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Staff Member Been Off Sick Since July


anju
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Hi,

 

First post I've made for a very long time & I apologise in advance for the length of it.

 

I have a Deputy (there are two others) who had an accident at work in July. She slipped and fell on wet grass in our garden, broke her ankle quite badly but has been out of hospital for 3.5 months and at home. She has not left her house (or even been upstairs within her house) for the 3.5 months. The ankle is completely healed but her mobility is virtually none. She uses a zimmer frame but has not managed with crutches so far. She has steps out from her house to street level. She is now getting a physio come to her house once a week and is starting to do some exercises but has still not left the house. The background to this is that she is very, very overweight - obese I guess - which possibly contributed to the severity of the injury from a fairly innocuous fall and is inhibiting her recovery significantly; it is more difficult for very overweight people to balance on crutches than for others.

 

I had to do a RIDDOR report at the time and was investigated by the HSE including being visited by two officers from the local council. They were happy with my reviewed risk assessments, felt that it was a one-off and said they thought the staff member's weight was a contributory factor. They then signed the case off as no further action.

 

I agreed to wait until January (this was agreed a few weeks after the accident) for the staff member to return but she has just been signed off for another 6 weeks which takes us to nearly Christmas. I have employed someone temporary to cover her til Christmas and am worried about losing her if I keep adding short term extensions to her contract; she is very good and could easily find another job elsewhere I think.

 

Alongside all this, like many other settings our numbers are very low - we've lost 20% of our children this term (moving out of the area to find cheaper housing in most cases) and not replaced them. I am trying different marketing strategies but other settings locally have the same problem so I'm not that optimistic.

 

I have spoken to ACAS twice and it seems it would be OK to offer this staff member voluntary redundancy as an alternative to dismissal on the grounds of capability. Has anyone done this? ALthough I have only said I'd wait until January, I think the staff member thinks I will wait longer. But there is no sign of her recovering enough to do the job any time soon. I've written to her doctor yesterday and asked her to give her permission for this which she said she would. I've described the areas of her job which I think are problematic - mostly around the need to be physically active, supervise inside and out, lift and carry children, change nappies on the floor etc and asked him when she will be fit to do her job fully - I used an ACAS sample letter.

 

It's a small business - 4 permanent staff including me and this Deputy.

 

Any advice appreciated and thanks very much for reading.

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I was in the same position as this. My Deputy was on very long-term sick and ACAS were really helpful. Like you, her inability to work was extended and extended by 'sick notes' and she was due to come back to work on a quieter capacity as helper to me in the Preschool room, mainly doing observations and relieving me of some paperwork. Is this anything your Deputy could manage/ Could she do a fairly sedentary job and relieve you of paperwork aspects of the job?

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Hi cait,

 

Thanks for your reply.

 

She might well manage some duties like you suggest but not her full job and I don't need someone to help me out - basically I can't afford to pay someone who can't do the job. It sounds harsh I know but money is tight.

 

Thanks,

 

A

Edited by anju
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I can really empathise with you - it's very, very tricky. On the one hand you want everything back as it was, and on the other you want them to make a decision and go. Whilst they are expecting to return you are in limbo. It's my understanding that you can't offer her redundancy if her job still exists, because it's the job that's redundant, not the person. If you make her redundant and then give someone her hours she could take it to a tribunal.

 

I had to employ someone from Easter to do my Deputy's hours (but not her job, as I had two deputies) In essence, I was creating a job for her return in January, and she knew that. Her hours would have been greatly reduced, but her health was such that this would be a help to her - she was desperate to return. By January our numbers will have increased to an extent that I could afford these hours. (Sadly, as many of you know, it's not going to happen as she died over the summer break)

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Thanks Cait, and sorry to hear that :o

 

It is the job that's no longer needed as I have two other deputies and can just let the person who's doing temporary cover's contract expire I think, thus reducing the workforce - I have too many staff. The person doing cover isn't acting as a Deputy so it's a lower level job. I can offer the voluntary redundancy to the person who's off sick as well as the other two Deputies and see what happens; this would make it clearer that it's the job role not the person. Or would it? I'm fairly (famous last words!) confident neither of the other two wants to leave and if this staff member takes the offer that would be less awful than compulsory redundancy or having to dismiss her on grounds of capability. From the advice I've been given and assuming the doctor replies saying there's no prospect of a speedy return to work, I am within my rights to dismiss on capability grounds. Whereas with redundancy she'd get some money.

 

I've already stopped overtime (with staff agreement) for things like open afternoon, staff meeting etc - they are all taking time off in lieu instead. I've also spoken and got agreement to working less hours in the spring term and making them up in the summer term instead of getting overtime for extra hours in the summer when we are usually (fingers crossed) busier.

 

No easy solution really!

 

Thanks again for replying

Edited by anju
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Just an update as lots are reading so might be interested - bought a PLA guide to employing and managing staff which has useful redundancy section. Doctor's report should come early next week so after that I'll have a better idea but if staff member isn't going to be back and fully fit at start I sprin term I'll go with consultation process and ask for offers to take voluntary redundancy or other suggestions. I think I've covered everything to reduce hours but maybe I haven't thought of something.

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  • 4 months later...

I haven't updated this - just in case anyone is interested, the person concerned turned down the (enhanced payoff) voluntary redundancy but resigned a month later. She is still signed off sick (or was when she resigned).

 

Sigh of relief from me to be honest.

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I'm glad you've finally had a conclusion, although it still leaves you feeling a bit sad I expect. How are things now? What are your numbers like for September?

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