I provide advice to employers in all HR matters including issues such as disciplinary and grievances.
Employer’s should provide their employees with guidance as to what kind of conduct is not acceptable in the workplace. This ranges from relatively minor issues such as poor timekeeping, or failing to submit self-certification notes when absent from work due to sickness for a couple of days, to more serious issues such as theft, fraud or inappropriate use of the IT systems. A well drafted disciplinary procedure will ensure that if an employee steps out of line there are clear grounds for disciplinary action, and a fair process is in place. A key requirement for an employer is to act fairly and reasonably within the meaning of the law, and to follow the correct procedures at all times. This is not easy to do without the help of a specialist employment solicitor, which is where I can help. Common problems include deciding whether or not the employee should be suspended from work, deciding on the nature and scope of the investigation, and how best to proceed if the employee raises a grievance or goes absent from work due to stress, anxiety or depression during the disciplinary process.
Employees who issue a formal grievance may have been disgruntled for sometime and be unhappy with their manager or some other aspects of their working environment. It is important that grievances are dealt with fairly, reasonably and consistently according to a well drafted grievance procedure, as this should reduce the risk of the employee resigning and successfully claiming constructive dismissal. Dealing with a grievance thoroughly and with an open mind can also highlight the need for further training, an amendment to an existing policy, procedure or working practice or simply a change in management style.
Employer’s need to deal carefully with those who take a lot time off sick. An employee with a pattern of taking a large number of short periods of absence due to a minor ailment need to be spoken to and warned that they may be referred for disciplinary action if there is not a substantial improvement in their attendance record, particularly if many of these absences occur on a Monday or Friday.
Those who are absent from work for a longer period such as a few months where such absences are supported by doctor’s notes will need to be managed carefully in order to help them get back to work. It may be appropriate to ask their consent to apply for a medical report from their GP or consultant and make an appointment for them to attend an appointment with an occupational health practitioner. When they are ready to return to work, it is sensible to at least consider a phased return to work.
In cases where employees have been off work for a year or more and especially where any entitlement to company sick pay or statutory sick pay has expired, employers can often feel that they may be justified in terminating the employee’s employment due to ill health. In reality this can be very difficult to do because they employee may have a life threatening or terminal condition and in many cases want to retain the possibility of returning to their employment in some capacity in order to maintain hope of a return to normality.
Regardless of the length of absence due to sickness, the employer needs to be mindful of the disability provisions of the Equality Act which gives added protection to those with a medical condition that constitutes a disability. This is defined widely and can encompasses those with physical and mental impairments that have a long term negative effect on the ability to do normal daily activities. It includes those with cancer or multiple sclerosis and can include those with depression.
Employers need to act carefully in these circumstances and ensure that where appropriate, they make what are known as reasonable adjustments for the employee concerned.
If I can help your organisation with any of these issues, or any other HR matters, please call me today on 01892 538762 or 07900 695142.