One of our employees is due to return from long-term absence and has requested that this will be phased starting with reduced hours. I am not entirely sure whether
- we are obliged to offer reduced hours at full pay (note that the OH assessment did not confirm that her absence was disability related, so whilst not a legal requirement, we are happy to carry out this reasonable adjustment to allow the employee to return)
- if we have to pay full pay for reduced hours how does this work out given that the employee has been on half pay and will be reaching nil pay at the beginning of the year?
Also, my organisation does not encourage homeworking per se except for ad hoc occasions and this is made clear in our policy. However, this is another request the employee has made. Could we be reasonably expected to grant this request to facilitate her return despite the fact it contradicts our policy?
Any comments or useful references would be extremely appreciated.
You are not legally obliged to offer a phased return to work under any circumstances, although obviously in the case of a DDA complaint you have a few fiery hoops to jump through if you don't allow it!
Having established that fact, it then follows logically that there is no requirement to pay full pay for any phased return (unless explicitly set out in a contract). In your case the normal approach would be to pay the individual for any hours they actually work (and trying to schedule it so they can at least get some SSP for the days they don't work).
Re: her request to work from home. You don't say whether or not it was a formal flexible working request, which affects how you handle it from a procedural point of view. Regardless of the status of the request you need to establish why your organisation does not encourage it - is there a 'real' reason (operational, data security, client confidentiality, etc) or is it one of those situations where the senior management has decided that it just wouldn't work here (or they don't trust the workforce).
It is also worth looking at what is being suggested. If your employee is looking for homeworking so they can look after junior at home then that is not a valid reason for the request. What has she put forward to support her request?
You should not make a decision to uphold your policy for the sake of upholding the policy. Refuse her request if it is unreasonable or unworkable, grant it if it is a workable solution or is a short term fix for something.
Hope this helps.
semper ad meliora
I have dealt with a number of people who, after a prolonged absence, wanted to return to work on a phased basis. Generally speaking I have dealt with these by looking at the individuals request and circumstances and the needs of their department and have been able to find a solution that is suitable for both parties.
In terms of returning on full pay you could agree to pay the employee for the hours they work as suggested by Adhna which is perfectly reasonable. If the employee has been accruing annual leave whilst they have been off you could ask them to meet you half way by using annual leave whilst they are not in work during the phased return so that they do receive full pay. This also then gets around the next problem that typically occurs when they want to use their annual leave and have a lot of days left!
Commenting on the homeworking request is very difficult given that we have no details of the role but I would agree that it would not be unreasonable for you to consider the request and if it is practical then agree to it if not then it does not happen.
I would also add that you should make sure that a phased return plan is drawn up so that the employee and their manager know exactley what they are doing and when. Putting timescales on it will also ensure that you don't end up feeling like you are stuck with the arrangement forever...
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