Disciplining an employee due to sickness absence is a potentially fair under the Employment Rights Act 1996 as it would amount to a capability or even a misconduct issue.
However, to justify it as being fair the employer needs to follow a fair procedure and act reasonably. First and foremost the employer needs to comply with any workplace sickness absence procedures and policies. For example these could list the number or duration of absences before formal action is taken.
In any event, when considering the fairness of the employer's actions, a tribunal would usually look at the following factors:
· Did the employer investigate the nature, extent and likely duration of any illness and consult the employee in the process
· If absences are short-term and intermittent, investigating whether there is any underlying cause (medical or otherwise). If necessary, follow a capability or disciplinary procedure instead, offering practical guidance and assistance, setting timescales for improvement, and giving warnings where appropriate. Only continuous absences should threaten more formal action.
· Consider whether the employee could take up alternative employment or whether there are any other options that would avoid the need for formal action.
It is also important to consider the additional rights someone would have if the condition that is affecting them amounts to a 'disability'. This can have a broad meaning and there is no single list of conditions that amount to a disability under law. Instead, to establish whether a person is disabled, they need to show they satisfy the legal definition of ‘disability’.
So yes, it is possible for the employer to consider capability or disciplinary proceedings even if you are genuinely off ill and signed off with a formal note. However, that should not be done strictly as per policy and they need to consider each position on its own merits. Also you may get additional protection if you are classified as being disabled.
This is your basic legal position. I have more detailed advice for you in terms of the law on disability and how to determine of you are disabled, which I wish to discuss so please take a second to leave a positive rating for the service so far (by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars) and I can continue with that and answer any further questions you may have. Don’t worry, there is no extra cost and leaving a rating will not close the question and we can continue this discussion. Thank you