ACAS’s Updated Guidance on Sickness Absence
By Natasha Elston
This article covers ACAS’s updated guidance on sickness absence and its key implications for employers and employees.
So what is ACAS?
ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) is an intermediary government body that assists with employment disputes. ACAS works towards promoting better relations between employers and employees. ACAS provides guidance documents for employers and employees for dealing with day-to-day workplace issues, such as sickness absence.
ACAS has recently updated its guidance for employers on how to manage the process of sickness absence and how to best support staff through both the period of sickness and return to work.
The guidance considers return to work meetings; it is not a legal requirement to have one, but it is a good opportunity to:
- Make sure the employee is ready to return to work;
- Talk about any work updates that happened while they were off;
- See if they need any support;
- Agree on a plan for returning to work, if appropriate, for example, a phased return to work; and
- Talk about what they would like other employees to know about their absence and what they would like to keep confidential
If the employee has been off sick, their employer might also:
- Look at any recommendations from the employee’s doctor; and
- Consider a referral to a medical service such as occupational health.
If the employee is disabled, their employer should discuss whether there are any reasonable adjustments they can make to support the return to work.
An employer should also look out for sings of underlying problems causing an employee’s absence. For example:
- Work-related stress; or
- A disability
The employer should be sensitive and understanding if they are talking to someone about this. An employee does not have to tell them anything. But talking openly can help the employer put the right support in place.
The guidance includes how to prepare for a return to work meeting and some practicalities regarding a phased return to work. This is when someone who has been absent gradually builds up to returning to work. For example:
- Starting on reduced hours
- Doing work that is different to their usual job; or
- Having a lighter workload
A phased return to work might be appropriate after a:
- Long-term illness
- Serious injury
Please do not hesitate to contact Natasha Elston on these or other employment related legal matters.
(This article is not intended to be comprehensive or to provide specific legal advice. It should not be relied upon in the absence of specific advice given in relation to particular circumstances.)