- Date: Friday 22nd February 2019
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When faced with employees unable to return to work due to illness, employers often consider dismissal on medical grounds. However, it’s vital for you to understand the potential implications and follow a set process if you want to avoid tribunal claims.
Here are the most frequently asked questions when it comes to medical dismissal:
The employee had an accident at work – does that make a difference?
No. Employers often feel they need to make special provisions or pay arrangements because they want to avoid personal injury claims. Quite frankly, these often don’t make a big difference. From an ethical perspective, we do recommend employers assess the situation and support the employee as much as they can to prevent hardship. But it is important to remember that this may not alleviate a claim.
If you do decide to pay over and above their usual sick pay entitlement, make sure you put this in writing and state clearly that this is not an admission of guilt and that payments are made for a restricted period and subject to review (with a clear review date attached).
What is the cut-off point for medical dismissal?
Simply put, there isn’t one. Every case needs to be reviewed individually and it all comes down to what the employer feels is a reasonable burden on the organisation.
Our recommendation is to regularly keep in touch with the employee and discuss their eventual return to work. If, after a period of time, there is no clear indication of a return date, you may want to start medical dismissal proceedings. This period of time may be 3, 6 or 9 months, all depending on the condition and prognosis. It is very unusual for organisations to employ individuals who have been off sick in excess of 12 months.
Medical dismissal should be dealt with under your absence procedures and therefore processes leading up to the final decision may vary. Before making a final decision, the individual will have to be referred to an occupational health specialist, usually a physician rather than an advisor.
A physician is a doctor specialising in occupational health, who establishes a more holistic picture of the individual’s illness and the impact on their work. They will give you a full report with recommendations to consider.
Ultimately though, the decision to dismiss is with the employer. Do bear in mind that once an individual has been dismissed on medical grounds, they are entitled to apply for disability benefits. So, this is not just about ‘getting somebody off the books’. The decision to dismiss should not be taken lightly.
Source: Manuela Grossmann, SSG