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Sick leave. When do you need to conduct a thorough investigation?

by , 10 March 2015
There are situations when an employee isn't performing as good as you would like to. And it's in this situation when you have to find out if it's because of an injury or ill-health.

In general, this is a situation you clarify at any performance management meeting.

In most cases, your employee will usually raise the problem with you. There could also be times when you can obviously pick this up. For instance, when an employee takes a lot of sick leave, or is often late for work and says it's because of illness or injury.

The moment you notice these issues are because of ill-health or injury, you need to check if the disability is temporary or permanent.

This is when you need to doa through a proper investigation To find out if your employee can carry on working for you.
Now most permanent disabilities are obvious. And you can usually find out how long atemporary disability will last by asking the employee or his doctor for the details. But this might not always be possible. In this case, you must do a full investigation to find out the details. This is especailly important when you have to deal with mental disabilities.

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You must give your employee a chance to tell his side of the story. You must also let his trade union representative or a fellow employee help him.

If the disability won't last a long time, the problem will sort itself out. The employee will probably just take sick leave and get the right treatment so he can recover.

You might need to hire a temporary replacement in this instance. If the disability is temporary, but he needs to take a lot of time off for sick leave, look at all possible solutions short of dismissal.

Your solutions depend on the factors set out in the DoL's Code of Good Practice:

• The nature of the job;
• The length of absence;
• The seriousness of the disability; and
• The need for a temporary replacement.

You shouldn't dismiss your employee for a temporary disability, unless:

• That disability is significant;
• It's a long-term disability; and
• There are no reasonable alternatives you could use for him to keep his job.

If the disability is permanent, think of all possible ways to keep him employed.

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