Sickness absence has a massive impact on businesses, so it is no wonder why many employers rely on absence trigger systems to identify issues impacting employee’s attendance.
Whilst absence triggers are a great aid to managing sickness absence, as proven by the the tribunal ruling on Caroline McKenzie Vs the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, employers must understand the reason for the sickness absence before acting.
In this case, Nurse Caroline McKenzie had over 300 sick days due to severe migraines, anxiety, and depression. During her employment, Caroline was issued multiple warnings and specific attendance targets were set. However, in 2019 her mental health deteriorated, and she subsequently had 70 sick days that year, which in line with the hospitals sickness absence management policy led to her dismissal.
Following her dismissal Nurse Caroline McKenzie filed for unfair dismissal, disability discrimination and failure to make reasonable adjustments. The claims were upheld, and the tribunal ruled in her favour because her sickness was related to a disability and should not have formed part of the sickness absence calculations. Furthermore, at the time of Ms McKenzie’s dismissal her condition was ‘optimistic’, and her long-term absence was ‘unlikely to be repeated’. Therefore, the tribunal ruled the claimant had faced discriminatory treatment and the dismissal was not a proportionate response.
Moral of the story:
Every case of sickness absence should be treated on an individual basis. Not every disability is visible; if an employee is consistently hitting absence triggers, the employer should speak with them in the first instance and identify any issues.
A condition may be considered a disability if it affects the employee daily and is likely to affect them for at least twelve months. If an employee has a disability, the employer should refer to their medical capability procedure, rather than taking disciplinary or dismissal action.
Want to know more about managing sickness absence…….
Join us for our webinar on 15 February at 10.00am for tips and guidance on how to manage absence and wellbeing. We’ll also be looking at the new rules regarding Carers Leave and giving advice on how to monitor and manage this in your workplace.
Download our Top Tips for Absence Management from our Guidance and Resources Page