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Sickness guidance for employees

This guide is for employees who are unable to attend work or need additional support in order to remain at work due to ill health


This webpage provides guidance for employees where they are unable to attend work or need additional support in order to remain at work due to ill health. It is advised that you read this guidance document Managing Sickness Policy and Procedure.

These documents will provide you with an understanding of your responsibilities as an employee. Your HR Advisor will be happy to discuss this with you in more detail and answer any queries you may have.

Wellbeing at the University

At the University of Bath, we have adopted a whole university approach to mental wellbeing, and we aspire to create a learning environment and organisational culture that enhances health and wellbeing across our community. As part of our ongoing commitment to develop our community’s health and wellbeing, we offer a range of training and resources to improve the mental and physical wellbeing of our staff.

A good place to start is The University's Wellbeing webpage, which provides tools that employees can work through on their own, or with the help of their line manager.

What resources are available?

The University of Bath also provides a free and confidential counselling service Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) for staff. This service is based at the Royal United Hospital, Bath. You can book an appointment by contacting EAP directly on (01225) 825960 or (01225) 824484. Another service that is available to staff is The Education Support Partnership, which is an independent counselling service dedicated to supporting staff in higher education.

Assistive Technology are a service that employees can access to improve productivity at work and is of particular use if you have a medical condition or disability. If you might need additional support from them then speak to your manager, or Health and Safety Advisor if appropriate. Their services can also be accessed via the University Website or by visiting them at the Service Desk in the Library.

The University also has a team of volunteer Wellbeing Champions who can signpost staff to resources and support services. A list of University Wellbeing Champions can be found here.

Letting your manager know you are unwell

If you are unwell and unable to attend work, it is important that you report your absence to your manager at the earliest opportunity. You need to inform your manager by speaking directly to them, no later than 30 minutes prior your start time (unless other local arrangements have been agreed).

During this conversation you will be expected to confirm:

  • The reason for your absence
  • The expected duration of the absence and the expected date of return
  • Contact details in the event that you or the department need to contact you
  • If the absence is work related, including any accident at work
  • Any support that you might need to facilitate your return to work

Types of Absence

To manage the attendance of employees most effectively, all sickness related absences under the managing sickness policy fall into one of two categories.

  1. Short Term Sickness Absence is defined as sporadic episodes of sickness, normally without an identified underlying health cause.

  2. Long Term Sickness Absence is defined as a period of sickness, normally with an underlying health cause which:

i. normally lasts for more than 4 weeks continuously or

ii. affects a member of staff periodically with a single diagnosed medical cause linked to a chronic long-term medical condition.

What you need to do when you are absent from work due to ill-health

During a period of ill health, you are expected to maintain regular contact with your manager. You can arrange the regularity of this during the initial conversation with them when you first report your absence.

If you are unable to make contact for health reasons (e.g., hospital), arrangements should be made for a relative or a friend to contact your line manager as soon as reasonably practicable.

During your absence, you are required to make your line manager aware of any changes to your expected return-to-work date, send them any relevant medical certificates and attend meetings where appropriate.

Medical Certification

Where you are absent for less than 7 calendar days, there will normally be no requirement for you to submit a medical certificate (Fit Note), as you can self-certify your absence. However, there may be occasions where the University requires a Fit Note for periods of less than 7 calendar days.

Where you are absent from work for more than 7 calendar days, you must obtain a medical certificate (Fit Note) and send this to your line manager. These should be provided in good time and continuously cover your period of absence without breaks. Backdated medical certificates will not be accepted for pay purposes.

Where absences are not reported, or a Fit Note is not provided to cover a period of absence it will be considered ‘absence without leave’ (AWOL). This a disciplinary matter and will normally be investigated in line with the University’s Disciplinary policy and procedure.

Where you are too unwell to attend work, it is important that you do not decide or request to work from home instead of reporting your absence. You should not work from home when signed off as sick unless there is advice and agreement for this. However, your line manager may discuss the option of homeworking with you, should this be considered an appropriate adjustment.

Medical appointments

Medical appointments should, where reasonably practicable, be booked outside of your normal working hours. Where this is not practicable, paid time off will be granted.

Where medical appointments are in work time you should inform your line manager, providing them with as much notice in advance of the appointment as possible. You should ensure that the time of your appointment causes as little disruption as possible to your working day e.g., by booking appointments at the start or end of the day where possible.

If you become unwell during a period of annual leave

If you are unwell during a period of annual leave, you may be entitled to take the annual leave that fell within your period of ill health at a later date. However, you must inform your line manager on the first day of your sickness, and you must provide a fit note which covers the full period of absence. You will be considered unwell from the date outlined on the fit note.

Sickness Overseas

If you are considering travelling outside of the UK during a period of absence, you must notify your line manager in advance and explain the reason for this e.g., for treatment. You will also need to provide your contact details and agree how you will communicate with your line manager whilst you are overseas.

It is important that you keep in contact with your line manager whilst you are outside of the UK and that you provide medical certificates to continuously cover your period of absence without breaks. Medical certificates must be provided with a certified translation.

Return to work discussions

When you are returning to work following a period of ill-health you should speak to your line manager before you return.

Your line manager will have recorded the start date and the reason for your absence on iTrent via Manager Self Service. When you return to work, you need to close the absence by following the below instructions via Employee Self Service on iTrent.

  1. Log into Employee Self Service using your normal University username and password on the day you return to work.
  2. Select ‘End a sickness absence’.
  3. Enter an end date.
  4. Click ‘Save’ at the bottom of the screen.
  5. Your manager will be sent details of the absence ending.

Your line manager will then arrange a return-to-work meeting as soon as possible to discuss your absence. This is a supportive meeting and will provide you with an opportunity to raise any concerns that you have and discuss any support you might need.

A return-to-work discussion will normally take place after every absence, regardless of its length. However, the nature of the meeting may differ depending on circumstances such as:

  • Where you are returning from a short-term absence and you don’t have an underlying health condition, a short conversation will normally be appropriate.
  • If you are currently under sickness absence monitoring your manager may carry out a more structured interview.
  • If you are returning from a longer period of absence or have an ongoing health condition, a more structured return-to-work meeting will normally take place.

It is important that during your return-to-work meeting you inform your manager of any medical conditions, changes in circumstances, or recommendations made by your GP that could support your return to work. Your GP should have outlined any recommendations on a medical certificate.

If you are concerned about your health

If you have an underlying health condition or disability that is impacting on you at work, it is important that you make your line manager aware so that they can seek the appropriate advice and identify what support you might need. You can also declare this to the University by filling in the Health Declaration Form.

If your manager is concerned about your levels of attendance

Where there are concerns about your level of attendance your line manager will arrange to meet with you to discuss this in a confidential setting. This will normally be a supportive and informal meeting. It may form part of a return-to-work meeting or be held separately.

As a guideline we expect your line manager to arrange a meeting with you to discuss your attendance if you have had 5 absence occasions or 12 days of absence (pro rata for part time employees) in a 12-month rolling period. However, they may arrange a meeting with you before this if they are concerned about your health or level of attendance.

This meeting provides an opportunity for you to discuss any issues that are impacting on your health or ability to attend work. Your manager will seek to promptly and sensitively establish the facts regarding your sickness absence. The nature and extent of this discussion will depend upon your specific circumstances and may be simply the gathering of information relating to your absence.

Short Term Absence Procedure

If you have not informed your line manager that you have an underlying health condition and your level of absence reaches 5 occasions or 12 days (pro rata for part time employees) in a 12-month period, you will normally be managed under the short-term monitoring process. This process is outlined in in the Sickness Absence Policy.

Your manager, with support from Human Resources, will ensure that you receive the appropriate support and advice to help you to meet the required level of attendance moving forward. However, it is important that you engage in the process and that you are open and honest with your manager, so that any health concerns which may have an impact on your performance at work are raised at the earliest opportunity. It is your responsibility to follow the procedures set out in the Sickness Absence Policy, for certificating your absence, and that you attend Occupational Health and/or Health & Safety appointments if requested to do so.

Long Term Absence Procedure

If you are absent from work for longer than four weeks or have sporadic absences due to an underlying health condition, then your absence will normally be managed under Long-Term Sickness Absence Procedure.

If you have an underlying health condition or disability that might impact you at work, it is important that you discuss this with your line manager so that they can identify ways to support you. Without an awareness of your situation the University is unlikely to be able to offer you the support that you may need. The University also offers Disability Leave for those staff who have a disability which is recorded on iTrent. This is offered on a pro rata basis for part time employees. You should discuss this with your manager if you feel this would assist with maintaining your health or with on-going treatment or therapies.

Reasonable Adjustments

Most individuals are able to work without the need for any adjustments to be made to their working arrangements. However, some individuals may need the extra support.

Such circumstances may be required where:

  • You have been absent with a condition that impacts on your capability to undertake particular work activities.
  • You have been suffering from serious, long-term physical or mental ill health.
  • You have had surgery or an extended stay in hospital.
  • You have a new disability or a new restriction to your physical capability.
  • You will continue to need treatment for your illness following your return to work.

If your doctor has indicated that you require adjustments in returning to work, you should inform your manager promptly so that consideration can be given to any assistance you may require. They may review any recommended adjustments as part of your return-to-work meeting or as part of the Long Term Sickness Absence Procedure. Depending on the circumstances, your manager may seek your consent in order to refer you to Occupational Health.

As your individual circumstances will be unique, your manager will involve you in these discussions and you will be consulted on any proposed adjustments before they are finalised. Your manager may wish to complete an Agreement for Adjustments form with you. This will ensure that your needs, as well as the needs of the departmental operation are met. When organising your return to work, it is essential that everyone involved in the process has a shared understanding of what is required, where the responsibility lies, and the timeframe for implementation.

Phased Return to Work

Your doctor may recommend that you have a phased return to work and that you temporarily have amended duties or hours. Where this is the case, you are required to provide a fit note confirming this and will need to discuss the details of your return to with your line manager. The University will normally support employees with a phased return to work of up to a maximum to four weeks. If adjusted hours or duties are required for longer than four weeks, then you should discuss this with your line manager.

Occupational Health

If you have been absent for more than four weeks or have a health condition that is likely to have an ongoing impact on you whilst you are at work, it may be appropriate to refer you to Occupational Health, who can provide advice on a range of areas including (but not limited to):

  • The potential impact that a medical condition may have on an employee’s ability to attend work/carry out their duties
  • Timescales for a return to work
  • If workplace adjustments may be deemed appropriate

If you are unable to return to work

In the very unfortunate event that you are not well enough to return to your current role, or your attendance is not sustainable, and any possible reasonable adjustments have been considered the University will:

  • Wherever possible, make every reasonable effort to support you in being redeployed to a vacancy that exists elsewhere at the University. You are expected to play an active role in identifying any suitable redeployment opportunity and would have priority status under the redeployment process. Where you are redeployed to another position a trial period of 4-weeks will normally be applied to assess whether the redeployment position offered is appropriate and you can perform the duties required. If the new post being trialled is at a lower grade you will remain on the salary of your previous position for the period of the trial and then move onto the lower salary of the redeployment post from the end of the 4-week trial period.

  • You may be eligible for ill health retirement. The process will vary depending upon which pension scheme you are in and any application for ill health retirement would need to be supported by Occupational Health.

There will be some occasions that, despite the efforts of all parties involved, it is not possible for an individual to continue working in their current role and neither redeployment nor ill-health retirement are possible.

Only once all alternative options have been considered and either determined unsuccessful, unreasonable, unavailable, ineffective or inappropriate, your manager may consider, with support from Human Resources, whether to refer the situation to a formal meeting to determine whether your employment should end due to incapability due to ill-health.

Associated policies

Flexible Working and Leave Policy

Domestic Abuse: Guidance for Managers and Staff

Guidance for Employees with Menopausal symptoms