Absence Policies and Disabled Employees

Posted in : Seamus Says - Employment Law Discussion on 2 March 2018
Seamus McGranaghan
O'Reilly Stewart Solicitors
Issues covered:

Q. How should an employer differentiate the absence levels for someone who’s disabled?

Scott: How long is that piece of string there? So, you’ve got a disabled person who’s going to have more absences than a non-disabled person, but you’re trying to apply an absence policy that’s similar to what you’ve said. Are there reasonable adjustments that can reduce that? But if not, it’s not that you have to discount every single absence from a disabled person?

Seamus: No. That’s it. Again, it’s about being reasonable. Before you know that you have an employee, for instance, that is going to be late for work because they have an issue and they have a condition that flares up in the morning and takes them longer, the reasonable adjustment would obviously be to say, “Rather than start at 9:00 a.m., we’re going to provide you with a shift restart at 10:00 a.m. or 11:00 a.m. or something along those lines.”

So, it’s looking about how to facilitate the employee. I know within certain contracts, there will be triggers for so many days’ absence under the automatic triggers. It’s almost as if employers feel that once these triggers are hit that they have no alternative but to sanction and to penalise and go through disciplinary processes. I suppose you do need to look at the reasonable adjustments for an employee that is absent because of a disability.

Scott: There’s no set level, that’s the problem. Take each case on its merits. You’ve got to consider what might work. It’s not just looking at the absence level. It’s can we do anything that can reduce it? If the absence keeps going on and on and on, the reasonable accommodation won’t work.

Seamus: No.

Scott: Therefore, you can well be looking at dismissal.

Seamus: You could be. It’s about getting in there early. It’s about identifying the issues and really applying your mind as to what solutions we can find for this. But again, it has to be through consultation with the employee.


This article is correct at 02/03/2018

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Seamus McGranaghan
O'Reilly Stewart Solicitors

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