Frequently Asked Employment Questions

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Topic: Sickness absence

Is it possible to dismiss a disabled employee who has taken lots of sick leave?

Yes, but you need to tread carefully. So first arrange to meet the employee in order to discuss their absence and find out: (1) if their condition might constitute a disability and be covered by the Equality Act 2010; (2) how much further time they're likely to be absent for; and (3) if any reasonable adjustments need to be made to enable them to return to or stay in work. If they can't return to their current role (or an alternative one) in the foreseeable future, you'll need their written consent to obtain a medical report from an Occupational Health Advisor, their own doctor, or an independent medical specialist that you've appointed. When writing for this, include a copy of the employee's job description and duties. Ask for detailed clarification on the employee's medical issue and the prognosis for the future. If it's a disability protected by equality legislation, but the report states that they can't work in any role for the foreseeable future, or they're unlikely to do so consistently even with any reasonable adjustments having been made, you should be able to dismiss on the grounds of capability, having first followed a fair dismissal procedure. Tip. Use the fact that you're a smaller business to your advantage, e.g. limited resources mean you can't afford to have an employee off sick for long periods and you can't keep covering their work. Make sure you have clear evidence of the adverse impact that the employee's continued absence is having on the business.