REASONABLE ADJUSTMENTS AND SICKNESS ABSENCE POLICIES

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Conference
2016 National Disabled Members' Conference
Date
8 July 2016
Decision

Conference is concerned that the failure of some employers to make reasonable adjustments to sickness absences procedures is preventing an increasing number of Disabled Members from being able to access essential medical treatment.

The usual process of informal and formal sickness hearings often culminating in a formal warning that includes the threat of dismissal is causing Disabled Members to postpone and cancel operations needed to alleviate the impacts of their disability.

Conference all employers have a duty of care to their employees including for their health and wellbeing but some do not understand that this includes making changes to their policies for disabled employees.

We recognise that a disabled person can be dismissed due to sickness absence but if the sickness is disability related this should only be done after all reasonable adjustments have been considered. If a disabled employee’s sickness absence is related to their disability disregarding some or all of this is widely recognised as a reasonable adjustment.

But for some employers this does not seem to be the case once a formal sickness warning has been issues to a disabled worker. Some employers have even refused to make changes to a warning when they know the disabled worker has a planned medical procedure scheduled that will reduce sickness absence in the future.

This is not about sick leave. It is not about disability leave. It is not about special treatment. It is about reasonable adjustment. Even if a formal warning has been issued reasonable adjustments should be considered. A disabled worker should be allowed the time off work for the planned medical procedure and any recuperation without the threat of dismissal or the worry of additional sickness management hearings.

Conference believes that these sorts of absences should be dealt within a Disability Leave Policy. However, we note that a lot of employers don?t have disability leave policies and in those cases they must work within the sickness absence procedures

By refusing to make reasonable adjustments employers are not only risking the health of their disabled employee but risking claims of disability discrimination and reputational damage.

Conference calls on the National Disabled Members Committee to:

1. Work with Branches and Regions to identify cases where sickness absence procedures have led to Disabled Members cancelling, delaying or refusing medical treatment;

2. Identify examples of good practice where employers have made changes to their sickness absence policies in relation to planned medical procedures; and

3. Develop guidance for Branches and Regions to use to negotiate reasonable adjustments to sickness absence policies including amendments to formal sickness warnings.

4. Continue to promote the UNISON model disability leave policy to branches and encourage them to negotiate the introduction of a disability leave policy in their employers