Management of disability leave and disability-related sickness absence should be considered within your institution’s approach to meeting the public sector equality duty of the Equality Act 2010. This will provide a way of monitoring new policies and their impact on staff performance, satisfaction and retention.
Disability leave can be managed in a similar way to general leave, but it should be treated as a priority. HEIs should recognise that not all disability leave can be planned in advance, and that flexibility will be needed on the part of the employer.
Disability leave (both planned and unplanned) can be used for those times when a disabled employee needs to be away from work to attend medical appointments, become familiar with reasonable adjustments, or when adjusting to a new or worsened disability or medical condition.
Disability-related sickness absence
Distinguishing between general sickness absence and disability-related sickness absence is good practice as it helps to remove disadvantage experienced by disabled people.
This recognises that impairments and medical conditions may, at particular times, generate a greater level of sickness absence.
It is also recommended that disability-related sickness absence should not be included in an employee’s total sickness record, as it can influence decisions relating to promotion, references or selection for redundancy.
Disability-related sickness absence can be managed in a similar way to general sickness absence, and recent case law indicates that it can be limited in its extent. However, HEIs may find it good practice to be generous in calculating the number of days an employee may receive full or half pay while on disability-related sickness absence.
Returning to work
Consider providing a supported period of transition back to work, following both disability leave and disability-related sickness absence. This can assist both employer and employee in the process of ensuring the member of staff is able to work to the best of their ability.
Providing central support and resources for departments and functional units with members of staff away on either disability-related sickness absence or disability leave will assist those departments in the conduct of their work, and will also help to reduce any concerns felt by colleagues of the absent person.
Tips on dealing with disability-related, short-term sickness absence
- keep in touch with the person
- find out whether/when they are able to return to work
- consider whether a case conference would help if the case is particularly problematic, if so contact the relevant person in your institution
On Return to Work
- carry out a return-to-work interview with the individual when they return to work.
- talk to the person about their impairment/condition. Find out what can be done to assist them.
- don’t make assumptions about what they will or will not be able to do.
- carry out a proper assessment of their capabilities.
- consider what reasonable adjustments can be made to their job.
- consider redeployment.
- monitor the situation – keep a record of relevant information and actions to facilitate or maximise the support provided to the disabled person.
- Consider the balance of absence and leave. For a staff member adjusting to a new or worsened disability or medical condition, it may be appropriate for the individual initially to take a period of disability-related sickness absence and follow this with a period of disability leave as they become familiar with their new situation.