Attendance Management Policy - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Attendance Management Policy - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) This document should be read in conjunction with the Attendance Management Policy and...
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Attendance Management Policy - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) This document should be read in conjunction with the Attendance Management Policy and other relevant university policies, procedures and guidance.

1.

Why is an Attendance Management Policy (AMP) being introduced?

The AMP is being introduced to improve employee attendance by ensuring that issues to do with employee health and wellbeing are addressed in an appropriate and timely manner. The policy forms part of the university’s overarching commitment to employee wellbeing and is one of the mechanisms through which the university will seek to help employees maintain health and wellbeing in the workplace. The policy acknowledges that employees will be absent but there may be occasions where an employee’s overall attendance levels are a cause for concern. Employee absence does have an impact on the university, on colleagues and our students. It is a key part of the policy that employees understand that impact and that this is contextualised. Having a clear policy in place for managing attendance is considered best practice, particularly for large organisations such as DMU.

2.

Who does the policy apply to?

The policy applies to all DMU employees (including part time hourly paid lecturers); with the exception that formal action under the procedure, e.g. formal Attendance Management Meetings (AMMs), will not apply to employees serving a period of probation. Absence for probationary employees will still be recorded and monitored through MyAttendance, however concerns about attendance for employees on probation will be considered as a factor in the review of the probationary period in line with the Probationary Policy.

3.

What is MyAttendance?

MyAttendance is an online absence recording and monitoring system. It will be used by managers to record when an employee is absent. The system will launch at the same time as the policy and will notify managers automatically when an employee has ‘triggered’ under the AMP. It can also be used by employees to request holiday electronically. A full list of the absence that is recorded in MyAttendance can be found in the Recording and Monitoring Absence guidance. In summary, all absence is recorded in the system including sickness absence, unauthorised absence, annual

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leave, bereavement leave, domestic emergencies, parental leave and maternity leave. Not all absences recorded in MyAttendance will ‘trigger’ the AMP (see FAQ number 14 for further information).

4.

What is the notification method if I am absent from work?

See the Notification of sickness absence procedure and the “What to do when you’re sick” flowchart. An employee must telephone their line manager on the first day of absence before they are due to begin work. Notification via voicemail, email or text message is not acceptable and contact with the line manager should be made by telephone. If the line manager is not available then the employee should telephone an alternative designated contact. An employee can self-certify their absence for up to seven consecutive calendar days. If the employee continues to be absent at this point, they must obtain medical certificates (‘fit notes’) to cover their continuing absence. See guidance: Fit notes and Return to Work Plans.

5.

Why is it a requirement to notify the line manager by telephone?

Telephone contact is required so that the manager (or alternative designated contact) can obtain all the necessary information at the time the absence is reported. This telephone conversation starts an important dialogue between the manager and employee. Before the policy was introduced there was inconsistent practice in how absence was reported with some employees sending a text or an email to their managers – sometimes out of hours, or leaving messages with colleagues rather than speaking to their line manager directly. The procedure makes it clear that telephone contact with the line manager is expected. If the individual is unable to make telephone contact personally, and they have made all reasonable efforts to do so, they should contact the alternative designated contact or, as a last resort, leave a message and make an attempt to speak to their manager (or the designated contact) later in the day.

6.

Under what circumstances are return to work discussions held?

It is a requirement of the policy that return to work discussions are held after every sickness absence regardless of the length of absence, so this will include absences of one day or less. It is important that managers apply the policy consistently to all employees. _______________________________________ November 2015

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The Recording and monitoring absence guidance provides further information on the circumstances where the discussion is mandatory and where it is recommended or optional.

7.

What is the purpose of a return to work discussion?

Return to work discussions are part of the normal and expected dialogue between an employee and their line manager. The purpose of the discussion is to welcome the employee back to work, provide updates on any changes that have taken place while they have been absent and to ensure fit notes have been received where required. It is also an opportunity for line managers to offer advice and support in terms of reducing the likelihood of further absence. It should be a supportive and empathetic discussion. Depending on the nature of the absence, the discussion may be very informal and last no more than a few minutes. Although the meeting is informal, it should be held in a private room to enable a confidential discussion between the line manager and employee to take place and, if the absence is following a period of sickness absence, a record of the meeting will be made using the Absence Record and Return to Work Discussion Form. See the Absence Record and Return to Work Discussion Form for further guidance.

8.

Do employees have a right to representation at a return to work discussion?

Return to work discussions are informal and are part of the normal and expected dialogue between an employee and their line manager. There is no right to be accompanied by a trade union representative or a work colleague at a meeting set up for the purpose of holding a return to work discussion.

9.

What if an employee does not want to discuss the reason for their sickness absence with their line manager?

Employees are encouraged to share the reasons for their sickness absence confidentially with their line manager as part of the return to work discussion so that the manager is aware of the employee’s circumstances and needs, and so that they can consider what support might be required to help the individual maintain a good attendance record going forward. If an employee chooses not to disclose information to their manager, then the manager can only act based on the information available to them.

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10. Is it possible to delegate the responsibility of return to work discussions if the line manager is absent? It is important to ensure return to work discussions take place in the manager’s absence if it is not possible for them to personally hold the return to work discussion in the relevant timescales. Where it is unavoidable, another suitable person may be asked to carry out the return to work discussion on the absent manager’s behalf.

11. If an employee has more than one job for the university, which line managers will have access to the attendance management system and should manage their attendance? Both managers will have access to absence records for that employee. Formal attendance management processes, if required, will normally be led by the manager for the employee’s most substantive role for the university. 12. What is a trigger point? A trigger point is the point at which the level of absence for an individual has become a cause for concern and a formal Attendance Management Meeting (AMM) will be held. There are two trigger points within the policy:  

5 separate periods of absence in a rolling 12 month period (this will be reduced to 4 periods after the policy has been in place for 18 months) or 10 days (74 hours) consecutive or non-consecutive absence in a rolling 12 month period (pro rata for part-time employees).

13. How were the trigger points determined? The trigger points were developed following benchmarking with other higher education institutions, from research to determine best practice in this area, and following consultation with a range of relevant stakeholders. The trigger mechanism outlined in the policy has also been chosen because it can be readily understood and applied consistently to all employees.

14. What types of absence are counted towards the trigger points? The types of absence that are counted towards trigger points are: sickness absence, unauthorised absence and persistent lateness. The Recording and Monitoring Absence guidance provides further information on other types of absence that may be recorded on MyAttendance but will not count towards trigger accrual. For example special leave, annual leave etc. _______________________________________ November 2015

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15. If an employee is deemed unfit by their line manager to be at work, can they be sent home? If an employee is unfit to do their job, their line manager can request that they go home on sick leave. However, the manager will need to be certain that the employee is unfit to do their job before making such a request. In such situations it is advised that the manager gains advice from HR and in certain cases the manager should arrange for the employee to see an Occupational Health Adviser.

16. What is an Attendance Management Meeting (AMM)? Employees who have returned to work following a period of absence (short term or long term) and have reached a trigger point under the AMP will be invited to a formal AMM with their line manager within two weeks of their return to work. The AMM will consider the employee’s attendance record and all relevant factors and will determine what action, if any, is required. Appropriate action can include the issuing of a formal warning alongside any other appropriate action to help the employee improve their attendance. The AMM also gives the employee the opportunity to discuss any factors that might be contributing to their absence and the support that might be available for the employee in the future. It is important to note that a guiding principle of the policy is that all absence is presumed to be genuine. A requirement to attend an AMM does not imply that the employee is suspected of taking sickness absence for non-genuine reasons. The AMM is required because of concerns about the levels of absence. As this is a formal meeting at which a warning might be issued, the employee has the right to be accompanied at this meeting if they wish by a trade union representative or a work colleague.

17.

Is an AMM the same as a disciplinary hearing?

There are similarities in that a disciplinary hearing is concerned with an employee’s failure to meet expected standards of conduct or performance whereas an AMM is concerned with the employee’s failure to meet expected standards of attendance. A disciplinary hearing might result in the employee receiving a warning that failure to improve their conduct or performance might result in a further warning or it might result in dismissal. Similarly, an AMM might result in the employee receiving a warning that failure to improve their attendance might result in a further warning or dismissal.

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18. What type of warnings could be issued following an AMM? A formal warning will normally be issued following an AMM unless there is a compelling reason why this would not be appropriate (see FAQ 19 below). The purpose of the warning is to notify the employee that their absence is a cause for concern and that a failure to improve their attendance could lead to a further warning or it may lead to dismissal. There are three levels of warnings that can be issued under this policy: 

Stage 1 – Formal Oral Warning This will remain live for six months from the date of the AMM.



Stage 2 – Formal Written Warning This will normally remain live for twelve months from the date of the AMM. If the employee’s absence remains at or above the trigger point while a stage 2 warning is still live, the employee will be required to attend a further AMM, which may lead to a formal stage 3 warning.



Stage 3 – Final Written Warning A stage 3 formal warning will normally remain live for eighteen months.



Consideration of Dismissal

If an AMM is held for an employee with improving attendance levels who has nevertheless triggered the next stage of the procedure, it is possible to issue a repeat stage warning rather than advancing to the next stage if appropriate in the circumstances.

19.

Under what circumstances would a warning not be issued?

A warning will normally be issued unless there is a compelling reason why this would not be appropriate. Guidance is available to assist managers in making decisions in a fair and consistent manner. See the guidance: Attendance Management Meetings. If the employee’s absence is pregnancy-related then a warning must not be issued. If an employee’s absence is because of a disability, the manager must refer to the separate guidance on Disability-related absence and must discuss the circumstances with HR before any decision on whether to issue a warning is taken.

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20. Why must an employee attend an AMM if a warning will not be issued, for example if the individual has had a serious, isolated health condition or event? The purpose of the AMM is to discuss the employee’s absence and reach a decision on whether a warning is or isn’t appropriate or if any other action that might be required instead. This could include consideration of any support or adjustments that might be needed to help the employee maintain satisfactory attendance in the future. The matter should not be predetermined and it is important to apply a consistent set of rules to all employees.

21. Is it a requirement that an HR adviser is present at AMMs? It is not a requirement of the policy for HR advisers to be present at AMMs. HR will be available in order to provide support and advice to line managers on how to ensure they apply the policy consistently to all staff and they may occasionally attend meetings if necessary, although not as a matter of routine. The policy is supported by comprehensive guidance and FAQs, and full training has been provided to managers as part of the Attendance Management Policy launch.

22. How does this policy apply to people on long term sick leave? Long term sick leave is defined in the AMP as a period of continuous sickness absence of four weeks or more. Managers should adopt a case management approach, supporting the employee’s return to work where possible. In managing cases of long term sickness it is likely that there will be a case review with the individual to understand the nature of their condition and the timescales for their return to work. A referral to Occupational Health (OH) is likely to take place to gain medical advice on how to support the individual in their return to work where appropriate. The advice from OH might include changes to work duties or working patterns. Long term absence will trigger the requirement to hold an AMM once the employee has returned to work and therefore may result in a warning being issued depending on the individual case. It is good practice to advise the employee as part of the process of managing their long-term absence and their return to work that they will have triggered the AMP so that there are no surprises on their return to work. See the guidance on: Long-term sickness absence

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23. Why does the policy advise keeping in contact with absent employees? Keeping in contact with absent employees is expected good management practice. Contact is usually appreciated by employees and early intervention is key to helping the employee return to work. The longer an employee is absent, the more difficult it is for them to return to work. See the guidance on: Long-term sickness absence - “Keeping in contact”.

24. How will disability related absences be managed within the AMP? If an employee has a disability, as defined in the Equality Act 2010 (see definition in the guidance), then this will be managed on a case by case basis. It is likely that medical advice will have been sought to understand the condition and what reasonable adjustments could be made. If an employee with a disability triggers an AMM under the policy then the case must be discussed with HR before a warning is issued. Prior to any warning being issued it will be important to understand the nature of the absences that have triggered the meeting and whether any identified reasonable adjustments have been put in place. It should also be noted that the AMP is designed to improve employee attendance by ensuring that issues to do with employee health and wellbeing are addressed in an appropriate and timely manner for all staff. Therefore the policy also provides a mechanism for disabled employees to raise any work factors that might be impacting on their ability to maintain good attendance so that reasonable adjustments or further reasonable adjustments can be considered. Further guidance is available in the document: Disability-related absence

25. What role does Occupational Health have under the AMP? The Occupational Health (OH) service is a supportive function and is there to provide advice to managers and employees in relation to health and wellbeing. Referrals to OH usually take place in cases of long term sickness absence (four weeks or more) or if there is a specific concern regarding an employee’s health. The OH team will provide a report to advise the university and the employee of what steps could be taken to aid the employee’s return to work if absent, or adjustments that could be made in the workplace to help reduce the prospect of further absences. DMU’s OH service is in a unique position to be able to provide advice to the employee and the university due to their expert knowledge of our workplace environment and demands of the employee’s job role.

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26. How confidential is the sickness absence information provided by employees? The university will consider the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998 when requesting, recording and monitoring information on individual sickness absence and will follow best practice guidelines as recommended by the Information Commissioner in the way it holds and shares information on absence records. All DMU staff with responsibility for any stage of the policy and/or with access to confidential and sensitive data about employees’ health are required to treat all information relating to individuals confidential and in accordance with the principles of the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988. In accordance with the university’s Code of Conduct for DMU staff, failure to comply with the data protection or other standards detailed in the Code may result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.

27. What are the transition arrangements for those people already in a formal process for attendance? The AMP has been introduced to provide a consistent approach to the management of attendance across the university. However, it is acknowledged that at the time of launch there will be employees who are currently in a formal attendance or capability process or who have sickness absence over the previous 12 months that might result in them immediately triggering the AMP following launch. The following transitional arrangements have therefore been determined: 

Accrual of absences for trigger purposes under the new AMP will not commence until the launch date of 16 November 2015. Therefore, an employee will not be invited to an AMM under the new AMP until they have accumulated absence sufficient to trigger the AMP with effect from 16 November 2015. Even though they will not trigger until their absence has reached the trigger level after the launch date, once the AMP has been triggered, the manager will be considering all relevant absence recorded in MyAttendance in the previous 12 months at the AMM and in considering whether to issue a warning will take into consideration the employee’s overall attendance record with the university ie in determining whether a warning is appropriate in all the circumstances of the case the manager can consider the employee’s overall attendance record with the university and is not restricted to only taking into account those absences that have caused them to trigger.



Employees who are in a formal attendance or ill health capability process at the time of the launch will continue to be considered under that current

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process until the case has been resolved or for a period of 12 months after the launch of the policy whichever is sooner. 

It should be noted that the existing incapability agreements are unaffected by the introduction of the AMP and therefore capability cases currently being considered under the incapability procedures will continue to be considered under those procedures with reference to the appropriate parts of the AMP where applicable. For example, if an existing employee is being considered for dismissal under a current incapability procedure then the process for consideration of dismissal will be considered under the AMP.

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