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Sick Or Sack?

Employees who have been invited to attend a disciplinary hearing often go off sick, usually with stress or depression. So you reschedule, but they are still signed off sick. This can go on for months (if you allow it to do so).

As the employer you need to address the disciplinary issue within a reasonable time frame allowing the individual to put his case before a decision is made. However, the employee is not at work and is telling you he cannot attend a meeting because he is sick.

You don’t have to wait until the employee comes back to work. You can invite an individual to attend a meeting even when he is signed off sick by the doctor. Where the employee says he cannot attend a meeting, reschedule disciplinary hearings once or twice.

In these situations, take steps to determine whether or not the employee is well enough to attend a disciplinary hearing, even though he is not fit for work. Sometimes this will involve asking the employee for permission to contact his doctor to get medical advice about his ability to take part in a disciplinary hearing, and what, if any, reasonable adjustments could be made to enable his attendance (e.g. allowing frequent breaks or allowing the meeting to be held at a location of the employee’s choice).

Wherever possible an employee faced with serious allegations should be given the chance to put his side of the case across before you reach a decision (even if you believe the individual is attempting to evade a disciplinary hearing by saying he is too stressed to attend). An unwilling employee can’t string it out indefinitely; the ACAS Code of Practice states that where an employee ‘is persistently unable or unwilling to attend a disciplinary meeting without good cause, an employer can make a decision on the evidence available.’

You can take medical advice at this stage. If the doctor confirms that an employee is fit to attend a meeting then it is reasonable for you to expect the individual to attend a meeting. If he doesn’t, I’d recommend that the meeting is rescheduled at least twice, and then go ahead in his absence.

If you need assistance on conducting disciplinary hearing get in touch.

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