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Case Studies

A Comprehensive Guide to Attendance Management

TOOLS & RESOURCES

Case Studies

Type of Absence Case Substance Abuse The Back-story A young Clerical Officer who developed an alcohol dependency a...

Type of Absence Case

Substance Abuse

The Back-story

A young Clerical Officer who developed an alcohol dependency and experienced social isolation following parental bereavement, relationship-breakdown and housing issues.

What happened?

As the dependency grew, the sickness absence level increased.

Whilst the individual did engage with Occupational Health’s Addictions Nurse, he would not engage fully with the attendance management processes. This was problematic.

The individual agreed to being moved from one work area where he was single-handed to one where there were other clerical officers who could help/cross-cover and where there was a better level of supervision.

His role at the original base was back-filled.

Initially, attendance at the new base improved and he engaged with his GP and the Community Addictions Team.

Unfortunately his attendance deteriorated significantly.

Outcome

Unfortunately there was little alternative than to terminate the individual on the grounds of incapacity.

The Learning

  1. There are social issues which impact on people’s health.
  2. It’s important to engage Occupational Health Services early on.
  3. A change of base/team can be a positive intervention.

 

Type of Absence Case Retirement on Grounds of Ill-health The Back-story Diagnosis of life-limiting cancer. Indivi...

Type of Absence Case

Retirement on Grounds of Ill-health

The Back-story

Diagnosis of life-limiting cancer.

Individual was admitted to hospital.

When discharged home, individual still felt very poorly.

What happened?

Individual felt unable to/was unwilling to meet with their Manager because of a sense that the Manager was not sympathetic.

In practice, the Manager was concerned and did care.

The Manager repeatedly tried to engage in a tactful manner.

The Manager wanted engagement and was keen to have Occupational Health involved.

Communication problems persisted until a trade union steward was used as an intermediary, at which point communications improved significantly.

Meetings took place at a neutral venue; not in the workplace and not at the individual’s home.

Outcome

Ill-Health retirement was pursued.

HR assisted in the administration of the Pensions Agency paperwork.

The Learning

  1. How an individual handles their health condition and copes with the situation, can vary considerably. They can be going through personal turmoil. Managers need to judge how best to engage.
  2. Staff-side organisations can play an invaluable intermediary role.
  3. Attendance Management isn’t just about slavishly following the policy like a robot. Sometimes you need to flex, trust your judgement and work creatively within the bounds of the policy.

Type of Absence Case Persistent Frequent Absence The Back-story The individual has no underlying health problems b...

Type of Absence Case

Persistent Frequent Absence

The Back-story

The individual has no underlying health problems but is off work repeatedly with different conditions.

What happened?

In an attempt to improve attendance, the individual was offered a range of reasonable adjustments including change of shift pattern, a move to part-time hours and change of base.

The individual refused all of these options.

As a result of a series of short and long-term absences for a variety of reasons and no obvious sign of progress/better attendance, the individual proceeded to successive Formal Absence Review Meetings and received a verbal warning, first written warning and final written warning. In all there were 32 absence meetings over a 2.5 year period. The Attendance Management process had been exhausted.

Outcome

The individual was ultimately dismissed and despite appealing against that decision, was not re-instated. The appeal was dismissed.

The Learning

  1. People are paid to fulfil their contract of employment – the role, the hours, completing the tasks & duties in their job description and the expectation is that they will regularly attend their work unless there is good cause/reason for any absence.
  2. Dismissal is the ultimate sanction but can be the only course of action remaining if the individual is given every chance/assistance to improve their attendance but fails to, without good cause/reason.
  3. Reasonable adjustments can make the difference in keeping someone at their work, helping them back, adapting to any change in circumstances, keeping them productive and keeping them safe.

    Managers know their work area and employees best; better than Occupational Health. OH advice needs to be fully tested at a local level to see if the recommendation is possible/can work for all parties. Managers should go back to OH and discuss matters further if they think it may not be possible to follow the advice on solid, objective grounds. The individual, trade union representative, HR, OH and the manager need to agree a reasonable way forward.

 

Type of Absence Case Reasonable Adjustments The Back-story Individual has a poor attendance record. Individual ha...

Type of Absence Case

Reasonable Adjustments

The Back-story

Individual has a poor attendance record.

Individual has underlying health problems.

What happened?

Manager has made reasonable adjustments, on the advice of, and with the support of Occupational Health.

A change in working pattern was implemented to support the individual when feeling unwell in the morning. The individual now comes into work later and finishes later, maintaining the same length of working week.

The individual is released from duty in order to attend GP/counselling appointments when required.

The individual has regular monthly meetings with their manager to review the support which is in place and to continue to monitor attendance.

This has been very beneficial for all and will continue for the foreseeable future.

The individual and their trade union steward have both expressed their gratitude for the support given.

Outcome

The adjustments made to this individual’s role have resulted in a marked improvement in attendance; a positive outcome for everyone concerned.

The Learning

  1. There can be a sense of ‘team’ when getting someone back to work and keeping them at their work, when managers, staff, Occupational Health and HR all work together towards a common agreed goal.
  2. Reasonable adjustments can include the provision of equipment with associated financial implications but can also be quite subtle changes to the working environment/pattern.
  3. Formal absence review meetings can be conducted in a manner which is mutually beneficial to all the parties. They should always be conducted in a professional fashion and should respect the dignity/humanity of the situation.

Type of Absence Case Support for a Return To Work The Back-story Individual diagnosed with cancer and keen to retu...

Type of Absence Case

Support for a Return To Work

The Back-story

Individual diagnosed with cancer and keen to return to full employment.

What happened?

In discussion, manager and individual agree a Return To Work Plan.

Manager was selective when/when not to engage HR (HR presence can sometimes change the dynamic), manager trusted their own judgement, knew individual best.

Manager agreed method/frequency of staying in touch with individual.

Local Senior Charge Nurse (line manager) knew to keep Service Manager up-to-date and when to call upon that more senior expertise.

Sometimes individual was just too unwell to take part in any meetings and that was understood and no pressure was applied.

Consideration was given to extending Half-Pay once that ran out and the individual went onto Nil Pay status. Such a request needs to be submitted to the Deputy Director of HR by the local Head of People & Change, providing as much information as possible.

A very gradual re-introduction to the world of work was planned, carefully using annual leave to assist with recovery/rehabilitation.

Regular engagement with Occupational Health took place and the individual was allowed to work supernumerary for some time, afforded a quiet work environment and some special equipment was purchased to help with computer work.

Engagement with staff-side was mature, considered and very helpful.

All NHS appointments were accommodated.

Outcome

The individual returned to full duties after a substantial period of time absent from the workplace.

The Learning

  1. Managers know their staff and their circumstances better than anyone else who gets involved in the attendance management process.
  2. If a manager needs help with a difficult case, they should not hesitate to seek input from more experienced managers (as well as HR or trade union stewards).
  3. Agreeing the manner by which a manager gets in touch with an absent employee (when – weekly? fortnightly?, how – phone call? dropping into base?) is a crucial step in attendance management.

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Last Updated: 17 June 2019