Employment Law Update - July 2023
This month’s employment law update will cover managing sickness absence, International Self-Care Day and dealing with hot weather in the workplace.
Managing Sickness Absence
Sickness absence can be a challenging issue for employees to navigate as it affects productivity, employee wellbeing and overall business operations. In recent years, employment laws and regulations surrounding managing sickness absence have evolved to provide clearer guidelines and expectations for employers and employees. This update aims to highlight key considerations for employers when managing sickness absence in the workplace.
Absence should be recorded in a way that clearly shows the reason for absence and any patterns or triggers met can be visibly identified. Being able to identify reasons for sickness is essential in understanding the bigger picture. It enables managers to identify potential problems and investigate why individuals are frequently off sick.
Absence data should be reviewed to identify potential problems. Using Breathe HR enables you to have access to sickness data and identify sickness trends.
It’s essential to have a clear and simple procedure for employees to report their absence.
A return-to-work meeting should be held on the first day back at work and a self-certification form should be filled out. This is important because it will identify areas in which the company can support their return to work and allows for communication around whether the employee is fit to return.
Some employers may have trigger points for sickness absence, for example, having a specific amount of days off in a certain period of time. This enables employers to be consistent in their approach and use it as a guideline when reviewing individual’s sickness. When sickness absence is becoming an issue or many trigger points have been met, you can arrange an informal meeting to discuss concerns around the level of sickness absence. This will normally resolve the problem as you can explore reasons as to why it is happening and support the individual. They will also be clear on the following steps if it continues. If there is an underlying reason for absence that is a disability according to the Equality Act 2010, the company should see if there are any reasonable adjustments they can make to support the individual. If sickness absence continues to be an issue, a formal disciplinary procedure will need to be initiated with the purpose to resolve the problem where dismissal might be an option.
Managing long term sickness absence can be complex and challenging for employers. It is crucial to maintain regular communication with employees during their absence and consider reasonable adjustments to support their return to work. If it becomes clear that the employee will be unable to return to their previous role, employees should explore alternative options such as ill-health retirement or dismissal on the grounds of ill health in compliance with employment law and policies.
Health and Wellbeing
Employers can promote good health practices and play a role in encouraging good behaviours, for example having a good work-life balance, promoting employee wellbeing programs and conducting wellbeing surveys to identify any issues. These can all help limit sickness absence and create a positive supportive workplace.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) identify International Self-Care Day being on the 24th of July. They chose this day to show it can be practised 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This day gives employers the chance to raise additional awareness on self-care and emphasise any benefits the company offers in relation to well-being. Furthermore, the purpose of this awareness day is to encourage supporting well-being of employers and staff within the workplace and in society as a whole.
Managing sickness absence in the workplace requires a delicate balance between supporting employees’ well-being and maintaining business productivity. By implementing clear policies, conducting return-to-work interviews, and fostering a supportive environment, employers can proactively manage sickness absence while maintaining a healthy and productive workforce.
Managing Hot Weather in the Workplace
June 2023 was described as the hottest June on record by the Met Office, now we are in the midst of summer, the weather is unlikely to get cooler any time soon. This is an ideal time to remind employers and employees about the laws and general advisories in place to keep everybody comfortable at work during the hot weather.
There are no laws for minimum or maximum working temperatures in the UK but it is the employers duty to ensure all employees are working within a comfortable and safe environment, whether the employee is working indoors or outdoors, which can be achieved by:
Providing clean drinking water for staff
Keeping the temperature at a comfortable level
Providing clean and fresh air
Providing shade for employees
ACAS have suggested some advisories on how to manage the hot weather at work.
Employers can provide fans, air condition and closing blinds to prevent sunlight entering the room and to keep the area at a comfortable temperature.
Relaxing the Dress Code – whilst it is not required by law to do this, if it can be done, then it should be. We understand that it is not possible in all roles, but if possible, relaxing the dress code can be much more comfortable for employees.
Vulnerable Workers – the elderly, pregnant women and those who are taking certain medications are more at risk to the heat than others.
Employers can ensure that their staff are comfortable in these conditions by allowing more rest breaks when needed.
Not all employers are able to relax their policies as much as others, but it is important to keep a few things in mind:
Listen to your employees. If they are telling you they are uncomfortable at work, it is your place to hear their concern and to reach a conclusion as to how you can help the matter.
The more comfortable your employees are, the better they will work. Excessive heat is known to cause fatigue, suggesting this could impact on your employee’s performance.
If you have any HR queries please give a member of the team a call today, on 01926 853388, or email email@example.com.