A Health & Attendance Improvement Meeting (H&AIM) must be welfare focused
A new attendance management approach
PCS Briefing DWP/BB/031/18 reported the introduction of a new attendance management approach for DWP, following consultation with PCS, from 3rd April 2018. A Health & Attendance Improvement Meeting (H&AIM) has been introduced to emphasise that the focus of the meeting should be about the employee’s wellbeing and improvement, not about warnings. There is a reduced emphasis on warnings and formal action so that it will always be a final consideration for the manager to decide whether there are reasonable grounds to issue a formal warning but:
- Warnings are not automatic or a default outcome but require a positive, case-specific decision by the line manager – Procedure 2
- For disabled colleagues an isolated or short/moderate increase in disability related absence wouldn’t justify a warning – Procedure 26
- A warning is not required when there is a reasonable expectation of improvement and should not be given in eleven other specified circumstances - Procedure 30.
Attendance Management Procedures 23 – 30 cover the purpose and process for the H&AIM
Trade Union Representation – Procedure 23
When a trigger point is reached the manager must issue the employee with an invitation to a formal H&AIM giving at least 5 working days written notice. They must be allowed to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative of their choice. If the employee or companion cannot attend on the appointed date, the employee has a right for the meeting to be rescheduled providing their alternative date is within 5 working days and is reasonable.
Welfare focused – Procedure 24
The H&AIM must be welfare focused. Its main purpose is for the manager to understand more about the employee’s absence(s), including more about their illness, the treatment they are having or had and what might be done to achieve a satisfactory level of attendance:
- There is no pre-determined outcome to the support-focussed H&AIM;
- Most of the time should be spent discussing support, help and health / wellbeing improvement, focusing as much as possible on practical things that might be done;
- Consider whether advice from Occupational Health is required
- Reasonable adjustments and other corrective/supportive measures should be considered and discussed. In relevant cases, it may be appropriate to award or increase a DETP.
- At the end of the meeting the appropriateness of a warning must be considered but this must not be the main point of the discussion.
A note must be made of the meeting – Procedure 25
A note must be made of the meeting which, if the employee consents, can be taken by another person. The manager must write to the employee within 5 working days of the meeting summarising any agreed supportive actions and advising them of the decision taken with the reasons for it. The letter will also advise the employee what will be expected of them and what will happen if they do not meet the attendance standard.
Deciding a warning – Procedure 26
At the end of a Health & Attendance Improvement Meeting (H&AIM) the manager must decide whether there are reasonable grounds to issue a formal warning. Warnings are not automatic or a default outcome but require a positive, case-specific decision by the line manager. For disabled colleagues an isolated or short/moderate increase in disability related absence wouldn’t justify a warning. Warnings are appropriate in cases where there is a risk that poor attendance will continue. If a warning is given, the ideal outcome is that attendance improves and escalation to the next level of formal action is not required.
A decision to give, or not give, a warning is for the line manager – Procedure 28
A decision to give, or not give, a warning is for the line manager to reasonably make applying the standards set out in the relevant part of the HR Decision Makers guide. If they wish, they may confidentially consult experienced management colleagues and Employee Services on 0845 241 5352 for advice. They may be referred to Civil Service HR Casework if the case is complex. If any advice is accepted it will be incorporated into the decision and owned by the line manager. The line manager must account for and explain their rationale acting upon their own authority in line with the Attendance Management policy and procedures
What is fair and reasonable in the circumstances? – Procedure 29
In deciding if a warning is appropriate, a line manager will consider what is fair and reasonable in the circumstances and have regards to:
- The level, frequency and nature of the sickness absence;
- Information about the treatment the employee is undergoing and the likelihood of improvement – Occupational Health advice might be sought on this;
- The employee’s long-term attendance record;
- The employee’s length of service and overall performance and attitude to work;
- The steps the employee is taking to improve their own health and wellbeing.
- What feels right and fair when standing back from the detail and considering the whole of the case
A warning is not required when there is a reasonable expectation of improvement- Procedure 30. A manager should also not give a warning if any one of the following circumstances applies;
- The absence is pregnancy related;
- Reasonable adjustments have been identified but not yet made;
- The employee is disabled, the absence is directly related to the disability, and it is reasonable to increase the trigger point;
- The absence is directly caused by an operation or treatment which could help to improve attendance or prevent sickness absence;
- Reasonable absences due to the after effects of infertility treatment or gender reassignment;
- Personal injury due to an assault at work;
- Absence due to injury leave, up to a maximum of 6 months;
- Absence due to an accident caused by a third party in certain circumstances;
- There is medical evidence to show the absence is due to a notifiable communicable disease;
- The absences have been agreed as part of working Part Time on Medical Grounds;
- It would be perverse, unfair or disproportionate to give a warning taking into account the exceptional nature and/or circumstances of the absence and the employee’s otherwise satisfactory attendance record.
PCS guidance for Branches
A decision to give, or not give, a warning is for the line manager to reasonably make applying the standards set out in the relevant part of the HR Decision Makers guide. (Procedure 28) Line managers must make and own any decisions about formal action and warnings, seeking expert HR advice when appropriate. This means that all practices where a line manager was expected to complete a form for a senior manager, before a warning could not be given, must end. All local practices that are inconsistent with the new attendance management approach for DWP should be brought to an end. The normal employee relations process should be used to challenge any local practices inconsistent with this new approach. Any issues which are not resolved using the employee relations process should be reported to PCS at the address below.