Sickness absence reporting and record-keeping arrangements



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This procedure should be explained to all employees, especially those who are new to the University.

Basic procedures for notification of sickness are outlined in Staff Handbook Section 4 but departments can supplement this with their own specific guidelines, including to whom sickness absences must be reported, relevant contact details and the preferred communication method. 

It is the responsibility of the employee to notify their department if they are unable to attend work due to sickness, as soon as possible on the first day of absence. Employees must provide a reason for absence, and where possible give an indication of the date they expect to be back at work. If an employee fails to provide such notification without good reason, sick pay (including payment under the University's scheme) will be withheld.

Employees who work from home or away from the department must follow the normal notification procedures.

Academic staff must notify their department/faculty and their divisional contact, including sickness occurring during vacation time or while the member of staff is on sabbatical leave, even if they are out of Oxford at the time. Academic staff with college appointments must also notify the college.

See also the special provisions that apply to employees with a Tier 2 or Tier 5 visa.

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Why record and monitor sickness?

Recording sickness absence helps with the management of employees who are absent due to sickness, and ensures an accurate payment of both contractual and statutory sick pay.

It is important to know why an employee is sick, in case the cause could be work-related, or if reasonable adjustments are needed to help the employee return to work, as well as organise appropriate cover for the absence, if needed. Analysing sickness absence records can uncover any notable patterns or reasons for absence that could be caused by or exacerbated by work. Early intervention can increase the chances of a quicker return to work and minimise disruption caused by absences. Monitoring of sickness absence records will facilitate an early identification of any potential problems.

Guidance on recording sickness absence

A record of every sickness instance should be made, to include the date of notification of absence, the reason for it by reference to the standard definitions as per the Sickness Absence Record form (on the right-hand side of the page) and later, the date the employee returned to work. It is important that sickness absence records are completed accurately, and adhere to the requirements of data protection legislation.

Sickness absence for employees working from home or away from the department should be recorded in the normal way.

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If an employee is absent through sickness for up to seven consecutive calendar days, they should be asked to complete a self-certification form (Sickness Absence Record Form) on return to work, which must be signed off by the manager and filed on the employee’s sickness record. False statements on this form could lead to prosecution (in the event of false SSP claim) and/or disciplinary action by the University. This form can be completed as part of the ‘Return to work discussion’.

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If an employee is absent from work because of sickness for more than seven consecutive calendar days, a doctor's certificate ('Fit Note' - Statement of fitness for work) should normally be obtained and a copy sent to the department as soon as possible.

The employee should continue to send in Fit Notes until the doctor decides the individual is fit to return to work (which could be on reduced duties). A ‘return to work discussion’  (RTW) should take place upon the employee’s return to work.

A Fit Note is required for both the University sick pay and SSP purposes.

Read more about Fit Notes and RTW arrangements

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If you are participating in the pilot to record annual leave and sickness information in HR Self-Service, please visit the dedicated Staff Gateway page for guidance or contact your HR administrator.

All absence and medical records contain confidential information, regarded as ‘sensitive personal data’, and thus should always be administered in accordance with the requirements of the GDPR and related UK data protection legislation and the University’s policy on Data Protection. Managers would need to be able to justify the need to process any sensitive data (for example, specific information about the employee’s medical condition) as per the statutory conditions of the data protection legislation.

See also 'Retention periods for University personnel records'