Policies and Procedures
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Are you an employer?

Do you worry about how to properly manage employees? If the answer is yes, then you can alleviate this worry by drawing up policies and procedures which will provide clarity to you and your employees.

Sickness

In simple terms, you need a policy in place that sets out clearly what procedure is to be adopted when an employee is absent through illness, which spells out to you and employees know what exactly is going to happen, and which procedure is to be followed.

Your sickness absence policy should make it clear:

  • whether there is a sick pay scheme
  • what the notification and certification requirements are when an employee is out sick
  • that the employee may be required to attend a doctor nominated by the employer for medical assessment.

Usually, the employee is required to notify the employer as soon as possible – preferably before the employee is scheduled to commence work. The employee should also be expected to report the general nature of the illness and when he/she expects to return to work.

It is also helpful to define in your policy what is meant by short term, or long term absence, and what is considered to be an unauthorised absence.

Generally, short term absence would be 4 weeks or less, while long term absence would be an absence of more than 4 weeks.

Unauthorised absence

Unauthorised absence is an absence which is not supported by a doctor’s note/certificate, or not authorised by management, or not communicated using the correct procedure.

Unauthorised absences would be addressed through your workplace disciplinary procedure.
When the employee returns to work, you should:

  • acknowledge the return to work
  • request staff to submit a “fit to resume” doctor’s note, by the resumption date, following long term sickness absence. Unless a “fit to resume” note is furnished, employee to be given up to a week to produce one and/or not allowed to return to work without one.
  • try to facilitate a partial return to work where the employee requests it. In any event, you should interview all employees, regardless of how long they have been out or their illness, prior to their return to work.

Disciplinary procedures

Most unfair dismissal cases are lost because of the absence of fair procedures.

The steps in the disciplinary procedure generally follow graduated steps including a verbal warning, written warning, final written warning, and dismissal.

Keep in mind that an employee can be suspended on pay pending investigation, but would only be suspended without pay pending an appeal of a dismissal.

Dismissal

If there is no improvement after the final written warning then dismissal is the likely outcome. A meeting should be called and the employee and his representative invited.

The employer should remind the employee of the behaviour/conduct that has led to this point, the repeated transgressions/failure to improve performance sufficiently, and that the dismissal is in accordance with the disciplinary procedure.

The employee should be given the opportunity to appeal within 14 days. He should also be given a letter confirming the dismissal and the right to appeal, the time period for appeal, and who to appeal to.

Gross misconduct

More serious transgressions of conduct, for example being intoxicated at work, may lead to the procedure being started with a written warning or at a different point in the procedure.

The Work Act 2005 states “intoxicant” includes alcohol and drugs and any combination of drugs or of drugs and alcohol; the key point here is that there is a procedure that is fair and transparent and both employer and employee know where they stand.

Equally important is that other employees see the procedure as fair and equitable and that they will get fair procedures when there is a problem.

Employers must deal with the issue of intoxicants in the workplace sensitively. Whether for example you would act on the evidence/opinion of one person or not would depend on the potential risk and danger.

Internet and email usage in the workplace

These are some of the factors you need to consider when it comes to your employees’ access to the internet and email in the workplace.

We all recognise that the use of popular social media sites and personal email is commonplace in Ireland today but is your company storing up trouble by not recognising this reality and drafting a suitable usage policy for use in your workplace?

The abuse of technology, either by inappropriate use of email or social networking sites, may expose employers to significant risk. For this reason a policy on usage should be included in the contract of employment. The policy is essential to avoid a situation where an employee might use his employer’s IT systems to download or distribute illegal or objectionable content which may render the employer liable under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998.

If you would like us to assist you, or if you would simply like to have a chat to discuss your options about any of the above, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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