The University wishes to treat sympathetically and sensitively those members of staff with serious or long-term illness. This procedure is only designed to deal with situations where a member of staff may be unable to perform his or her job satisfactorily, owing to persistent or serious ongoing or underlying physical or mental health problems, for example in the case of:
a) long term sickness absence;
b) frequent intermittent sickness absence, which is found to be attributable to an underlying medical condition;
c) sustained difficulty in fulfilling the required standards of a role due to an underlying medical condition, although the member of staff is not absent from work.
Frequent intermittent sickness absence not attributable to an underlying medical condition may be more appropriately dealt with under the University’s capability and performance procedure.
For staff reporting within the academic school/faculty structure, references to Appropriate Manager shall usually be construed as referring to either the Head of School or School/Faculty Manager, but may in appropriate cases refer to a head of department or head of discipline. In support process areas, references to Appropriate Manager shall usually refer to either the Divisional Head, or in larger areas, other postholders within the line management structure as appropriate.
In this procedure, unless the context indicates otherwise, references to University postholders and Appropriate Managers shall be construed to refer either to the postholder or the Appropriate Manager or to an appropriate member of staff nominated by him or her to act with full authority on his or her behalf.
Throughout any proceedings taken under this procedure, the University shall seek to ensure that a high standard of confidentiality is maintained, before and after the hearing as well as in relation to the hearing itself. Care shall be taken not to undermine the position of the member of staff concerned in relation to his or her colleagues. Investigations shall be undertaken with discretion. Where necessary to ensure confidentiality, administrative support shall be provided by Human Resources Wherever practicable, hearings shall be held away from the member of staff’s normal place of work. However none of this shall preclude information about the outcome being given to any person where this is appropriate, and the University shall disclose information:
a) to those who need to know in order to discharge their responsibilities;
b) where disclosure is necessary in the interests of health and safety at work or the welfare of other staff, students or the public;
c) where disclosure is required by law.
A member of staff who is subject to proceedings under this ordinance has the right to attend hearings and to be represented by an adviser, friend, trade union or other representative. If the member of staff is for good reason unable to attend a formal hearing, the hearing shall be adjourned to a suitable alternative date within a reasonable time. However if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the member of staff is refusing or failing to attend a hearing without good cause, the member of staff will be informed that a further hearing is being arranged. On that further occasion the University may proceed in the absence of the member of staff, unless satisfied that there are good grounds for his or her non-attendance. Any submission concerning non-attendance made by the member of staff in writing, or by his or her representative in person or in writing, shall be considered before any decision is taken to hear the matter in his or her absence. If the hearing proceeds in the member of staff’s absence, any submission made about the capability and performance by the member of staff in writing, or by his or her representative in person or in writing, shall be considered at the hearing.
Support provided in the early days of an illness may assist a member of staff to return to work or to full duties. Where the member of staff is absent from work through ill-health, both the Appropriate Manager and the member of staff have a duty to maintain contact with one another. Appropriate action will depend on the nature of the illness and the circumstances of the case. Normally after the member of staff has been absent from work for six weeks, the Appropriate Manager, together with a HR manager, will review the case and determine what action should be taken. This may include a request to visit the member of staff at home for a meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to gain a clearer understanding of the situation and establish whether the member of staff needs help, support or assistance from the University. The meeting will also provide the member of staff with an opportunity to discuss any concerns or questions he or she may have.
The member of staff may be accompanied at the meeting by an adviser, friend, trade union or other representative. Following the meeting, a decision shall be made to review the situation at a later date, seek further medical advice, or obtain advice from the University’s Occupational Health Service.
The University may have reasonable grounds to believe that continuation at work by a member of staff will pose a risk to the health and safety of the member of staff or others. In these circumstances, the Vice-Chancellor may suspend the member of staff on full pay, requiring him or her to stay away from work pending medical advice. The decision to suspend the member of staff shall be confirmed in writing by the Human Resources Director. Written reasons for the decision shall be recorded and made available to the member of staff. A member of staff who is suspended is prohibited from entering University premises and from participating in University activities. Partial suspension may be employed, allowing the member of staff to engage in some only of his or her normal duties. The suspension shall not be classified as sick leave, and the member of staff shall not be required to produce medical certificates during the period of suspension.
Wherever possible, when suspension of a member of staff is being considered, the member of staff will be interviewed and invited to make representations before any suspension order is made. He or she will be entitled to be accompanied at any such interview by an adviser, friend, trade union or other representative. A member of staff who has been suspended may make representations to the Vice-Chancellor concerning the suspension as soon as is reasonably practicable. The representations may be made in person or in writing, as the member of staff chooses, and may be put forward by the member of staff or his or her adviser, friend, trade union or other representative. A decision to suspend a member of staff shall be subject to review at the request of the member of staff after four weeks. Such a review shall not involve a hearing, but the member of staff, either personally or through an adviser, friend, trade union or other representative, shall be entitled to make written representations.
The review shall be conducted by the Vice-Chancellor. In addition to the initial review, the Vice-Chancellor shall review the suspension on receipt of evidence of altered circumstances which affect the original decision. Where the Vice-Chancellor appoints a nominee, the same person may deal with the original suspension and any subsequent representations.
Where there are concerns about the health of a member of staff, the University may ask for consent to obtain a written report from the member of staff’s general practitioner or consultant, or to refer the member of staff to the University’s Occupational Health Adviser. This shall be arranged by Human Resources The purpose is to obtain medical evidence and advice on issues such as:
a) the nature and extent of the health problems;
b) timescales for recovery;
c) whether there are contributory factors of which the University should be aware, whether or not work-related;
d) advice as to how the University might help towards an early return to work or to adequate performance;
e) whether there are likely to be any longer term effects that might require work adjustments;
f) whether there is anything the University should do to help prevent a future recurrence of illness;
g) whether ill health retirement might be considered.
On receipt of the medical report or reports, the HR manager shall discuss with the member of staff and his or her Appropriate Manager the advice received. The HR manager shall also discuss any adjustments which might be made to the member of staff’s job, taking account of the requirements of disability legislation. If a member of staff remains absent from work, he or she shall still need to maintain contact with his or her Appropriate Manager and continue to provide medical certificates.
In many cases a member of staff will recover sufficiently to be able to return to full contractual duties. However in some circumstances temporary or permanent adjustments may be made to facilitate his or her return. These may include:
a) changes to working practices or patterns;
b) a restriction on duties or changes in the way in which work is carried out;
c) provision of equipment;
d) changes in working hours.
Sometimes a phased return to work may be indicated, particularly where the member of staff has been absent for a considerable period of time. Such arrangements shall normally only be put in place on medical advice and where the arrangements have been discussed and agreed beforehand between the member of staff and Appropriate Manager. A reduction in hours is not a permanent right, and shall be subject to ongoing negotiation with the Appropriate Manager. In such circumstances, the member of staff shall receive the normal full rate of pay for a maximum period of two months. If the arrangement needs to be extended beyond two months, the member of staff’s contractual hours of work and salary shall be adjusted accordingly, save that the member of staff’s salary shall not be reduced below that which he or she would have received had he or she remained away from work.
Where medical evidence indicates that it is unlikely that the member of staff will be able to return to his or her current role within a reasonable period of time, it may be possible to consider re-deployment to an alternative role (under the University’s Guidance for Managers for the Consideration for the Redeployment of Staff).
Where the member of staff is a member of a pension scheme and has indicated a wish to pursue ill health retirement, Human Resources shall arrange for an application to be made to the scheme.
Where adjustments, re-deployment or ill-health early retirement are not viable options, the Human Resources Director shall write to the member of staff to the effect that his or her employment may be terminated on the grounds of incapability through ill health. This will be considered only as a last resort. The absence of medical diagnosis does not prevent dismissal. Under the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 (as amended), members of staff have the right not to disclose their medical reports. In such cases, the member of staff shall be advised that in the absence of medical evidence, his or her further employment shall be assessed on the information available.
Where the Appropriate Manager and HR manager consider that the circumstances may justify termination of the contract on the grounds of ill health, this shall be discussed with the member of staff. Where there is mutual agreement that termination of the contract is the most appropriate solution, the Human Resources Director shall write to the member of staff confirming this. Where a member of staff’s employment is terminated, this shall be with contractual or statutory notice, whichever is greater, during which time the member of staff shall receive full pay.
Where the member of staff does not agree that the circumstances justify termination of his or her contract on the grounds of ill health, then the matter shall be referred to a panel.
In the case of a member of staff to whom Statute 32 applies, the Vice-Chancellor shall appoint to the panel three members with no prior involvement in the case, including a lay member of Council in the chair, and a member of the academic staff appointed by Senate. At least one member of the panel shall be medically qualified. Where the case concerns a member of the clinical academic staff, who is required to engage in clinical work or activities and for that purpose to be registered with the General Medical or Dental Council or similar body and/or to have an honorary or substantive contract or status with a National Health Service trust or similar body, then the panel may include, in addition to its other members, an appropriate representative of the National Health Service, appointed by the Chief Executive of the Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Strategic Area Health Authority or successor body.
In the case of a member of staff to whom Statute 32 does not apply, the dean or head of division shall appoint to the panel three members who have no prior involvement in the case, at least one of whom shall be from outside the school or division, nominating one of them as Chair. At least one member of the panel shall be medically qualified.
The Human Resources Director shall act as secretary to the panel, to give advice and to assist the panel, and shall arrange for a note of the proceedings to be taken. The panel may seek independent legal advice. The University shall normally be represented by the relevant HR manager and Appropriate Manager. At least seven working days before the hearing the Human Resources Director shall circulate the relevant documentation to the panel, the member of staff and the Appropriate Manager, including representations from the member of staff, witness statements and medical evidence. Subject to the provisions of this ordinance, and to representations made by the member of staff, the order of proceedings at the hearing shall be at the discretion of the panel Human Resources will issue guidelines on procedure from time to time).
The panel shall rely only on written or oral evidence presented at the hearing. Normally evidence shall be given by witnesses appearing in person, who may be called by the University, the member of staff or the panel. All such witnesses may be questioned by the University representative, the member of staff or his or her representative, and members of the panel. The panel may accept a written statement in evidence where the member of staff agrees that the author of the statement need not attend, or where it is impracticable for him or her to attend, or where in the opinion of the panel it is for some other reason in the interests of justice to do so.
The panel may ask for additional enquiries to be undertaken, further medical evidence to be obtained, and may call for additional persons to attend. The individual will be invited to produce further medical evidence should they so wish. While every effort will be made to ensure that the member of staff is not rushed in the presentation of his or her case, the panel may impose reasonable time limits on oral addresses and submissions. The panel shall refuse to admit evidence that is, in its opinion, irrelevant to the issues raised. The panel shall have power to adjourn a hearing to another date. The panel shall ensure that the proceedings are dealt with expeditiously. It may set time limits for each stage of the proceedings, and may specify dates by which any stage of the proceedings must be completed. The panel shall decide whether or not to terminate the employment of the member of staff. Normally a unanimous verdict will be expected, but if, exceptionally, the members of the panel cannot agree, the verdict of the panel shall be that of the majority of its members. In making its decision it shall take into account factors which may include all or any of the following:
a) the length and frequency of absences to date;
b) the likelihood of an improvement in the member of staff’s health and subsequent ability within a reasonable period of time to return to work or satisfactorily to carry out contractual duties;
c) the nature of the member of staff’s job and the likely impact of the illness on that role;
d) the effect of past and likely future absences on the organisation and other colleagues;
e) the University’s ability to provide continuing cover for the member of staff’s absence;
f) whether there are any reasonable adjustments that could be made to facilitate a return to work or to full contracted duties;
g) the availability of suitable alternative work;
h) efforts already made to rehabilitate or make adjustments.
If the panel decides not to terminate the member of staff’s employment, in the light of any medical advice it may make recommendations for consideration by the Appropriate Manager and Human Resources for reasonable adjustments to working arrangements. Alternatively, where the medical advice suggests that the member of staff’s return to work is likely to be imminent, it may postpone a decision for a period not exceeding three months.
The panel shall give a reasoned decision in writing, which shall be sent to the member of staff. Where a member of staff’s employment is terminated, this shall be with contractual or statutory notice, whichever is greater, and the notice period shall attract full pay. The Human Resources Director shall notify the member of staff of the decision within seven working days. The Vice-Chancellor, having consulted the Chair of the Human Resources Committee, has the power for good reason to suspend the activity of the panel, to stop the proceedings against the member of staff, or to require the proceedings or any stage of the proceedings to be concluded by a given date.
All appeals must be made in writing to the University Secretary within twenty working days of the date when the letter confirming the decision appealed against was sent. The appeal letter shall set out clearly the general grounds on which the appeal is based. A member of staff shall not normally be permitted to raise grounds at the appeal hearing if these were not raised in the original written appeal submission. An appeal may be made under this procedure after a member of staff has left the University following dismissal, however appeal proceedings may be suspended pending the outcome of an employment tribunal application. Appeals shall take the form of a review. There shall be no entitlement to a rehearing of the case and witnesses may be called only with the appeal Committee’s permission. Grounds for appeal include (1) new evidence which could not reasonably have been presented at the hearing at which the original decision was taken, (2) that the original hearing was not conducted fairly, or (3) that the original decision was unreasonable in the light of the findings of fact. The committee shall overturn the original decision if it considers it just to do so.
Council shall appoint a committee of three to consider the appeal, none of whom shall have had any prior involvement in the case. The committee shall include a lay member of Council as Chair, and, in the case of members of staff to whom Statute 32 applies, a member of the academic staff appointed by Senate. At least one member of the panel shall be medically qualified. In the case of members of staff to whom Statute 32 does not apply, the committee will include a member of the support staff appointed by Council. Where the appeal is made by a member of the clinical academic staff, who is required to engage in clinical work or activities and for that purpose to be registered with the General Medical or Dental Council or similar body and/or to have an honorary or substantive contract or status with a National Health Service trust or similar body, then the committee may include, in addition to its other members, an appropriate medically qualified representative of the National Health Service, appointed by the Chief Executive of the Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Strategic Area Health Authority or successor body.
The University Secretary shall act as secretary to the appeal committee. The procedure shall be determined by the committee (Guidelines on procedure shall be issued from time to time). The member of staff may present the appeal in person, attend hearings and be represented by an adviser, friend, trade union or other representative. The University may be represented by a member of staff or lawyer. The committee may adjourn hearings, set time limits for stages of the proceedings, correct accidental errors and dismiss an appeal if there are undue delays in taking the matter forward. Every effort will be made to deal with the matter expeditiously. The committee shall have power to reach a final decision on the matter, or it may decide to remit the matter for further consideration by the original panel. In either case, the committee shall give a reasoned decision in writing, which shall be sent to the member of staff and to Council. Any dismissal under this procedure shall remain in force pending the outcome of an appeal. If the decision to dismiss is overturned, continuity of employment shall be restored.
Approved by Council 2005, effective from 1.1.06
2 July 2010
Updated 7 June 2011 by Human Resources
Senate House, Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TH, UK. Tel: +44 (0)117 928 9000