee is either ‘not fit for work’ or ‘may be fit for work’.
If it says the employee ‘may be fit for work’, employers should discuss any changes that might help the employee return to work (e.g. different hours or tasks). The employee must be treated as ‘not fit for work’ if there’s no agreement on these  changes.

Employers can take a copy of the fit note but the employee should keep the original.