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Can you be dismissed while on sick leave?

Can you dismiss somebody when they're on sick leave? This is one of the most often asked questions on the Acas Helpline, according to Helpline adviser, Tian Zhu.

Speaking about Discipline on an Acas video, she said that it was possible to go forward with disciplinary procedures - including when it may result in a dismissal - while an employee is off sick.

Employers have to act fairly and reasonably and follow their procedures. For example, if the employee is away because of a short illness, it might be reasonable for the employer to postpone the disciplinary hearing until the employee is fit enough to attend, she said.

Long-term sick

With long-term sickness absence, the employer still needs to consider the employee's right to put forward their case and balance that against the organisation's needs to carry out the procedure without unreasonable delay.

Although an employee may be off sick, he or she may still be able to attend a disciplinary hearing - and employers should consider making reasonable adjustments to facilitate this. This could include visiting the employee at home or meeting in a neutral venue.

If the hearing can't be postponed until the employee is well enough to attend, then the employer can, in exceptional circumstances, go ahead with the hearing in the employee's absence.

Acas publications and services

Acas has information and guidance on Discipline, including Tian Zhu's video, and has published Discipline and grievances at work: The Acas guide.

More detailed advice is available in Discipline and grievance - Acas Code of Practice, which sets out how to handle discipline and grievance situations in the workplace.

Managing discipline - Investigation to possible dismissal: A guide is one of a suite of step-by-step guides aimed at keeping you on the right side of the law in key areas of employment relations.

Acas experts can visit you and work with you to build effective working relationships and develop robust discipline and grievance procedures. See Disputes and mediation: how Acas can help for more information.

Practical training is also available on Dispute resolution, Mediation, Investigations, Discipline and grievance, Skills for supervisors, Handling difficult conversations, Absence management and, for newer employers, Employing People - A Practical Introduction.

For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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We recommend that you explore further information and advice available on this website, particularly within our Advice A-Z guidance pages. If you have questions about workplace rights and rules visit Helpline Online.
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