FAQs: Managing long term absence and reasonable adjustment

Q. DO I HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL SOMEONE HAS RECEIVED ALL OF THEIR OCCUPATIONAL SICK PAY BEFORE I CAN DISMISS THEM?

A. No, however, you must follow your local policy, usually long term absence is a section within an overall absence management policy. Usually such a policy contains, as an absolute minimum:

 
InformalA welfare visits (usually week 1 - month 1), or where a work related stress absence then a referral to OH at this point plus the offer of access to any employee assistance programme you may have in place.
InformalAn informal review of absence (usually month 1 - month 2)
FormalA first formal review of absence (usually month 2 - month 3)
OHObtaining a report about the implications for employment of the reason for absence (e.g. OH referral and report) (usually by month 3)
FormalA second formal review of absence from which dismissal may arise on one or more of the following grounds (usually month 3 - month 4)
 ·         Either: A return to work date is foreseeable in which case the matter is deferred and a return to work meeting planning meeting organised
 ·         Or: That the adjustments necessary to enable a return to work are reasonably considered by the employer not to be feasible and or affordable.
 ·         Or: There being no reasonable prospect of a sustained return to work within the foreseeable future (meaning 3 or more months)
 ·         OR: Ill Health Retirement: For support staff only - ill health retirement (where this has been granted by LGPS). The process is different for those in TPS, please seek advice from HR.
 Always seek HR advice before convening a formal meeting from which dismissal may arise.

Q. IS IT BEST TO TRY TO GET A SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT TO TERMINATE EMPLOYMENT FOR SOMEONE WHO IS LONG TERM SICKNESS ABSENT?

A. Not necessarily.  Your first priority should always be to seek to achieve a sustained return to work.  The cost of absence is high (sick pay, payment for cover and discontinuity in the role/delivery of teaching & learning); options to consider are:

  • What is the cost benefit to the school and or trust of enabling a return to work sooner (e.g. is the employee waiting many weeks for access to an NHS consultant?)
  • What is the cost benefit to the school of providing a contribution to rehabilitation treatment (e.g. talking therapy, physiotherapy)?
  • If long term absence is unavoidable, then you should first manage the long term absence under your local policy.  A settlement agreement MIGHT be worth considering particularly where your procedure is unduly lengthy and the cost of reaching a settlement may be considerably less than the management of the absence taking into account all of the direct and indirect costs.
  • If there is another significant risk factor the school or Trust considers it necessary to manage (e.g. a likely claim against the school or trust that has a better than 50% chance of being successful at the employment tribunal and or scope to have a significant adverse impact on the reputation of the school or trust.)

ALWAYS seek HR advice before even mooting a settlement agreement and ask (email HR@strictlyeducation.co.uk) for our guide to such agreements for Head Teachers and Chairs of Governors.

Q. WHAT ARE REASONABLE ADJUSTMENTS?

A. The school or trust decides what is reasonable taking into account the cost, practicality and practical implications of the adjustments suggested by OH and or the employee.

  • For example, which tasks within the job description are affected by the adjustment and is there a job of substance left? 
  • What are the implications of certain tasks not being undertaken?  Who is affected and what is the impact on their role and for how long?
  • Attend one of one of our briefing sessions and learn more about scenarios which constitute “reasonable” adjustments and scenarios which might reasonably be considered not to be reasonable adjustments.

For further information or to speak to a member of the team call 0330 123 2542 or email HR@strictlyeducation.co.uk

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