Absence Management Case Study

Absence Management Case Study

Absence Management procedures are essential for ensuring your employees understand exactly what is required of them regarding their attendance and punctuality to maximise efficiency for the business. They can also help to avoid costly and time-consuming tribunal cases, such as the following case study:

Absence Management Case Study

A tribunal found that an NHS employee was fairly dismissed for excessive absence, yet awarded her £3,000 for a successful disability discrimination claim brought about because of failures made in the absence management process

The Case

The employee worked for the NHS and suffered from stress, anxiety and reactive depression (which the employer accepted was a disability). She had a long history of excessive sickness absence (including a year-long period of absence) which greatly impacted the service that could be provided and raised serious concerns about patient safety.

The employer had an absence management procedure which had been used to issue warnings as a result of excessive absence, and after a final absence review disciplinary (to address a current 8 month absence period) the employee was dismissed

She submitted an appeal after the deadline had lapsed and so this was not heard. The employee then made claims for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination, including a failure to make reasonable adjustments and discrimination arising from disability, at an employment tribunal

The Tribunal Decision

The tribunal found that although the dismissal was fair, and a suitable absence management procedure had been followed, the failure to consider all reasonable adjustments when dealing with a disabled employee led to discrimination. Other findings were:

  • The short appeal deadline “put the employee at a substantial disadvantage compared to people who are not disabled” and so an extension of the time limit to raise an appeal would have amounted to a reasonable adjustment
  • The appeal would not have succeeded due to the excessive absence despite other adjustments made, and the use of previous warnings issued through the absence management process. As such, the claim for unfair dismissal was not successful
  • The tribunal concluded that the overall procedure followed by the employer was within the range of reasonable responses open to a fair employer, the dismissal was fair because it was not surprising given the employee’s very poor attendance record, the impact of her absence on the service and colleagues and the fact that she could not return to work in the foreseeable future

Case Summary

This case clearly shows that following a robust absence management policy and procedure, and this process being implemented fairly and consistently throughout the company, can enable absence related to disabilities to be managed effectively without the risk of unfair dismissal claims

It also highlights the importance of a fair and reasonable investigation, disciplinary, and appeal process that MUST be followed at all times, and the use of reasonable adjustments where required (and the range of adjustments that should be considered) is something senior managers need to be conscious of in order to avoid costly discrimination claims

We can help with this - see our Absence Management Pack and implement your absence management structure with our expert help.

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