Managing Attendance Policy
Last Updated 1 Mar 2019 in Ways of Working
This policy relates to both planned and unplanned absences from work
Key points covered:
- Absences related to long and short term sickness, unauthorised absence and absence taken without leave
- Notification of absence procedure
- Return to work procedure
- Levels of absence
- Behaviour during absences
- Sickness payments
- Additional support
- Annual leave
- Disability related, pregnancy related and care related absences
- Any other paid/unpaid leave
The Society recognises the contribution which colleagues make to help build a successful co-operative business which everyone can be proud of. Non-attendance at work causes issues for both the colleague and the Society. However the Society recognises that there may be times when colleagues need to be absent from work due to health or other reasons.
This Policy outlines the Society’s process for managing sickness absence (and associated issues) in a fair and consistent manner. This Policy also details the support that the Society offers to help colleagues to return to work. It applies to all colleagues; full-time and part-time colleagues on a permanent or fixed-term contract, and to associated persons, agency staff contractors and others employed under a contract of service by the Society.
This Policy does not form part of any colleague’s contract of employment and we may amend it at any time.
Who is responsible for this policy?
All colleagues are responsible for ensuring that they report their absence in accordance with this Policy. Colleagues are encouraged to be open and honest with their manager regarding health conditions so that the Society can support their return to work. Abuse of sickness absence, including failing to report absence or falsely claiming sick pay will be treated as misconduct under the Society’s Disciplinary Procedure.
All managers are responsible for monitoring absence of their direct reports and applying the policy consistently. Where an Occupational Health report or other medical evidence is obtained, the manager is responsible for ensuring any recommendations are considered. Managers should seek support from their HR Advisor where required.
What absences does this policy cover?
This Policy relates to the management of short term and long term sickness absence.
Short term sickness absence is defined for the purposes of this policy as any continuous period away from the workplace due to sickness for less than 4 weeks.
Long term sickness absence is defined as any continuous period of absence away from the workplace due to sickness for 4 weeks or more.
This Policy does not cover unauthorised absence, which is a conduct matter dealt with under the Disciplinary Policy. Absence without leave (AWOL) is covered in this Policy but is a conduct matter to be addressed under the Disciplinary Policy. Other types of absence that are not covered by this Policy include annual leave, caring related absence and any other paid/unpaid leave which has been authorised by the relevant Line Manager.
The Society is aware that sickness absence may result from a disability. The Equality Act 2010 defines disability as, ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’.
Disability-related absence will still be considered a form of absence under the provisions of this policy. However, to ensure that disabled colleagues are not unreasonably disadvantaged by attendance management practices, a degree of flexibility will be exercised where absences are disability-related. Where disability-related absences are identified, consideration will be given to reasonable adjustments and redeployment, as well as any recommendations from Occupational Health and/or GP. In the event that a colleague is unable to fulfil their role and there are no reasonable adjustments or redeployment opportunities the Society may have to consider ending employment on the grounds of incapacity.
Notification of Absence
If a colleague is unable to work for any reason, he or she must personally inform their Line Manager (or another designated Manager or sick reporting line where available) as soon as reasonably possible. For colleagues who are responsible for opening the particular site for others, they should ring their Manager or Operational Manager in good time so that alternative arrangements can be made to open the site. Wherever possible, the minimum amount of time is at least 2 hours before the start of the shift.
Colleagues are required to report their absence from work each day, where the absence is not covered by a doctor’s fit note. This is to ensure that the Society is updated regarding the colleague’s absence on each day and can make the required arrangements for cover.
Communicating non-attendance at work should be done personally, so a phone call is an acceptable form of communicating non-attendance. Contact from a friend, colleague or by text message, voicemail, email or social media is NOT an acceptable form of contact for the purposes of communicating non-attendance at work.
There may be some exceptional circumstances where it is impossible for the colleague to make personal contact with their Line Manager, for example if a colleague is in hospital. Where that is the case a responsible adult should notify the appropriate Manager about non-attendance at work and the colleague should follow up with a phone call as soon as they are able to do so.
When colleagues contact their Line Manager to notify them of their absence, they should be ready to provide them with the following information:
The reason for their absence and how long they expect to be absent from work.
Telephone number or other contact details so that the Line Manager can make contact during the absence.
Details of any urgent or outstanding work that will need attention before the colleague returns to work.
If the colleague is not able to speak to their Line Manager, then the colleague should speak to another Manager within the team or department and provide them with the details given above.
If the absence is due to a sensitive medical issue which the colleague would prefer to discuss with someone other than their Manager, the Society will try to accommodate the request, where possible.
Colleagues are required to self-certify any sickness absence up to and including 7 calendar days. On the first day of sickness absence, both parties will agree the frequency and type of contact for the first seven days of absence. If the colleague is still absent on the 8th day, the sickness absence from day 8 must be covered by a Doctor’s fit note.
It is the colleague’s responsibility to provide a Doctor’s fit note that covers the sickness absence promptly; up to date Doctor’s fit notes must be provided throughout the sickness absence. It is each colleague’s personal responsibility to forward fit notes to their Manager in order for sick payments to be paid correctly and efficiently.
Where a sickness absence lasts for longer than 8 days and is covered by a fit note, colleagues are expected to make regular contact with their Manager to discuss their absence, the frequency of the contact will be agreed by both parties. Colleagues should be aware that any period of sickness absence which is not covered by self-certification or a fit note, or where the required contact has not been made, may be treated as an unauthorised absence which will be investigated and may lead to disciplinary action being taken.
Failing to follow the absence reporting procedure may result in disciplinary action being taken against the colleague, and potentially also the suspension of any company sick pay entitlement. It is also a serious disciplinary offence to knowingly give wrong or false information about the reasons for absence or on any absence or self-certification forms.
Unauthorised Absence and Absence Without Leave (AWOL)
Where a colleague is absent from work without notifying their Line Manager, the Society will treat this as an unauthorised absence which will result in an investigation under the Disciplinary Procedure and could lead to a disciplinary sanction.
Where there are two separate occasions when a colleague is not at work due to unauthorised absence, the Society will invoke its AWOL process whereby the colleague is asked to explain their absences immediately and are invited to attend a disciplinary hearing. Where a colleague still fails to make contact and is absent from these meetings without good reason, this could potentially amount to gross misconduct and the Society may summarily dismiss the colleague.
Where a colleague is absent from work for 8 days or longer and they do not provide a fit note to cover their sickness absence, it may be recorded as unauthorised absence. Where a colleague is absent from work due to sickness and fails to make the required contact with a Manager, they could be deemed as AWOL and the aforementioned process may be commenced.
Short Term Absence Procedure
This procedure applies to short term absences. Short term sickness absence is defined for the purposes of this policy as any continuous period away from the workplace due to sickness for less than 4 weeks. However, an absence of any duration (including where longer than 4 weeks) will count towards the relevant trigger point.
Part Day Sickness Absence
All absence relating to full days of sickness should be marked as ‘Sick’ in the Kronos Time & Attendance system. However if a colleague is unwell at work and is unable to complete their shift (either at the start or the end), the Manager will firstly record the hours worked at the colleague’s basic rate of pay. The remaining hours that the colleague is unable to work due to being off sick should be marked as ‘Part Day Sick’ in the Kronos system. In doing so, this ensures that colleagues are always paid for the hours that they work when they are sick for part of a day, regardless of their sickness scheme.
The frequency of part day sickness will be managed appropriately in line with the absence triggers in this Policy.
Return to Work
Each colleague is personally responsible for reporting to their Line Manager on their return to work from an absence. The Line Manager will complete a return to work interview with the colleague, during which they will be expected to provide information about the reason for their absence and anything which might affect their ability to perform their role. The return to work interview should take place on the first day back at work. In the absence of their Line Manager, another appropriate manager should complete the return to work interview.
If a Manager has any concerns with regards to repeated instances of sickness absence, or has reason to believe that the absence was without good cause, they should raise such concerns with the colleague informally during the return to work interview and contact their nominated HR Advisor to discuss further.
The trigger points table below outlines the formal action that will be taken to manage absence levels. The Society has certain obligations under the equality legislation and we will be keen to support colleagues in such situations.
In order to better understand the reasons for a colleague’s sickness absence from work and so as to enable the Society to provide appropriate support to the colleague, the Society has the right to refer colleagues to Occupational Health or to write to a colleague’s GP for more information about the ill health reason(s) causing their absence.
If a colleague unreasonably refuses to engage with the Society’s return to work process or the Occupational Health provider, their absence will be managed on the basis of the information available and the Society reserves the right to treat this as a failure to follow a reasonable management instruction and to instigate the Disciplinary Procedure as a consequence.
Trigger points under Short Term Absence Procedure
The Society operates a system of trigger points to manage short term absence. At the return to work interview, the manager should review the colleague’s absence history to identify if a trigger point has been reached. Subject to that review and information provided by the colleague, where a trigger point is met the manager should take the appropriate action.
The table below summarises each of the short term absence triggers, it includes the following columns:
Absence Trigger Points – This states the number of instances of absence to meet this trigger point. It also states the period of time the absences are measured over.
Action – This states the action a manager should take where that trigger point has been reached (for example, invite the colleague to an Attendance Interview of Concern)
Potential Outcome – This states the potential outcome of the hearing. The outcome will be subject to considering relevant evidence and any mitigation raised by the colleague at the hearing.
Duration of warning/Absence review period – Where a warning has been issued, this states how long it lasts for. If a colleague reaches the next trigger point during that period, the next stage of the short term absence procedure will be followed.
Absence Trigger Points
Duration of Warning/ Absence Review Period
|3 separate instances of absence (whether full or part day sickness absence), within a 26 week rolling period.||Invite the colleague to attend a First Attendance Interview of Concern||Stage 1 – Following a review of the colleague’s absence record and any relevant paperwork, a verbal warning may be issued along with a letter confirming the verbal warning and advising that reaching the next trigger point will result in further action being taken.||26 weeks|
|2 further separate instances of absence (whether full or part day sickness absence) within 26 weeks of the Stage 1 verbal warning being issued.
||Review the colleague’s absence record. Invite the colleague to attend a Second Attendance Interview of Concern.||Stage 2 – This may result in a first written absence warning being issued, along with a letter advising that reaching the next trigger point will result in further action being taken..||39 weeks|
|2 further separate instances of absence (whether full or part day sickness absence) within 39 weeks of the First Formal Absence Warning being issued.||Review the colleague’s absence record. Invite the colleague to attend a Third Attendance Interview of Concern||Stage 3 – This may result in a final written absence warning being issued, along with a letter advising that reaching the next trigger point will result in further action being taken, which may include dismissal.||52 weeks|
|Any further instance of absence or part day sickness absence within 52 weeks of the Final Formal Absence Warning being issued.||Review the colleague’s absence record. Invite the colleague to attend Final Attendance Interview of Concern.
||Stage 4 – This may result in dismissal with notice.||N/A|
Points to note:
All instances of absence count towards the trigger, including where covered by a fit note.
An absence of any duration (including where longer than 4 weeks), will count towards the relevant trigger point.
Colleagues have a right to be accompanied by a Trade Union official or work colleague at any “Attendance Interview of Concern” or appeal meeting.
During any “Attendance Interview of Concern” meeting, the colleague will be given an opportunity to explain the reasons for their absence and the manager will consider the reasons given before reaching an outcome.
Where steps are identified to help the colleague avoid further absences, they will be considered.
Colleagues have the right to appeal against any warning that is issued under the Short Term Absence Procedure.
Where a colleague has other live disciplinary warnings on file which are not related to sickness absence, these will run parallel to any warnings under this Managing Attendance Policy. The Society treats conduct and absence management separately.
Adjustments to Absence Trigger Points
Where a colleague is absent from work due to pregnancy-related sickness, those absences will be ignored for the purpose of trigger points. Similarly, where a colleague’s sickness absence is due to an underlying health condition which is a disability in accordance with the Equality Act, the Society will explore reasonable adjustments to this Policy. Those reasonable adjustments will depend on the circumstances but may include ignoring the disability-related absences or adjusting the trigger points to an appropriate level for the disabled colleague.
Where at a return to work interview the line manager identifies that the colleague’s absence(s) relate to an underlying disability and a trigger point is reached, the line manager should seek advice from their HR advisor regarding potential adjustments and next steps.
Long Term Sickness Absence Procedure
Long term absence is defined as a continuous period of absence of 4 weeks or more. Where that occurs, this long term absence procedure will apply. The Society reserves the right to apply this procedure to certain circumstances where continuous absence has not exceeded 4 weeks (for example where the prognosis is that the absence will last for more than 4 weeks). In instances where stress, mental illness or work related sickness is cited as the reason for absence, the Society will usually initiate the attendance management process by first holding a welfare meeting with the colleague after 2 weeks’ absence, where possible.
Keeping in contact during Long Term sickness absence
The colleague’s line manager should contact the colleague at or around the point where the colleague has been absent for 4 consecutive weeks (depending on the individual’s regular work pattern), to establish if an imminent return to work date is likely and if a referral to Occupational Health is appropriate. Where appropriate, the line manager will contact the colleague to arrange the first Welfare Visit.
Whilst on long term sick leave regular contact should ideally be maintained between the colleague and their line manager. The regularity of that contact will depend on the circumstances and may involve a telephone conversation noting state of health and any actions required. Colleagues should contact their line manager fortnightly by phone to keep in touch, unless agreed otherwise.
Medical reports and examination
The Society reserves the right to obtain independent medical advice on a colleague’s state of health. This may be requested at any time in the procedure although if it appears unlikely that the colleague will return before 4 weeks’ continuous absence a referral may be made. This usually takes the form of an Occupational Health Referral. On occasion a GP, Consultant or other medical professional’s contact details may be obtained instead of, or as well as, an Occupational Health referral. In these circumstances, entitlements in line with the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 will be followed.
If the colleague refuses to comply with an Occupational Health referral or to allow the Organisation to access medical information, the Organisation will make a decision regarding the colleague’s capability to continue work, without the benefit of medical advice.
The Society reserves the right to treat a colleague’s failure to attend welfare meetings or other non-engagement with the process as a failure to follow a reasonable management instruction, which may be dealt with under the Disciplinary Procedure.
Adjustments to the Colleague’s Role
In some cases it may be that the GP or our Occupational Health Advisor has recommended a gradual or phased return to work and where this is the case, the Society will work with colleagues to agree the working hours in advance for a set period of time, which is usually no more than six weeks. In some exceptional circumstances this period of time can be extended where recommended by Occupational Health. In such instances, entitlement to pay during this period is pay for the hours worked during the phased return period. The Society allows for any shortfall in hours to be paid as holiday if the colleague has an entitlement remaining. The Society does not allow for these hours to be paid as sickness.
Where a colleague believes that certain adjustments to their role will enable them to better maintain their health, colleagues are expected to communicate their suggestions to their Line Manager so that options can be considered and appropriately explored with a HR Advisor.
Where relevant, the Society may also actively encourage other options for potentially facilitating a return to work, including lighter duties for a short period of time, a temporary change in role, or a permanent change of role in some circumstances.
Long Term Sickness Absence – Formal Stages
Stage 1 – Welfare Visit
The meeting may take place at the colleague’s workplace, home, or neutral location with the purpose of discussing the colleague’s health and absence from work. That discussion may include, but not be limited to, the following:
Discussing the reasons for absence.
Determining how long the absence is likely to last.
Considering whether medical advice is required.
Where medical advice has been obtained, considering the recommendations, if any.
Considering what, if any, measures might improve the colleague’s health and/or ability to return to work.
Considering the effect of continued absence on team performance and service delivery.
Following the meeting, a letter will be sent to the colleague’s home address confirming the main points of discussion and any actions.
If the sickness absence continues then further regular Welfare Visits may need to be undertaken. In the event of further welfare visits the above bullet points will be discussed.
In the event of long term absence the Society may be unable to keep a post available indefinitely but this will be considered and discussed with the colleague on a case by case basis.
If following a welfare visit, the colleague’s expected return date is not within a reasonable timescale, or if the impact of the continued absence cannot be sustained, the next stage of the procedure will be invoked.
Following each welfare meeting a letter is sent to the colleague’s home address confirming the main points of discussion and any actions.
Stage 2 – Formal absence Review Meeting
If a return date within a reasonable time period is not identified, a formal absence review meeting will be arranged. The Line Manager, or such other appropriate person, will chair the meeting and the colleague has the right to be accompanied.
The purpose of the meeting is to review the sickness history to date including, but not limited to, the following:
Discussing the reasons for and impact of the colleague’s ongoing absence.
Discussing how long the absence is likely to last.
If it has not been obtained, considering whether medical advice is required. If it has been obtained, considering the advice that has been given and whether further advice is required.
Considering the colleague’s ability to return to/remain in their role in view both of their capabilities and the Society’s business needs and any adjustments that can reasonably be made to the role to enable the colleague to return.
Considering possible redeployment opportunities and whether any adjustments can reasonably be made to assist in redeploying the colleague.
Where the colleague is able to return from long-term sick leave, whether to their role or a redeployed role, agreeing a return-to-work programme.
If it is considered that the colleague is unlikely to be able to return to work from long-term absence, whether there are any benefits for which the colleague should be considered (for example, ill health retirement under a relevant pension scheme).
Agreeing a way forward, action that will be taken and a timescale for review and/or a further meeting(s). This may, depending on steps we have already taken, include warning the colleague that they are at risk of dismissal.
The outcome of the case review will usually be confirmed in writing. Subject to the outcome of the case review, and any agreed review period, the next stage may be to move to the final stage of the procedure and the colleague will be advised that this could lead to their dismissal.
Stage 3 – Formal Capability Meeting
Following the case review, the colleague will receive an invitation to a capability meeting where they will have the right to be accompanied, if they wish. Where reasonably practicable, a manager not previously involved with the management of the case will chair the meeting. The line manager will be in attendance to present the absence history. A member of HR may also be present, where reasonably practicable.
The purposes of the meeting will be:
To review the meetings that have taken place and matters discussed with the colleague.
Where the colleague remains on long-term sickness absence, to consider whether there have been any changes since the last meeting under stage 2 of the procedure, either as regards the colleague’s possible return to work or opportunities for return or redeployment.
To consider any further matters that the colleague wishes to raise.
To consider whether there is a reasonable likelihood of the colleague returning to work in a reasonable time.
To consider the possible termination of the colleague’s employment.
The outcome of the meeting may be termination of the colleague’s employment. Termination will normally be with full notice or payment in lieu of notice. The outcome decision will be confirmed in writing to the colleague and include the right of appeal.
Colleagues may appeal against the outcome of any formal stage of this procedure and the colleague may bring a work colleague or Trade Union Official to any formal meeting, if they wish.
An appeal should be made in writing, stating the full grounds of appeal, to Human Resources Manager within 5 days of the date on which the decision was sent to you.
Where reasonably practicable, an appeal meeting will be conducted by a manager senior to the individual who conducted the sickness absence meeting.
The final decision will be confirmed in writing. There will be no further right of appeal.
The date that any dismissal takes effect will not be delayed pending the outcome of an appeal. However, if the appeal is successful, the decision to dismiss will be revoked with no loss of continuity or pay.
Behaviour during Periods of Absence
Colleagues are expected to behave in an appropriate manner whilst absent from work, irrespective of whether the sickness absence is with or without pay. During periods of absence, colleagues should remember the following:
Colleagues should refrain from entering their usual place of work in a social capacity. Although colleagues are permitted to enter where the primary purpose is business (eg food shopping).
Colleagues entering their place of work for the purposes of meetings or shopping should behave appropriately, avoiding behaviours which may cause disruption to the running of the site.
Activities undertaken during a period of absence (such as sport or social events) should only be undertaken where the colleague believes that it will not result in any extension to the length of their time off work.
Colleagues should not undertake any other paid or unpaid employment.
Colleagues are expected to disclose any holiday arrangements that fall during a period of absence; if a colleague is unfortunate enough to become ill or sustain an injury as their holiday approaches or during the holiday which either allows or prevents the colleague from undertaking their holiday plans, the colleague must notify their Line Manager on the first day of sickness. When the colleague returns to work they will need to provide a medical certificate to cover the whole period of absence. The Line Manager will then discuss what will happen in regard to the colleague’s holiday entitlement, with a view to agreeing another time for holiday if it has been pre-booked as annual leave, subject to the needs of the business.
Inappropriate behaviour which may aggravate the illness or injury, or behaviour which is inconsistent with the illness or injury, may result in the non-payment of Co-operative Sick Pay and the instigation of the Society’s Disciplinary Procedure.
Colleagues should refer to their contracts of employment for details of the particular sick pay scheme which applies to them. For certain contracts, enhanced sick pay entitlement (“Co-operative Sick Pay”) begins when employment commences but for other colleagues, eligibility for sick pay depends on the successful completion of a probationary and the completion of 12 months’ continuous service. Sick pay will also be calculated based upon length of service, and based on rolling 12 month periods. Statutory sick pay will be payable to all qualifying colleagues, irrespective of their length of service. For those colleagues who qualify for Co-operative Sick Pay, sick pay will be inclusive of any entitlement to Statutory Sick Pay.
Where a colleague has used all of their Co-operative Sick Pay entitlement and they have a pregnancy related illness, the Society will consider making a payment. In this circumstance the absence will need to be certificated and discussed with a HR Advisor, as pregnancy related sickness payments are at the discretion of the Society.
No sickness payment will be paid in a case where an injury, accident or disease arises out of, or in the course of following a secondary occupation with another employer or from any other paid activity.
When a colleague’s entitlement to Co-operative Sick Pay has been exhausted during a period of sickness absence, sick pay entitlement can only be restored when the colleague has been back at work for 13 consecutive weeks with no further periods of absence. Co-operative Sick Pay restoration is then also subject to the colleague being entitled to an increase on the anniversary of their start date, and/or as a result of the colleague earning their sick entitlement back within a 12 month rolling period. For any specific queries colleagues should contact their nominated Payroll Administrator for guidance.
The Society reserves the right to withhold payment of Co-operative Sick Pay in certain circumstances, which may include if the colleague fails to follow the absence reporting procedure without good reason, does not provide a required fit note or if there is evidence that the colleague is behaving in a manner inconsistent with the reason for their absence or engaging in activities likely to exacerbate or prolong their condition.
Co-operative Sick Pay may also be withheld if a colleague is absent from work due to sickness pending any investigation, disciplinary or performance procedures. Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) may be withheld where the rules governing this payment have not been met.
Colleagues within the Retail Group who are a Customer Service Assistant or Team Leader will not be paid for their first three days of any sickness absence in line with the Co-operative Sick Pay Scheme provisions.
If colleagues require time away from work for medical or dental appointments, they should refer to the Personal Appointments Policy that can be found on the Colleague Connect website.
The Society recognises that health concerns or medical conditions can have a significant impact on work or personal life and that colleagues may need extra support and guidance in managing these.
Employee Assistance Programme
The Society has partnered with GroceryAid to provide colleagues with a FREE confidential helpline service. For help and advice colleagues can contact the confidential 24/7 GroceryAid Helpline by calling 08088 021 122. A live webchat is also available here. There is also a wide range of guidance and support resources available at www.groceryaid.org.uk.
Managing Attendance Policy
Date of last review