02 April, 2019
Accidents happen…just as much in the workplace as they do in the outside world. Employees may unfortunately sustain an injury while at work, which could result in them being off sick. This could be a slip resulting in a broken leg, with multiple operations required, or could be sustained due to incorrect operation of machinery. The key thing from an Employer's perspective is to ensure that adequate training, risk assessments and safeguards are put in place to avoid these injuries being sustained in the first place. But that said…accidents still happen.
So, how should Employers' manage a sickness absence that has come around as a result of an injury at work? Consistency - Employers' should ensure that the sickness absence itself is treated the same as if the injury were sustained out of work. This means implementing your sickness absence procedures and looking at how employees' with similar injuries have been treated in the past.
However, where an injury is sustained at work, the investigation is key. Did the employee fail to follow procedure, resulting in the injury? Did the employee follow procedure and training exactly, but there was a fault with a machine or an omission by the Employer? This will be crucial as it will determine whether there is any disciplinary action warranted, further training required or remedial action to be taken immediately. If there may have been a breach by the Employer, you need to consult with your Health & Safety managers or legal representatives, to ensure that any action taken to mitigate or alleviate the risks of further injury and/or personal injury claims is taken in good time.
Employers' should ensure that their insurers are notified immediately and consulted throughout the process. Insurers may advise that the sickness absence needs to be managed less strictly due to the imminent risk of a claim for the personal injury, as this could affect the employees claim for loss of earnings. However, as stated above, consistency is key and should always be considered in these circumstances.
In terms of managing the sickness absence, this will be dependent upon your policies and procedures and the nature of the injury sustained. If the employee is likely to be off sick for a long period of time, the process will usually involve a series of informal welfare meetings and at least three formal stages where a warning may be given and could result in termination of employment on grounds of capability. Employers' should always be aware of whether the employee may be considered disabled as a result of the injury and consult a medical expert for clarification on the injury. This will then determine the next steps in the sickness absence management procedure and whether the duty to make reasonable adjustments applies.
Managing sickness absence is not always straightforward, particularly where the injury is sustained at work. We would advise consulting with your legal representatives in relation to both the HR aspect and Health & Safety in the workplace.