Absence Management: Point 7

Don't forget medical reports

It's an important part of absence management to involve an employees GP or bring in specialist occupational health professionals to get a clearer picture of how an employees health may be impacting on their ability to perform their role.

Medical advice can be used to help manage both short and long term absence, but is more commonly used in long-term absence cases.

For short-term absences, it may be appropriate to seek the advice of an employee's GP if there are a string of absences that are for similar reasons. Very often the employee themselves won't think of going to their GP for minor complaints, but a string of similar complaints may point to something underlying which their GP may be able to help them with.

Conversley, if an employee has been (ahem) less than genuine about their illness, then an approach to their GP can sometimes lead to a drastic change in their behaviour.

Medical reports are most important in managing long-term absence though and in severe cases, you must not take action with an absent member of staff without seeking medical advice first.

Medical reports can give you a clear picture of the employees diagnosis and a prognosis for the future. You'll also get an idea of whether the employee is likely to be protected under the disability elements of the Equality Act 2010, that requires employers to make 'reasonable adjustments' to accomodate the needs of the employee. Remember that discrimination on the grounds of disability is against the law and there is no cap on compensation for claims brought to an Employment Tribunal - cases have seen awards into the £millions, although these are extremely rare!

Given the personal nature of a person's medical history, there is legislation around obtaining medical reports so it's important to ensure that this is handled correctly, including requesting the consent of the employee and their rights to view the report. Additionally, you have to make sure that you're asking the right questions of the GP in order to provide you with the information you need.

If you think that medical advice would be helpful in any of your absence management issues, then please get in touch for more advice.

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