Dealing with long-term or chronic sickness
Dealing with long-term or chronic sickness

The following Employment practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Dealing with long-term or chronic sickness
  • Initial considerations
  • Relevance of the Acas Code of Practice and guidance
  • Suggested steps to take once a problem of long-term absence is identified
  • Consultation with the employee
  • Where absence is the employer’s fault
  • Data protection issues
  • Medical investigation
  • Decision is the employer’s, not the doctor’s
  • Whether the employer can look behind a GP's medical certificate
  • More...

Dealing with long-term or chronic sickness

This Practice Note provides a toolkit for employers and advisers for the management of long-term ill health or chronic sickness absence.

Dealing with an employee who is off sick for several long periods, or for one continuous, long period is complex and requires a particularly careful procedure, which must be well documented by the employer. Particular care will be required to minimise the risk of disability discrimination claims if the employee has a long-term condition meeting the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010)—see Practice Note: Disability. The existence of any permanent health insurance (PHI) scheme or a pension scheme providing for ill-health retirement will be relevant. Achieving a fair dismissal for long-term ill health can take some time.

The process must also be undertaken against the background of the legislative and case law requirements for fair dismissals relating to capability. For further information, see Practice Note: Reason for dismissal—capability.

This Practice Note assumes there is no issue with employment status and that the employee is truly an employee—see Practice Notes: Employee status and Worker status.

See also related the Practice Notes, which consider the different procedural considerations that apply when dealing with those types of issue:

  1. Dealing with persistent, intermittent short-term absences

  2. Dealing with malingerers

  3. Dealing with pregnancy-related sickness

  4. Dealing with stress and mental ill health in the workplace


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