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Long Term Medical Sickness and Dismissal from Work

Can an employer dismiss employees due to long term sickness from work?

We all believe that a sick employee’s job has to be kept open indefinitely by an employer. But this is far from truth. While it is mandatory to follow a fair procedure to manage a long term absence from work, if you are considering dismissal, it is important to show that the potential dismissal was fair and justified.

What does the Equality Act say?

After the introduction of the Equality Act 2010, it has now become easier for employees to prove their disability and hence be protected under law. This does not mean that you as an employer have your hands tied and cannot take any action.

A person can be considered disabled if he or she has a physical or a mental impairment, which has a substantial and long term effect on the person’s ability to carry on with daily activities. This impairment can be expected to last for a year or more.

As per the act, you as an employer will have to take all required steps to ensure a return to work, which may include looking for suitable duties and alternative roles, as and when possible.

It is important to ensure that any records of discussions that you have had with your employee suggesting reasonable alternatives and adjustments are maintained.

Things to consider when terminating an employee on medical grounds

The employment tribunal considers it to be a fair dismissal only if you have followed the appropriate procedure and hence it is suggested to follow the below mentioned steps to consider dismissal on the basis of ill health of an employee:

  • Make sure that the absence has been dealt with in accordance with your absence policy.
  • Stay in touch with the employee so you can be informed regarding their condition and their chances of returning back to work.
  • Commission a medical report from medical authorities with prior permission of that employee. Review the role and capabilities of concerned employee and look for possible adjustments. Also consider if another job is available that the employee can perform.
  • Based on the information you have, carry out a risk assessment and involve the staff member during the same.
  • Look for ways in which you can facilitate the employee’s return to work.
  • Stay in contact after the employee has returned to work.

In case after following the above guidance, there is no possibility of return to work date, nor any adjustments, you can terminate the employee on the grounds of ill health.