Dismissing unwell employees: Don’t add insult to injury

by Chloe Taylor30 Oct 2014
It’s one of the more difficult aspects of HR – letting employees go. Adding illness or injury into the mix only increases the difficulty and risk of repercussions.

According to Tim Lange, partner at Piper Alderman, whenever there’s illness or injury involved in a dismissal, there is always going to be an element of exposure – but the number of claims that end up in court are not reflective of the complete number of disputes regarding such dismissals.

“Claims and demands often get dealt with on a commercial basis without going to court,” Lange told HC. “This usually happens on a commercial basis, but there are also baseless claims which are simply dealt with with a resounding ‘no’.”

Lange added that employers must be thorough when dismissing employees who have been ill or injured.

“There is not so much a procedure, but there are touch points that employers must ensure they’ve ticked off,” he said.

Lange also warned employers to remain aware that discrimination laws extend to give some protection for family responsibilities, including absence taken when family members are ill or injured. He said that employers should make sure that they have some “straight forward polices which set expectations as to what employers are going to do in cases of long term illness or injury.”

Lange will be speaking at the Employment Law Masterclass for HR professionals in Melbourne on 11 November.

“The essential point of the talk will be that where you have an ill or injured employee it’s too easy to let the issue fester,” he told HC. “If it’s going to be dealt with it needs to be dealt with at an early point where there might be some prospect of the employee returning to work.”

He added that employers should use their judgement to try to deal with issues surrounding illness and injury before it gets out of hand.

“At some point it’ll become clear whether the employee can return to work or not, and the best step is to be able to get there earlier than later and to do that fairly,” said Lange.

To book your seat at the Masterclass, click here.  

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