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Sickness Absence Procedure For All Staff



1.1       This procedure is applicable to all employees and is non contractual and is designed to ensure that there is a fair and consistent approach to the management and monitoring of sickness absence across the University.


1.2       The University recognises that from time to time employees will be absent through illness and wishes to provide a supportive framework for employees who are experiencing genuine illness, whilst recognising the impact of such absences on the University. Therefore the University has developed sickness absence procedures that aim to balance the needs of the individual with the operational requirements of the University..

1.3       Cardiff University is committed to equality of opportunity and to promoting an ethos of dignity, courtesy and respect throughout the organisation. The University wishes to create a positive culture towards attendance at work and recognises that sickness absence may take many forms. Cardiff University understands and implements the social model of disability1. Support will be provided to all employees with specific support to those covered by the Equality Act 2010. Support is available, where appropriate, from the Staff Counselling Service and The Occupational Health Unit. Disability has a broad definition and gives protection to some people who wouldn’t necessarily use the term “disabled” to describe themselves. It is an individualised definition in that it starts with the effect on the person rather than the nature of the diagnosis or impairment. Under the Equality Act 2010 a person is considered disabled if they have ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to undertake normal day-to-day activities’. A disability will normally be identified by the individual staff member or maybe identified during discussions regarding the sickness absence. 

1.4       Line managers[2]  have a central role in the effective management of absence due to ill health and its impact upon service provision. This includes ensuring that consideration has been given to the impact of the absence on other staff within the immediate work area. The University aims to empower managers to manage and support employees effectively by understanding the factors affecting their attendance and ensuring employees receive appropriate advice and assistance, including reasonable adjustments to their working arrangements or environment. Where a member of staff’s attendance is affected by a disability the Equality Act 2010 states that an employer has to make reasonable adjustments to any physical feature of the premises, or any provision, criteria or practice of the employer. 

The Code of Practice outlines the issues to be considered in determining whether any particular steps are 'reasonable in all the circumstances'. The factors to take into account are:

  • how effective the adjustment would be in overcoming the disadvantage;
  • how practicable it is to make the adjustment;
  • the financial and other costs incurred by the employer and the extent of any disruption to activities;
  • the extent of the employer's financial and other resources;
  • the availability of financial and/or other assistance in making the adjustment;
  • the nature of the employer's activities and size of undertaking.

An adjustment is simply a change, either to a physical feature of the environment or to the way things are done. It is not possible to give a general definition of what constitutes a “reasonable adjustment” as this will depend upon an individual’s specific needs and circumstances but the aim of such an adjustment is to enable the employee to develop and use their abilities on an equal basis with non-disabled colleagues whenever possible. Further information in relation to the Equality Act 2010 and reasonable adjustments can be found at

1.5       Sickness absence information is sensitive personal data that should be treated strictly confidentially by those receiving such information. All absence monitoring should always be carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998 (as amended). Sickness absence records of members of staff will only be made available to other staff members who need to process the information for monitoring and management purposes. Line managers will be provided with sickness absence information about those who work for them in so far as the information is necessary for the Line manager to carry out their role. Further advice on data protection can be obtained from the University’s Governance and Compliance Division or at


1.6       This procedure is supported by a number of training events to ensure staff involved in managing absence are provided with adequate support and guidance.


2.         The University’s Occupational Health Services


2.1       The University is concerned for the health of its employees and encourages health improvement initiatives, through occupational health advice and guidance.


2.2       The Occupational Health Unit, in consultation with Schools and Directorates, has an integral role to play in assessing individuals where reasonable adjustments are required. Where adjustments are required, these will be discussed with the line manager, the employee and, where appropriate, external advisors such as the ‘access to work[3]’ scheme advisor.


2.3       The Occupational Health Unit will provide advice and guidance and, in consultation with the line manager, the employee and the Human Resources Division will develop a rehabilitation plan.  The Occupational Health Unit will give general medical advice to keep employees in work and, where appropriate, to facilitate their early return to work or other resolution as appropriate.


2.4       The Occupational Health Unit has an integral role in advising the University and employees about the workplace, work design issues, as well as work place systems, processes and practices, which may have a contributory factor to ill health absences.


3.         Absence Monitoring


3.1       Schools and Administrative Directorates are required to maintain absence records and to provide all absence records and certificates to the Human Resources Division.


3.2       Each School/Directorate has a designated employee(s) who maintains all absence data and undertakes the requisite reporting responsibilities.


3.3       During their School/Directorate Induction, employees  must be made aware of the notification and certification procedures for sickness absence and that attendance levels will be monitored throughout their employment.


3.4       All absences due to sickness, injury or accident will be monitored in relation to reason,frequency and/or pattern of absence, against agreed management standards. The University’s absence Management Standards are published on the University’s web site.  Where a pattern of absence gives cause for concern or the absence level has reached an absence management standard this will initiate, in the first instance, action in line with the informal procedure for the early management of sickness absence (See Appendix 1).  Following the informal action, should the situation fail to improve, the absence will be managed formally in line with the relevant Capability Procedures.  For staff on the terms and conditions of grades 1-4 this will be the ‘Capability Procedures for staff on grades 1-4’ and for staff on the terms and conditions of grades 5[4] and above this will be Statute XVIII.  The University Management Standards are set by the University and may be amended.

3.5       Absences which are related to disability, maternity or an accident at work where declared by the member of staff will be recorded as such on the HR system and considered separately from other absence data. Absences relating to disability, maternity or accident at work will not be included in the general absence standards applied for informal or formal intervention and will not be taken into account for the purposes of promotion, references or selection for redundancy.  Such absence will be subject to review but not as part of the University’s Management Standards. Members of staff must identify such absences themselves and must clearly indicate the nature of the absence on the Sickness Absence Notification (SAN) Form.  If staff are in doubt if an absence is disability related they may wish to review the information on the following web site or seek advice from the Occupational Health Unit. 

4.         Absence Reporting by Employees


4.1       It is the responsibility of every employee to work when medically fit to do so and to comply with the University’s sickness absence procedure.


4.2       Any employee falling ill during a working day should report the illness to their line manager, or nominated representative, prior to any further action and/or their departure.  If an employee becomes incapable of work prior to undertaking any work related activities they will be deemed to have been incapable of work for the whole day and this will constitute the first day of sickness.  Repeated occurrences of leaving work early will be subject to investigation and appropriate action.


4.3       Staff should complete the Sickness Absence Notification Form (SAN) in respect of a partial day’s absence.

4.4       Notification


It is a statutory and University requirement that notification must be received on the first day of absence. The employee, or in exceptional circumstances, someone acting on his/her behalf who can deal with the points outlined in section 4.7 below, must telephone (not text) the School/Administrative Directorate as soon as possible.  Usually this will take place within the first hour of the normal working day,[5] [6] to give details of the absence.

4.5       Contact should be made with the line manager/supervisor, or their nominated representative.  Where it has not been possible to speak to the line manager and a message has been left, the employee must telephone during the day to speak to their line manager or other nominated person. In addition, the employee may be contacted by the line manager if appropriate to ensure that all relevant information has been obtained in line with section 4.7 below.  Contact will be sensitive to the absent employee’s circumstances. Further advice can be obtained from Human Resources in the first instance.


4.6         Consequences of late notification

            Under University and Statutory Sick Pay rules, if there is no ‘good cause’for late notification, one day’s sick pay will be withheld for each day that notification is late.This will be classed as unauthorised absence and may be dealt with in accordance with the relevant disciplinary procedure.


4.7       Required Information

On the first day of absence the following information must be provided:

  • the nature of the illness;
  • the day or date on which the illness / current symptoms began (including Saturday and Sunday);
  • the possible duration of the absence;
  • details of any outstanding work and diary commitments of which the employee is aware;
  • Any steps that the employee is undertaking to assist their recovery e.g. visiting GP, making an alternative medical appointment.


4.8       Ongoing Contact

The arrangements for all contact should be agreed between the line manager and the employee.  Where an employee does not have a Statement for Fitness for Work (Fit Note) indicating the duration of their absence, it is suggested as a guideline that contact with the line manager occurs as follows:

  • day one of absence;
  • day four of absence;
  • day eight of absence;
  • following that, weekly contact will be required.

 This is in line with Statutory Sick Pay and University requirements.


4.9       Where telephone contact is not possible alternative arrangements for continuing contact should be agreed. These arrangements should be agreed in advance and the employee should not wait until the first absence occurs.


5.         Certification

5.1       It is the responsibility of the employee to ensure that sickness absence documentation is submitted promptly.  A failure to do so may result in sickness payments being stopped or suspended.

5.2       The University’s certification procedures require:

1-7 calendar days (inclusive)        On return to work the completion of a Sickness Absence Notification (SAN) form

8 calendar days or longer A Fit Note to be obtained from a Medical Practitioner / Hospital and on return to work the completion of a Sickness Absence Notification form (SAN)

5.3       Fit notes must be sent to the line manager/supervisor or, if agreed local arrangements determine otherwise, to the person who has been nominated to record absence for the School/Department. They are recorded on the Human Resources Management Information System and submitted to Human Resources for confidential storage.

5.4       Guidance on the application of fit notes, where the GP has identified the potential for an early return, is available on the Human Resources website. Further advice may be sought from the Occupational Health Unit as required.


6.         Short term Absences

6.1       Where the level of short-term absences (Short-term absences are defined as absences of less than 4 working weeks) has reached an absence management standard this will initiate action under the relevant appropriate University procedures. Informal processes for all staff will be undertaken in line with the Absence Capability Procedures (See Appendix 1). The aim of this will be to identify the reasons for the absences and agree measures to correct the situation where appropriate.

7.         Long term Absences

7.1       The University defines a long term absence as more than 4 consecutive working weeks or more. The Line Manager will need to seek advice and guidance on each case from their Human Resources Manager. A list of all Human Resource Managers and the Schools they support is available in the Human Resources Key Contacts List which is available for download on the following web site

7.2       The University’s Capability Procedure for Employees on Grades 1-4 outlines the procedure that will be adopted in cases of long term absence for staff employed on the terms and conditions of grades 1-4. For staff on the terms and conditions of grade 5 and above, long term absence will be managed in accordance with Statute XVIII. At four working weeks’ absence the School/Administrative Department must refer the individual to the Occupational Health Unit for further advice and assistance.

8.         Returning to Work and Referrals to Occupational Health

 8.1      On returning to work, employees must report to their Line Manager, or nominated representative, in the first instance unless prior arrangements to report to The Occupational Health Unit have been agreed. A Sickness Absence Notification form must be completed and a return to work meeting held to support the employee back to work and to:


  • Discuss the reasons for absence and ensure that the member of staff is fit to return to work;
  • Check that the necessary certification has been completed and provided;
  • Discuss how the work was covered in their absence and how the workload could be reorganised to accommodate any backlog;
  • Where appropriate, raise any concerns with the member of staff’s absence levels with reference to the University’s Management Standards;
  • Where appropriate consider whether the member of staff should be referred to the Occupational Health Unit.


8.2       Employees are required to report to The Occupational Health Unit on the following basis:

  • the illness has been for four continuous working weeks or more;
  • the illness followed a visit overseas;
  • an absence, which has lasted over 3 days and has occurred as a result of an accident at work;
  • the School/Administrative Department has concerns regarding the employee’s fitness to return to work;
  • Occupational Health advice is required to assist in a return to work assessment;
  • the absence was due to contracting Rubella or German Measles, Mumps, Chicken Pox or other infectious diseases;
  • Catering Employees returning to work following an intestinal complaint (All catering employees returning to work after they have been absent following intestinal complaints will be required to report to the Health Centre, after reporting to the authorised employee, and before starting work. Employees should not return to work until symptoms have been absent for 48 hours.)
  • to facilitate reasonable adjustments as necessary.


8.3       A referral to the Occupational Health Unit must be made where work related stress has been identified as a cause for the absence.


9.         Advance notification of expected return to work


9.1       In order to assist in the organisation of work, employees should give the maximum possible notice to the School/Administrative Department, as soon as they are certain of their date of return, for example, expecting to return on the following day or the start of the next shift etc.

9.2      If the absence is expected to be longer than originally indicated on the first day of absence, the employee must inform the School/Administrative Department and then in accordance with 4.8.


10.       Partial Resumption of Duties


10.1    Line Managers in consultation with the Occupational Health Unit and the Human Resources Division will need to consider whether a phased return to work, [7] is needed to support an employee who is recovering from an illness or injury that has involved an extended period of absence or where the Occupational Health Unit advises this is appropriate.

10.2    An initial phased return to work is individually generated following Occupational Health advice and discussion with the School/Department. This will usually be for a period of up to six weeks, however an extension may be agreed on a case by case basis. If upon expiry of the agreed period the employee is unable to resume full duties consideration should be given to an alteration to their terms and conditions of employment such that their working hours may be varied, salary and benefits shall be payable on a pro rata basis.

10.3    Pay during any initial partial resumption of duties will be determined as follows:

  • for as long as the employee is still entitled to receive full sick pay then full pay would be paid;
  • where entitlement to full pay has expired and the employee is still entitled to receive half sick pay then half pay would be paid, unless the hours of duty are more than 50% in which case they will be paid pro rata to the hours worked;
  • where entitlement to sick pay has been exhausted the employee will be paid pro rata to the hours worked.

10.4   Reasonable adjustments should be considered on a case by case basis to ensure disabled staff members are not disadvantaged as a result of their disability (See paragraph 1.3).


11.       Sick Pay

11.1    Entitlement to Occupational Sick Pay (OSP) is outlined at

11.2    Subject to contractual arrangements, the University’s OSP scheme covers employees who are absent from duty owing to certified illness, including industrial disease or industrial accident. During their absence, employees shall receive not more than the normal salary payment by way of (i) payments arising from statutory sick pay, (ii) payments arising from state incapacity benefits and (iii) allowances provided by the OSP scheme. All payments will be subject to compliance with the relevant sick pay scheme..

11.3    Prior to changes to an employee’s OSP, where the absence is continuing, the University will normally write to the employee at home to confirm changes to or the expiration of their sick pay.

11.4    Medical Opinion

If required by the University, an employee shall, during any period of prolonged or frequent absence, undergo a medical examination by an external registered medical practitioner nominated and paid for by the University. In the event of a difference in medical opinion as to the employee’s fitness for work the matter shall, at the request of the University or of the employee, be submitted to an independent medical referee, chosen jointly.

11.5    Suspension of University Sick Pay

If the medical referee determines that the employee is fit to resume work, the allowance under the University’s OSP ceases with effect from the date on which the referee determines that the employee should return to work.

11.6    Suspension of Statutory Sick Pay

Where the payment of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is suspended, the employee will be informed that they can take the matter to the relevant Government Agency.


11.7    For further information on the OSP and SSP, please contact the Salaries Office, Finance Department, 30-36 Newport Road..


12.       Exclusions from the Scheme

12.1    Where the sickness absence is due to the employee’s own misconduct or due to an injury suffered whilst working for private gain in their own time for another employer, occupational sick pay may be withheld by the University. Further information in respect of any concerns relating to this issue can be obtained from Human Resources.

13.       Accident Third Party Claim

13.1    If an employee is absent from work as a result of an accident or injury that happens whilst they are not at work, and that is caused by another person, damages for loss of earnings may be recoverable from the person that caused the accident, who is referred to as “the Third party”.

13.2     In this case, in order to enable the University to reclaim any sick pay that can be recovered from the third party the following arrangements will apply:

13.3     The University will not pay sick pay as of right, but will advance to the employee a sum not exceeding their normal entitlement to sick pay, on the understanding that should they be awarded compensation for loss of earnings, they must refund to the University any such compensation received, subject to a maximum of the total sum advanced during the period of absence.

13.4     If such a refund is made, the period covered by the refund will be disregarded for the purpose of calculating entitlement to sickness absence payments for any period of sickness. However, where no damages for loss of earnings are actually recovered, the University will waive its right to seek a refund and the period concerned will be regarded as normal sickness absence for payment purposes.

13.5     The requirement to refund advances from damages received, does not extend to any non salary related compensatory award, nor to payments made directly by an insurance company without reference to third party recovery.

14.       Alcohol and Drugs-Related Absences


14.1    Where it is established that absences are due to an employee’s dependence upon alcohol or drugs, the University will consider whether it is appropriate to treat the problem as a medical rather than a disciplinary matter. This will include advice from the Occupational Health Unit and Counseling Services. Where a staff member has developed a disability as a result of dependence this will be treated as other disabilities in accordance with the Equality Act 2010 (if applicable). 


15.       Accidents/Injuries at Work

15.1    Accidents or injuries that occur at work which result in the absence of an employee will not be classified as sickness in relation to the University’s agreed management standards. In cases of injury at work the employee and the manager must complete the relevant accident report details of which may be found on the Health and Safety web pages


Absences which occur as a result of injury at work will be identified as such on the HR system and recorded appropriately.

16.       Annual Leave


16.1    Employees are not allowed to take annual leave instead of sickness absence when they are too ill to come to work. However, while on long term sickness absence, a member of staff can request that a period of that time is designated as annual leave and then either return to work or continue their sickness absence depending on relevant medical certification..


16.2    An employee who becomes sick during the course of annual leave is regarded as being absent due to sickness if the period of absence is covered by a fit note and the School /Administrative Department has been notified as soon as possible that the sickness will, or has, interrupted the leave.


16.3    Employees are entitled to take the balance of the leave entitlement at a later date after returning to work, usually before the end of that leave year period. With agreement this can be extended but will not go over two annual leave year periods.


16.4   For employees who are covered by a Fit Note and who are sick on a designated Bank or Public holiday or University closure day, these may be reclaimed.


Appendix 1 – Informal procedure for early management of sickness absence

1.         Introduction

1.1       Where absence levels are of concern, as determined in line with Cardiff University’s Sickness Absence Procedure, this Procedure will be invoked to ensure a fair and consistent approach to the management of sickness absence.

1.2       The University recognises that there are many different types of absence which can be generally categorised as short term (i.e. repeated days of full or partial absence, frequent or persistent in nature) or long term (i.e. for continuous periods or periods of time of four working weeks or more).

1.3       These procedures should be followed where:

  • an employee’s attendance level falls below the University’s agreed standards;
  • the pattern or amount or reason for absence(s) gives cause for concern;
  • at any time the School/Department are not satisfied with the reasons for absence as notified (if deemed appropriate this may be dealt with in line with the relevant disciplinary procedure).

1.4 These procedures are not to be used in relation to an employee’s failure to comply with the procedural requirements of the sickness absence policy which should be addressed using the University’s relevant disciplinary procedures.

1.5     The University shall seek to ensure that confidentiality is maintained throughout this procedure and every effort will be made to ensure that the employee’s position is not undermined in relation to their colleagues. This will not preclude the University from providing relevant information about the outcome, of any such procedure, to any person where this is appropriate.

1.6     If the nature of the employee’s illness makes it so that they are not deemed medically fit to be consulted, any meeting held will be with whom ever has been designated to act on their behalf (a relative, a community psychiatric Nurse, friend or a medical social worker etc).

1.7     Where an employee refuses to be referred to the University’s Occupational Health Unit or refuses to allow access to their Medical Records under the Data Protection Act 1998 (as amended) and/or the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 (as amended), the University reserves the right to make decisions based on the medical evidence available to it.

1.8     Absence will be monitored using agreed Management Standards. Cardiff University uses the Bradford Factor for the management of Sickness Absence. Further Information on the Bradford Factor and its application at Cardiff University is available on the Human Resources website. This may be updated as appropriate in consultation with the appropriate Trade Unions.

1.9       Support will be provided to all employees with specific support to those covered by the Equality Act 2010. Support is available, where appropriate, from the Staff Counseling Service, The Occupational Health Unit and Dignity Advisors. Further information in relation to the Equality Act and reasonable adjustments can be found on the University website website


2.         Procedure


2.1       Where attendance levels are a cause for concern the Head of School/Department or nominee should establish the facts with the aim of resolving issues quickly and effectively in an informal setting. This will normally involve consideration of the following:

  • the employee’s absence record over the previous rolling twelve month period;
  • a comparison of records across the work area / University (where appropriate);
  • identification of specific problems or difficulties caused by the absence;
  • identification of any obvious work related issues contributing to the absences;
  • a review of the reasons and periods of the absences to establish if they are unrelated or not.

2.2       Where a cause for concern is confirmed, the Line Manager, or where appropriate the Head of School/Department or nominee, will arrange a ‘Review’ meeting with the employee. This will normally be conducted on a one to one basis. The employee will be informed, in writing, of the need to attend a meeting and the reason for concern. 

2.3       The purpose of the meeting is to ensure that the University is aware of any factors influencing the absence and that the employee is aware of the University’s management standards. The meeting will normally explore the following areas:

  • the exact cause for concern;
  • to identify any factors affecting the absence;
  • to discuss the impact of the absence on colleagues and service delivery;
  • a consideration of a referral to The Occupational Health Unit;
  • any reasonable adjustments that may be required under the appropriate piece of equality legislation.

2.4     At the meeting the employee will be informed that, should the situation not improve, consideration will be given to formal action in accordance with the relevant University Procedure or Statute. The employee will be informed in writing of the outcome of the discussions held as soon as reasonably practicable, and where appropriate, any agreed outcomes which may include an agreed action plan.

2.5     Where an appropriate review period may have been agreed, the period should be reflective of the individual circumstances. The normal maximum review period is three months; however shorter periods may be set. In cases which merit early intervention action may be taken, using the formal procedures, prior to the specified date of review.

2.6     At the end of the review period a meeting will be held with the employee to determine what, if any, further actions will be taken. The membership of the meeting will be as outlined at 2.2 above. The meeting will be documented and the outcomes confirmed in writing to the employee as soon as is reasonably practicable.

2.7     If the above does not resolve the matter, or if it is clear that the problem is more serious than anticipated, the formal procedures may be invoked. For staff on terms and conditions of grades 1-4 this will be the Capability Procedure, and for staff on terms and conditions of grades 5 and above it will be governed by Statute XVIII.



Updated: January 22nd 2014


[1] This scheme is based on the adoption of the Social Model of Disability. The social model recognises that while many people have physical or sensory impairments, learning difficulties, mental health needs or other long-term health conditions, it is the failure of society to take account of these differences which disables people and prevents them from participating fully in work, social and public life. 


[2]  For the purposes of this document where the term Line Manager is used it also refers to other designated appropriate managers.
[3] Access to Work is a government-run programme delivered by Jobcentre Plus to help overcome barriers that disabled people come across in getting or keeping work. The programme helps by providing advice, an assessment of the employee's disability needs in the workplace and, if required, a financial grant towards the cost of any necessary support.
[4] With the exception of staff who are currently serving probation which deems that such staff are not entitled to the benefits of the provisions of Statute that relate to Disciplinary Procedures and Appeals. Any issues needing to be addressed will be dealt with under probation.

[5] Employees required to work a shift pattern must contact their line manager/supervisor, or nominated representative, prior to the start of the shift.


[6] For employees in posts where cover needs to be arranged and therefore requiring earlier notification of sickness, arrangements for doing so will be agreed at a local level.


[7] consisting of a return to work on a part time, reduced hours or altered basis
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