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Sickness absence

Code of practice and guidelines for managers and staff


Staff absence as a result of sickness or accident has a direct impact on the quality and effectiveness of services provided, as well as affecting the morale of staff. The University recognises that during the course of employment, employees will be absent from work through ill health from time-to-time, but it is the responsibility of all staff, and particularly of managers, to ensure that the effect of sickness absence on the provision of services to students and on staff is minimised.

Each type of absence pattern calls for a different approach. Sickness absence should be treated empathetically and within a framework of the Ill Health/Incapacity Procedure which recognises that genuine illness is not attributable to misconduct. Only when/if it can be reasonably established after a thorough investigation that the real reasons for absence are not sickness related but rather misconduct, should the Disciplinary Procedure be applied.

The aims of this Code of Practice and Guidance are to:

  • provide advice on when and how to respond to sickness absence
  • ensure that responses are dealt with in a fair and consistent way
  • minimise staff absence levels and
  • provide a supportive environment to ensure the well-being of staff.

This Code of Practice should be read in conjunction with other key documents that cover Absence, including Terms and Conditions of Employment and the Ill Health/Incapacity Procedure.

The disability discrimination provisions of the Equality Act are not applicable to every case of sickness absence. However, in those cases where the University judges that they may apply, actions taken by managers should take account of the obligations required under the Equality Act.

Note: this document uses the general term ‘manager’. The person responsible for managing absence will differ between Colleges and Services and it is the responsibility of the College Dean/College Manager/Director of Professional Service to ensure that staff with management responsibilities are aware of their role in relation to sickness absence and that staff know who to report absence to.