This process sets out the steps we’ll follow to deal with any ongoing periods of sickness absence and should be read along with the Co-op Absence Policy. All template letters and forms can be found within this page.

As well as following the process below, managers can contact the colleague from time to time while they’re absent, to find out how they are and to give them any updates.

Where colleagues are employed in more than one role with the Co-op, the manager of their primary role (the one with most hours) should take the lead in following the formal ongoing absence process. Their other managers should still contact the colleague to keep in touch and offer support throughout the absence.

Terminal illness

If the colleague’s been told they have a terminal illness, this will be a very distressing time and they’ll have lots to think about besides work.

The Co-op will always keep terminally ill colleagues employed, where they want this, even if they’re no longer getting sick pay and there’s little chance of them returning to work. This can be for financial reasons as well as offering the colleague hope and a support network for them and their family during this difficult time.

Managers should still keep in contact with them to offer support, but it may not be appropriate to follow the usual review process or refer them to Occupational Health. Colleagues should still provide Fit Notes for this period, which may be issued for longer periods than usual.

If a colleague’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness, managers should always speak to ER Services for more information about the options available and discuss these with the colleague.

Fit Notes

Just so it’s clear, colleagues should continue to provide Fit Notes throughout any prolonged period of absence. If at any time a colleague stops sending in Fit Notes, managers should attempt to contact them as soon as possible. If managers can’t get hold of the colleague they should contact ER Services for advice.

1) Arranging the first health review meeting (formerly known as a First Options Meeting in Insurance)

If a colleague’s been off sick for longer than seven days and their Fit Note suggests that they may be off work for a while, we’ll invite them to a health review meeting. If managers don’t know if the colleague is likely to off for a while, they should contact them to find out more information.

The health review is to understand more about the reasons for the colleague’s absence, whether they’re waiting for any medical appointments or test results and to talk about when they think they’ll be likely to return to work. If managers aren’t sure if a health review is needed they should call ER Services for advice.

The manager will send the colleague a letter inviting them to this meeting (template letter OSA1 (below), giving them at least 48 hours’ notice. The meeting will usually be held during what would be the colleague’s normal working hours - but if they work night-shifts it might be during the day.

The meeting will usually take place at their workplace - but if the colleague’s not well enough to come into work, they can ask for it to be held somewhere else or done via phone or Skype/Facetime. If the meeting’s going to happen at the colleague’s home, managers should take a colleague with them.

The colleague can have either a work colleague or a trade union rep come with them to any health review meeting. And if it’s appropriate, we may agree for a friend or family member to come with them for support. There’s more information in the Guide to Workplace Representatives.

2) Rearranging the first health review meeting

Colleagues should do their best to attend, but if they or their chosen representative can’t make it, they should tell the manager holding the meeting as soon as possible letting them know dates and times they can make and the manager will try to rearrange it for a time that works for everyone. Any rescheduled meetings will usually be within a week of the original meeting time.

If the colleague doesn’t turn up for the meeting without good reason or without letting their manager know, then we’ll reschedule the meeting (template letter OSA2, below). But if they don’t attend the rescheduled meeting, we may need to deal with the matter under the Disciplinary Policy.

3) At the first health review meeting

Managers should use Health Review Meeting Guide 1 (below) to support the meeting and to record notes of what was discussed and agreed. This meeting is for the colleague and their manager to talk about:

  • the reasons for the absence and how they’re progressing towards recovery
  • how long the absence is likely to last
  • any medical information, including any appointments they have scheduled or test results they’ve received
  • any adjustments which can be made to enable them to return to their role
  • whether it’s likely that they’ll be able to return to, or remain in, their role

Occupational Health

At the meeting the manager may ask the colleague to agree to be referred to Occupational Health, if they feel it’s appropriate at this stage. This is so we can understand more about the reasons for their absence and if there’s anything we can do to support their return to work.

See the Absence Policy for more information about attending Occupational Health appointment.

There’s further information for managers about when to refer and how to get the most out of the referral in the Occupational Health Guide.

Group Income Protection Scheme

Some colleagues may be eligible to make a claim under the Group Income Protection (GIP) Scheme. Managers should contact ER Services to understand whether the colleague is eligible and the process to make a claim.

4) Further health review meetings

If the colleague continues to be off sick, we’ll hold further health review meetings with them, as well as keeping in regular contact by phone. If an Occupational Health referral hasn’t already been made, then this should be done as the colleague’s absence progresses.

There are no specific timescales for these meetings or set number of meetings that we’ll hold - it depends on the circumstances and the medical condition. But managers should arrange to meet with the colleague at appropriate times as their absence progresses – for example, after receiving an Occupational Health report or after the colleague has met with their GP or specialist.

We’ll send a letter inviting the colleague to any health review meetings (template letters OSA3 and OSA4, below), giving them at least 48 hours’ notice. These meetings are for the colleague and their manager to talk about:

  • the reasons for the absence and how they’re progressing towards recovery
  • how long the absence is likely to last
  • any medical information, including any appointments they have scheduled or test results they’ve received, as well as information gained from Occupational Health
  • any adjustments which can be made to enable them to return to their role
  • whether it’s likely that they’ll be able to return to, or remain in, their role
  • the potential option of redeployment

At these meetings, managers will discuss and agree next steps with the colleague, including timescales for them returning to work or for holding a further review meeting. Managers should use Health Review Meeting Guide 2 (below) to support these meetings.

5) Rearranging further health review meetings

Colleagues should do their best to attend, but if they or their chosen representative can’t make it, they should tell the manager holding the meeting as soon as possible letting them know dates and times they can make and the manager will try to rearrange it for a time that works for everyone. Any rescheduled meetings will usually be within a week of the original meeting time.

If the colleague doesn’t turn up for the meeting without good reason or without letting their manager know, then we’ll reschedule the meeting (template letter OSA2 - see section 2). But if they don’t attend the rescheduled meeting, we may need to deal with the matter under the Disciplinary Policy.

6) Outcomes to further health review meetings

Occupational Health

Managers may need to refer the colleague to Occupational Health again – for example, if they’ve been put on new medication which might take time to start working. Managers should contact ER Services for advice if they’re unsure whether another Occupational Health referral is needed.

Phased return

If the colleague is able to return to work, a phased return might be needed. There’s more information about this in the Absence Policy.

Reasonable adjustments

Depending on the colleague’s condition and their role, we might be able to adjust their role or working arrangements to help them return to work. The manager will discuss possible adjustments with the colleague, referring to any recommendations made in the Occupational Health report. If they’re making adjustment these will be recorded in a Work Adjustments Form (below). There’s more information about work adjustments in the Guide to Reasonable Adjustments.

Disability redeployment

If we get a report from Occupational Health which indicates that the colleague can’t carry out their current role, after all adjustments have been considered, but may be able to do another job at the Co-op, we’ll talk to them about possible redeployment – see the Disability Redeployment Policy.

Group Income Protection Scheme

Managers should contact ER Services to find out if the colleague is eligible to make a claim under the GIP scheme. If so, ER Services will advise them of the process to follow.

Ill-health retirement

Managers should contact ER Services to find out if the colleague can apply to take ill-health retirement. If so, ER Services will advise them of the process to follow.

7) Final health review meeting (formerly known as a Final Options Meeting in Insurance)

If the colleague’s been off sick for a prolonged period and it looks unlikely that they’ll be able to return to work in a reasonable timeframe, we’ll invite them to a final absence review meeting. We’ll only do this if we have;

  • gathered all relevant medical information;
  • considered reasonable adjustments, phased return and redeployment

Depending on the circumstances, the colleague may be eligible for ill-health or early retirement as an alternative – if appropriate, we’ll discuss these options with them.

At the meeting we’ll consider ending the colleague’s employment on the grounds of capability. The manager should have already mentioned to the colleague that this could be a possibility at previous absence review meetings, so it shouldn’t come as a shock. We’ll also inform the colleague of this possible outcome in the letter we send to invite them to attend the final absence review meeting (template letters OSA5 and OSA6 (below) to reschedule the meeting).

Managers should use Health Review Meeting Guide 3 (below) to support this meeting.

8) Outcome of final health review meeting

If the colleague applies for early ill health retirement and this is approved, there is a separate process and template documentation to be used.

If the manager considers all of the information and decides that the colleague is unlikely to return to work in the foreseeable future, then they may decide to dismiss them on the grounds of capability due to ill-health.

If the colleague is dismissed this will be with contractual notice, or pay in lieu of notice, even if they’ve run out of sick pay. They’ll also get pay in lieu for any accrued but untaken holidays during the previous holiday year.

This information will be confirmed to the colleague in a letter (template letters available below).

Managers should then process the colleague as a leaver on the HR system.

If a colleague has more than one Co-op job, the primary manager will need to communicate with the other managers so they can also process the colleague as a leaver from those roles.

9) Appeals

The colleague can appeal against the decision to dismiss them in writing – either in a letter or by completing the template Appeal Form (below). The colleague should give the grounds for their appeal as either;

  • new information or evidence is available that wasn’t considered before
  • the process wasn’t followed correctly, or
  • they feel the outcome wasn’t fair and reasonable

Colleagues should send their appeal within seven calendar days of receiving the outcome letter – but we’ll give them longer in exceptional circumstances.

10) Appeal meeting

The appeal meeting will be with an independent manager who’s had nothing to do with the original decision.

The appeal manager will invite the colleague to an appeal meeting (template letter OSA9, below) giving them at least 48 hours’ notice. This will usually be within 14 calendar days of getting the appeal letter, but we’ll let the colleague know if it’s going to take longer (template letter OSA10, below).

If the colleague wants to be accompanied to the appeal meeting by a trade union rep or another colleague, they should arrange this and let the manager know before the meeting. There’s more information on the role of the workplace representative in the Guide to Workplace Representatives.

At the appeal meeting, we’ll ask the colleague to explain the reasons for their appeal and why they feel that the original outcome wasn’t appropriate. The manager will adjourn the meeting if necessary to get further evidence. If there is any further evidence, we’ll make sure the colleague is given a copy or provided access to it is and give them the opportunity to respond to it.

The appeal manager will take a colleague to the meeting with them to take notes and at the end of the meeting everyone will be asked to check and sign the notes. The manager will then adjourn the meeting while they make their decision.

11) Rearranging the appeal meeting

Colleagues should do their best to attend the appeal meeting, but if they or their chosen representative can’t make it, they should tell the manager holding the meeting as soon as possible letting them know dates and times they can make and the manager will try to rearrange it for a time that works for everyone.

If the colleague doesn’t turn up for the appeal meeting without telling us in advance, we’ll rearrange it and write to confirm the new details using template letter OSA11 (below) – unless we agree to deal with things in writing. If they don’t turn up for the rearranged meeting, we’ll consider the matter closed and write to confirm this (template letter OSA12, below) – unless there are exceptional circumstances, in which case we’ll rearrange it once more. Any rescheduled meetings will usually be within a week of the original meeting time.

12) Appeal outcomes

Once the appeal manager has reached their decision, they should confirm it to the colleague in writing. This will normally be within 14 calendar days, but again, if it’s going to take longer we’ll keep the colleague informed (template letter OSA13, below). The appeal manager may decide to:

  • reject the appeal (template letter OSA14, below) – so the original dismissal decision is upheld
  • uphold the appeal (template letter OSA15, below) – and overturn the dismissal

This ends the appeals process.