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Selecting the Appropriate Procedure

It is important to identify the correct procedure for managing absence issues as early as possible so that appropriate support can be offered to the employee.

Advice should be sought from HR if managers are unsure which procedure is appropriate or they believe they may need to follow a different procedure.  If, in the course of investigating an employee’s absence, it becomes clear that it would be more appropriate to continue under a different procedure, this should be discussed with the employee and confirmed in writing.

Sickness absence or capability

In deciding whether the Sickness Absence Policy or the Capability Policy will apply, consideration should be given to how the ill-health is affecting the employee's ability to carry out their job to the required standard.  If the issue is primarily that the individual has unacceptable levels of absence from work, then the Sickness Absence Policy will apply.  If the individual is largely attending work but their performance of their work is affected due to ill-health, the Capability Policy will apply. For advice and guidance on managing cases related to capability, please contact the relevant HR Business Manager or their team.


Absence due to persistent lateness or poor timekeeping should be managed under the relevant Disciplinary Policy.  For advice and guidance on managing cases related to conduct, please contact the relevant HR Business Manager or their team.


Consideration must be given to whether an individual’s absence may be caused or exacerbated by a disability under the Equality Act 2010.  Disability is defined under the Act as a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on an individual’s ability to do normal daily activities.  Where this is the case, care should be taken to avoid discrimination arising from the disability.  In practice, this means that any action taken in response to absence concerns will need to be proportionate and appropriate.  Consideration must also be given to whether there are reasonable adjustments which could be made to the employee’s working arrangements, including changing duties or providing additional training, as well as making reasonable adjustments to the application of the Sickness Absence Policy.  Details of where to access further information are provided below:

Special leave

Time off for surgery, treatment and recuperation that relates to a medical or psychological condition and is supported by a medical certificate will be treated as sick leave.

In cases of elective surgery, annual leave should be taken in the first instance.  In exceptional circumstances, unpaid leave may be granted subject to the operational needs of the Institution.  Elective surgery is surgery that is not considered to be medically necessary, including cosmetic procedures through surgical and medical techniques.  Requests for time off for surgery, treatment and recuperation should follow the normal process for requesting annual leave. In the event that such treatment results in an employee becoming unfit for work (e.g. due to infection or other complications), the usual sickness absence provisions will apply, including procedures for certification.

Please note that the University has separate detailed guidance on leave for fertility treatment and gender reassignment treatment.  Further advice is available from the relevant HR Business Manager or their team.

Other relevant policies and procedures

Other University policies and procedures that may assist with supporting and managing an employee’s sickness absence include the following: