POSTED: July 14 2017
A common reason for sickness absence

A common reason for sickness absence

An employee regularly suffers from terrible migraines and needs to go home early. Can you require them to make up the time they miss when they are feeling better?

Many of you will have experience of employees needing to go home early or not coming to work at all because of migraines. A migraine is an intense headache with a pulsing or throbbing sensation that can be associated with nausea, vomiting, extreme sensitivity to light and disturbed vision. They may occur on a routine basis or infrequently – either way many sufferers are able to tell when one is coming on. Once set in they can last up to 72 hours. Migraines are often described as a debilitating experience, leaving the sufferer unable to function properly.

The first thing we need to mention is that employees have no statutory right to take sick leave (the statutory right is to sick pay). Sick leave is a matter for you as the employer.

It is very unusual for an employer to contractually require employees to make up time lost to sickness. Although there is no legal reason why this can’t be done, asking an employee to make up time for unavoidable sick leave which is out of their control doesn’t sit well. There is another aspect to consider. Depending on their severity and impact, migraines can potentially amount to a disability, i.e. if they have a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the employee’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. You may need to seek advice from the employee’s GP or other medical specialist.

If an employee who suffers from migraines is, or may be, disabled, requiring them but not other employees to make up time off would potentially amount to direct disability discrimination.

Our advice is don’t require employees to make up time lost to sickness. Manage it through your sickness absence/capability procedures and make reasonable adjustments where necessary.


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