When does being sick turn sour?

Sick Absence Management is the subject we seem to get more questions on than anything else, with members being uncertain as to when their manager might take issue with their level of sick absence.

It used to be fairly easy to know the triggers for sick absence attracting an invitation for a review and a possible sick warning, but it’s getting harder and harder for members (and managers), to identify just when your absence starts to become an issue.

The introduction of the infamous ‘Bradford Factor Calculation’, despite it being resisted at the time, became a very clear indicator of when the business might apply the sick absence process, but in the last few years, the business have stopped using it in the main and things have become distinctly less clear.

The formal policy (easily accessible on the Intranet) was amended to reference levels of absence that failed to meet ‘BT Standards’, but without any clarity on exactly what those ‘Standards’ were, it was difficult for managers or members to justify or challenge exactly when consideration of issuing a sick warning would be fair and reasonable.

The wording now, simply refers to levels of sick absence that have an impact on the operations of the business, which might mean pretty much, any absence at all!

That’s not a green light for a zero absence target. The policy still accepts that sickness absence is normal. The question then is still….

When does sick absence become a problem?

The answer to that question can be down to several factors including: the reason for the absence, the number of previous occasions of sick absence, the length of the absence and any patterns of absence.

Managers can’t simplify this to a simple ‘third absence in a year’ guideline as some have tried to do (perhaps understandably). They have a responsibility to deal with you fairly and objectively, and in line with policy.

The best way to make sure you’re being treated fairly is to get your local rep to attend the meeting with you. It’s your legal right to be accompanied and it’s what you pay your union fees for!

So in the meantime, what do you want to know?

There are a HUGE number of associated issues relating to sick absence management covering: long term absence, absence relating to a disability, work related absence and of course sick pay entitlements, dismissal as a result of sickness and when that might be unfair in the eyes of the law.

Obviously, we can’t cover ALL your questions on sick absence and sick absence management in just one article, but if you have any specific general questions you’ve always been unsure of, hit the button below to ask.