Sickness Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) For Managers

Question Categories:

Notifications Process

Health & Safety

Fit Notes

Provision of Management Information

Return to Work

Formal Processes





Notification Process

If a staff member advises that they are too unwell to attend work, what should I do?

  • You should show concern and support, and obtain the information detailed in paragraph 3.1 of the sickness absence management procedure
  • Should the absence be likely to continue beyond one day, you should agree with the member of staff the frequency with which they should maintain contact. Where the absence extends to four weeks, or you anticipate that it could do so, you should contact the member of staff at home to offer support and discuss the ill health.
  • You, or a nominated member of staff within the department, should record details of the absence in myTeam, as soon as it becomes known, (ensuring, where applicable, you use the ‘work’ or ‘disability’ related flags, with the staff members consent).

Can I seek information from a staff member about the ill health?

You are expected to ask and be given the broad nature of their illness (e.g. migraine, chest infection etc.), and how their medical condition is likely to impact on their functional ability to do their job, so that their absence and return to work can be managed effectively.

If advised that an individual perceives that their absence is due to or aggravated by either a work or disability related issue, what should I do?

If you are not the individual’s manager, but responsible for receiving notifications as to absences, you should record this using the ‘disability’ or ‘work related’ flags, subject to the agreement of the individual, within myTeam. With effect from 2nd April this will activate an automatic email to the staff member’s manager advising that the individual has identified an issue in relation to their recent/current sickness absence that may need further action/consideration (prior to this date the manager should be informed of this directly by the staff member responsible for inputting the sickness data). The manager should then seek to explore and address the issue promptly, including seeking advice as appropriate from relevant professional services such as Human Resources, Occupational Health Services etc. The type of intervention a manager may consider, in discussion with the staff member, will be dependent upon the unique circumstances of the case. Potential examples (not an exhaustive list) of this include:

  • Risk assessments
  • Consideration of mediation
  • Reasonable adjustments
  • Referral to Occupational Health Services (in all such cases staff must provide prior consent before an appointment can be made)
  • Counselling
  • Discussing with the member of staff a potential approach to Access to Work for support
  • DSE training
  • Manual Handling training
  • Eye test contributions
  • Identification of additional support such as the Harassment Network etc.

Health & Safety

What should I do if a member of staff has an accident at work?

Following all accidents at work an online form entitled ‘Report of Accident, Fire and/or Dangerous Occurrence ’ should be completed within 24 hours.

HEALTH & SAFETY MUST BE TELEPHONED IMMEDIATELY if an injured person requires Hospital treatment as a result of this incident (Tel 222 7466).

It is also essential that where there is any sickness absence due to an accident at work the ‘abs due to accident at work’ flag is ticked when inputting the details within myTeam. As this also feeds directly through to the University’s Health & Safety department who monitor such records and seek to take proactive information where appropriate to address/prevent the issue reoccurring.

Why do we have to complete the ‘Report of Accident, Fire and/or Dangerous Occurrence’ form?

This is essential to ensure that the University’s Health & Safety Department is able to monitor such incidences and fulfil the University’s responsibility to report all relevant incidents to the Health & Safety Executive in line with the ‘Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences’ (RIDDOR) requirements.

What is RIDDOR?

This stands for: ‘Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences’. It places duties on employers to report serious workplace accidents, occupational diseases and specified dangerous occurrences (near misses). This is fulfilled by the University’s Health & Safety Department.

When should I use the ‘injury/accident’ sickness absence reason code?

This sickness reasons code can be used for either a work or non-work related injury/accident that results in sickness absence and is unrelated to the ‘abs due to accident at work’ flag. This reason code (rather than the flag) may be used for any such incident even if unrelated to work. Where it is an accident related to work it is essential that managers seek to undertake a risk assessment and if necessary liaise with the HR Team Contact and Health & Safety to ensure any relevant action is taken quickly to prevent a recurrence or potential risks are mitigated.

Fit Notes

Can I request that a staff member provides a ‘fit note’ even if the period of absence concerned is less than 8 days in duration?

This may be appropriate in some cases, for example a manager will require an individual to provide a ‘fit note’ or other appropriate medical evidence from a recognised medical practitioner, if they are seeking to reclaim a period of annual leave due to sickness/injury. Managers may also deem it appropriate to exercise this right if they feel that an individual’s sickness absences illustrate a pattern or warrants investigation.

What should I do if a staff member provides/notifies me that they have a ‘not fit for work’ note?

This means that the GP’s assessment of the individual is that they have a health condition that prevents them from working for the stated period of time. Unless otherwise stated the presumption will be that they return to work after the specified date.

Depending on the nature and length of absence it may also be appropriate to contact the individual to agree when the situation will be reviewed, identify any sources of potential support available in the meantime (e.g. counselling), and if possible a return to work date. Pending the return to work keep in regular contact with the individual.

On receipt of a fit note the manager should forward to Payroll for processing.

If an individual wants to return to work before the end of a ‘not fit for work’ note, can they?

The staff member can go back to work at any time (including before the end of the fit note) without going back to see their doctor - even if their doctor has indicated that they need to assess them again. However, you should undertake a suitable risk assessment in relation to the potential return, in line with our duty of care, and if appropriate discuss the case with your HR Team contact.

Should it be agreed that the individual can return to work prior to the end of their 'not fit for work' note, you should ensure that the Payroll & Expenses Office are notified and that the record of the individual's sickness absence on uBASE is amended to reflect the new return to work date. Failure to do this may result in the incorrect payment of the individual’s salary.

What should I do if I don’t understand the advice on a ‘may be fit for work’ note?

If you don’t understand or are unsure on how to act on the advice on the fit note, discuss the advice with the staff member. They may be able to provide more information. If still unsure, consult Occupational Health Services/your HR Team contact who may deem it appropriate to write to the GP for more information. Whilst seeking to clarify the situation, the fit note should be treated as a ‘not fit for work’ note.

Having received a ‘may be fit’ note from the staff member what should I do in determining if a return to work can be safely and reasonably supported?

The fit note has been designed to give you the information needed to begin a discussion with the individual on whether they can return to work despite their ill-health. You should consider the GP’s comments and discuss this with the staff member. For further information as to the process to follow please see flowchart. If you decide that a return to work is possible you should agree any temporary changes to their job or hours, a return date, what support will be provided, for how long, and a review date via a ‘Fit note discussion form’.

Prior to the staff member’s return to work should they get a fit note to state that they are ‘fit for work’?

Unlike the old sick note, the fit note does not include the option for GPs to advise someone that they are fully fit for work. A staff member does not need to be fully fit to return to work.

Does any agreed adjustments/support have to be in place for the full duration of the fit note?

Not necessarily, regular reviews should be undertaken by you to ensure that the action(s) put in place do/continue to support the return to work. Where it is identified that these are no longer required and the individual is able to return fully to their normal duties, the actions/support no longer need to be provided.

Provision of Management Information

Why have I received an email entitled ‘Review Sickness Absence’, regarding a staff member?

This will be automatically generated by the staff system (from 2nd April 2013), (even when the absence(s) do not exceed 10 working days or 4 periods of absence in any 12 month rolling period), if the staff member has identified they are absent due to any of the following reasons: pregnancy related, stress, work related or disability related – i.e. key areas where it may be appropriate to undertake a risk assessment and/or where it is particularly important that you seek to discuss the situation with the individual staff member promptly. This is in order to gain an understanding of the situation and consider what intervention/support may be appropriate. This is particularly important if you were previously unaware of the issue. If uncertain how to respond in such circumstances advice can be sought from your HR Team Contact.

What should I do if I receive an ‘Absence Management Alert’ email?

You should log into myTeam and review the absence management alert(s) for your team to gain further information. The absence history will identify all types of leave taken by the individual over the previous 12 month rolling period (excluding pregnancy related absences), providing you with a full picture of the individuals overall attendance. This may help inform your discussions with the individual during the RTW interview. How you respond will be determined by the individual circumstances of the case. For example: if you are already aware of their situation and previously implemented relevant support, the discussion during the RTW interview may identify that no further action is required other than the need to continue to review the situation. Even if this is the case you should still update myTeam to confirm a RTW interview has been undertaken, recording any key points discussed on the RTW Discussion/Interview Form.

What will be the impact of the system notification changes implemented from 2nd April 2013?

From this date management information will automatically be provided to managers via a new ‘Absence Management Alert’ and ‘Review Sickness Absence’ emails generated by the system, (so related FAQs on these). Making you aware of such absences promptly, so that you can seek to explore with the individual any potential needs for support/intervention, as well as support you in relation to your responsibility to monitor/review sickness levels on a regular basis.

The introduction of these emails will not result in an influx of email notifications identifying those staff that already have 10 – 13 days sickness absence (pro-rated for part time staff), as such notifications will only be provided when a new absence is entered from 2nd April 2013 that exceeds these values. However, immediately following this transition you may find new entries within your absence report when you access it, as all your team’s absences are recalculated by the system each time you view this. In such cases, you should use your judgement to determine whether the absences require a discussion with the individual(s) noted on the sickness report. If uncertain, advice can always be sought from your HR Team Contact.

What should I do if I think that there is a potential cause for concern in relation to an individual’s absence/health?

There may be a number of reasons indicating that there may be a potential cause for concern. For example:

  • a pattern appears to be present e.g. regular non-attendance on a Monday or Fridays etc.;
  • there is a possibility of a disability or underlying health issue.
  • there are concerns that the absence is not genuinely due to sickness;
  • where you receive management information via an automatic ‘Absence Management Alert’ email (effective from 2nd April 2013), through the staff system, identifying that an individual has lost at least 10 working days (pro-rated for part time staff); or has had 4 periods of absence, within the previous 12 month rolling period.

In such cases, any concerns should be explored with the staff member usually as part of a return to work (RTW) discussion/interview. Such discussions are an important opportunity to support the individual, by ensuring that any appropriate support/intervention is considered and implemented as soon as possible, particularly as research suggests that early intervention can be very effective.

Will I next receive an alert message when the employee has had further absences of 10 days or 4 separate periods?

As the system calculates an individual’s absence over a 12 month rolling basis each time a new absence is inputted, you will only receive a further ‘absence management alert’ email, should the total absences for this new 12 month rolling period exceed these absence levels.

Will the staff member be aware that an email has been sent to me as their manager notifying me as to their absence levels?

The guidance specifically written for staff in relation to our sickness procedure, available on the Human Resources web pages, explains when and how managers are automatically provided by the uBASE system, with notifications as to absence levels.

Do I need to update myTeam to note that a RTW interview has been undertaken after each period of sickness absence?

You are advised to do this whenever a RTW interview has been undertaken e.g. following an email alert (via the Absence report) or at any point where you consider that someone’s absence warrants a more structured RTW interview (the date of which can be recorded within the individual’s sickness absence record).

‘Light touch’ discussions do not need to be recorded on myTeam, however, notes should be retained in relation to all discussions. These records are important to enable you to evidence your compliance with the procedure, retain an accurate record of key information including any action that needs to be undertaken, by whom, in order to support the individual and avoid any confusion as well as support any on-going review processes. Such records may also be relevant should the absences come under the formal aspects of the sickness procedure.

Return to Work

How can I organise a management referral to the SOHS?

Please see the Management Referral Policy for guidance on this issue and when such a referral may be appropriate.

What is the difference between a ‘light touch’ return to work (RTW) discussion and a RTW interview?

Additional information regarding this can be found in the ‘How to Guidance’ on RTW interviews/discussions.

Could I set reasonable targets for improved attendance?

During a RTW interview in some cases e.g. where you identify that there is persistent short term absence with no on-going health issues, it may be appropriate to re-establish your expectations regarding attendance at work, which may include identifying a target for improved attendance and any associated support/actions. In all cases, advice and support can be sought from your HR Team Contact. Guidance in relation to RTW interview/discussion is also available via the Performance Management Toolkit.

What if the department is unable to accommodate a return to work?

You may determine in liaison with your HR Team Contact that it is not possible or reasonable for the department to facilitate a return to work. For example: due to increased risks that can’t be reduced or removed. If so, you should discuss this with the staff member, keep a record as to the reasons why this was the case and treat the note from the GP as ‘not fit for work’. The individual will NOT need to return to their GP for a new note to confirm this. Both the manager and staff member should also remain in regular contact to review the situation.

What if I or the staff member is uncertain that the action the department is able to take will enable the individual to return to work?

If having undertaken a risk assessment this still remains the case, you could consider either agreeing a later review date, or a referral to Workplace Health & Wellbeing. You may also wish to discuss the details of the case with your HR Team Contact.

For further information, please see:

When should I consider undertaking a risk assessment?

These usually only need be undertaken and recorded where: there is a potential significant risk associated with a return to work, the reasons for the absence is documented as workload/work related stress, or where there is/may be disagreement or uncertainty as to what can/should be done to support a return. See ‘Risk Assessment Form in Relation to a Return to Work’. More information on risk assessments is also available on our Health & Safety web pages, and specific concerns can be raised with a Safety Adviser within Health & Safety.

If I have agreed that a return to work is possible what do I need to do?

You should agree and record any temporary changes to the individual’s job or hours, return to work date, what support will be provided, for how long, and when this will be reviewed on the Fit Note Discussion Form. This form should also be copied to your HR Team; Pensions Office (if in a pension scheme) and the Payroll & Expenses Office, to ensure that any changes in hours/pay are correctly reflected in the payroll run for that month. If changes are identified after the payroll has closed, the individual’s pay may not take account of this change until the following month.

Does any agreed adjustments/support to facilitate a return have to be in place for the full duration of the fit note?

Not necessarily, regular reviews should be undertaken by you to ensure that the action(s) put in place do/continue to support the return to work. Where it is identified that these are no longer required and the staff member is able to return fully to their normal duties, the actions/support no longer need to be provided.

How should I conduct a return to work interview/discussion?

Please see ‘How to’ guide within the Performance Management Toolkit.

Under what circumstances would a phased return be appropriate and who decides this?

Where an individual requires or may require an adjustment to the working arrangements or environment they should discuss this with their manager. Such discussion may also involve the individual’s Human Resources Team contact and if appropriate Occupational Health Services. See further guidance on reasonable adjustments.

How would a phased return affect the staff member’s pay?

During a phased return, the staff member is paid for the hours worked. Non worked contracted hours will be paid using sick pay provision based on the staff members remaining entitlement. Where this entitlement has been exhausted, the staff member may request the ability to use accrued annual leave, which should be considered and recorded in the normal way; otherwise the un-worked periods will be unpaid.

You should agree and record any temporary changes to the individual’s job or hours, discuss and set a return to work date, what support will be provided, for how long, and when this will be reviewed.

Formal Processes

How do I determine whether I address sickness absence under the sickness or disciplinary procedure?

This depends on the individual circumstances of each case, however, where uncertain, advice should always be sought from your HR Team Contact.

What is the role of the individual’s manager in relation to the Hearing Panel?

The manager of the staff member subject to a capability hearing may Chair or be member of the panel.

During the appeal hearing how does a member of Human Resources support the appeal process?

This can involve offering procedural advice to any party during the hearing, acting as secretary to the panel, and/or as a full member of the panel.