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Formal Sanctions

Improvement Notice

If as a result of a formal Stage 1 or 2 Absence Review Meeting the employee’s attendance is found to be unsatisfactory the manager will write to the employee to issue an Improvement Notice. The Improvement Notice will state the improvement in attendance required, targets for improvement, the timescale for improvement (“the review period”), any support to be provided and the consequence of not meeting the attendance targets within the review period. It will also set out the employee’s right of appeal.

The manager will monitor the employee’s attendance during the review period and will hold regular review meetings. On completion of the review period the manager will write to the employee to inform them of the outcome.

An Improvement Notice will remain active for a specified period. This will usually be six months for a First Improvement Notice and one year for a Final Improvement Notice, after which time it will remain on file for reference purposes but will be disregarded when making a decision on future sickness absence proceedings.


The dismissal of an employee on the grounds of long-term ill-health should be a last resort only after all other options have been fully considered and discussed with the employee, and after all possible adjustments have been made to support the employee's continuing employment.

Long-term sickness absence can be a fair reason for dismissal. However, for a dismissal to be fair in practice the employer would have to show that the employee's long-term absence was sufficient to justify dismissal and that it acted reasonably in dismissing the employee for this reason.

Before contemplating dismissal, the manager should consult with the relevant HR Business Manager or their team to review the circumstances to establish whether or not proper grounds for dismissal exist. In order to ensure that a dismissal on the grounds of long-term ill-health is capable of being fair, the manager should, as a minimum, ensure that he or she:

  • Consults with the employee regularly and keeps him or her in the loop about any proposals or plans regarding his or her ongoing employment;
  • Reviews the employee's absence record to assess whether or not it is sufficient when considered in context to justify dismissal;
  • Obtains up-to-date medical advice prior to taking any final decision;
  • Reviews whether or not there are any other jobs that the employee could do; and
  • Acts reasonably towards the employee throughout.

The key question is whether or not in all the circumstances the employer can reasonably be expected, in light of the requirements of the business, to wait any longer for the employee to recover and return to work. This will depend, among other things, on the size and resources of the Institution and the degree of disruption or difficulty that the employee's long-term absence is causing.

Often the best approach is routinely to review the status of the employee after a specified period of absence, for example six months or a year. At this point it may be appropriate to set a further time limit for a decision to be made about the employee's continuing employment. Where this is done, it will be vital to inform the employee about the time limit and that a decision is to be made when that time arrives if he or she is still absent.

In the event that dismissal is recommended, Statute C, Schedule, Chapter IV should be followed for established officers. For all other University employees, the decision to dismiss on the grounds of unsatisfactory attendance is made under the Sickness Absence Policy. The Director of HR should be consulted in advance of the proposed dismissal of any employee.