Disability Leave – Guiding Principles

The University will ensure that all reasonable measures are taken to support disabled staff and appreciates that staff with disabilities may require, at particular times, time off specifically for treatment, assessment or rehabilitation related to their disability.

These principles are complemented by the University’s existing provisions: Equality and Diversity; Workplace Health and Wellbeing; Effective Management of Sickness Absence; Flexible Working; Disability Network etc. Each case should be considered on its own merits, taking a holistic view of the most reasonable and appropriate adjustments for that individual.

A reasonable period of paid disability leave will be provided to individuals where the appointment, activity or training is unable to be taken outside of work time or using flexible working arrangements. The period of disability leave should be agreed between the staff member and their manager, taking account of the need to balance each individual’s circumstances with the needs of the University. This period of leave will be regularly reviewed to ensure that the agreed arrangements remain fit for purpose.


All disabled staff. To receive disability leave, staff must have declared that they have a disability - see principle 1 below. For further information about declaring a disability, see: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/hr/equality/disability_confident/disclosing.


Definition of Disability (Equality Act 2010):

“a person will be classed as disabled in law if he or she has a physical or mental impairment and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.

  • “Substantial” – means neither minor or trivial
  • “Long-term” – means that the effect of the impairment has lasted or is likely to last for at least 12 months
  • “Normal day-to-day activities” – include everyday things like eating, washing, walking, and going shopping.

Definition of Disability Leave:

Disability Leave is a form of reasonable adjustment to enable disabled staff, who are present within the workplace, to be absent from work in certain circumstances: for example to undergo treatment, assessment or rehabilitation as part of managing their disability and maintaining their fitness/health and wellbeing for work. Guidance to support managers in implementing reasonable adjustments for disabled staff, in accordance with the Equality Act 2010, is available at: www.sheffield.ac.uk/hr/guidance/leave/sickness/disability/ra

Disability Leave is reasonable time off, for a fixed period, agreed between the staff member and their manager to be utilised when the member of staff is taking professionally advised, generally pre-planned leave, related to their disability. This leave will be recorded separately to disability related sickness (see below for more details).

Examples of potential reasons for Disability Leave:

  • Medical appointments related to the staff member’s disability, which are unable to be accommodated through normal provisions (Section 4: The Procedure for Reporting, Recording and Monitoring Sickness Absence - http://hr.dept.shef.ac.uk/PM/SRRMProcedure.pdf);
  • Specialist clinic appointments;
  • Periods of treatment or rehabilitation;
  • Assessment for medical aids or reasonable adjustments;
  • A period of time to enable the University to complete making reasonable adjustments;
  • Training for assistance dogs and/or use of specialist equipment;
  • Counselling and therapeutic treatment related to a disability;
  • Disability related treatment, such as blood transfusion, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or dialysis;
  • Physiotherapy.

Disability Related Sickness

Disability related sickness is a form of sickness absence which is directly or indirectly attributed to a person’s disability. Such absences should be flagged by the staff member as being related to their disability, when notifying their manager of the period of sickness absence. Where their absence level then triggers an absence management alert, the manager and staff member should review the sickness records and, in liaison with Human Resources, determine next steps to best support the individual, taking account of the need to balance each individual’s circumstances with the needs of the University.

Key Principles:

1. To receive disability leave, staff must disclose their disability. Individuals should approach either their manager, or their HR Contact to discuss the nature of their disability and what support is needed. Alternatively, individuals may wish to approach their trade union representative, who on their behalf, will disclose their disability to their manager or HR Contact. If appropriate, a referral to Workplace Health and Wellbeing may be made by the manager to seek medical advice.

2. Staff members should, where reasonably practicable, seek to arrange appointments outside of work time, using flexible working arrangements where appropriate. Where this is not possible the individual should seek to arrange such appointments at times which are least disruptive to their work obligations.


3. To provide disabled staff with appropriate support, the University will grant Disability Leave, as a reasonable adjustment, for assessment, treatment or rehabilitation which has been professionally advised in relation to their disability, where deemed the most appropriate course of action. Advice may be sought from Occupational Health Services. This provision where granted, is distinct to that of phased returns (another form of reasonable adjustment) which are used to facilitate a return to work following a prolonged period of sickness absence. For information on phased returns and the pay associated with them please see: www.sheffield.ac.uk/hr/guidance/leave/sickness/phasedreturns

4. Where Disability Leave may not be the most appropriate course of action, for instance where ongoing/regular assessment, treatment or rehabilitation is required, the University will explore, on the merits of each case, other reasonable adjustments i.e. flexible working arrangements, reduction in hours etc. The staff member and their manager will both be responsible for monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of any such arrangements.

5. As a request for Disability Leave will normally require prior agreement from the individual’s manager, it is recommended that early discussions take place between the staff member and their manager, to enable the needs of both the individual and the University to be considered. Managers will sensitively consider all requests for Disability Leave individually and on their own merits. Managers may seek advice and guidance from their HR Contact, and Occupational Health Services, as appropriate. Disability Leave should be used for usually pre-planned absence, to accommodate assessment, treatment or rehabilitation related to their disability. However, flexibility will be applied to cover sudden, unforeseen or clearly appropriate circumstances.

6. Managers should make and retain notes of any discussions in relation to Disability Leave securely and confidentially in accordance with Data protection principles, including any agreed outcomes and support.


7. The staff member and their manager should make suitable arrangements in relation to the individual’s work commitments and how contact is maintained during the period of Disability Leave, where appropriate.


8. It will be the responsibility of the staff member and their manager to monitor and review the effectiveness of any Disability Leave arrangements, in consultation with Workplace Health and Wellbeing and HR.

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Last Updated: 01/15