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02.04.2019

The welfare meeting and long-term absence

 

 

Welfare meetings and long-term absence

Effective management of long-term absence is essential for businesses of all sizes. As an employer, you must strike a balance between the competing demands of discharging your duty of care towards your employees and your right to run a successful business.

When do I need to hold a welfare meeting?

The welfare meeting is an effective tool for managing long-term absence. It is an informal meeting with your employee to discuss his/her current state of health, any prognosis that is available and the likelihood of a return to work in the near future. The meeting should include a discussion around whether there are any steps you can take as an employer to facilitate the employee’s return to the workplace.

How do I contact the employee?

As the employee is away from the workplace, it is best to write to the employee and invite them to attend the welfare meeting. Do bear in mind that the welfare meeting should be informal in so far as possible and a telephone call may be more appropriate depending on the circumstances.

Keep it informal

As the meeting is informal, the employee does not have the right to be accompanied by a co-worker or trade union representative. As an alternative and to help the employee feel comfortable, consider advising the employee to bring a family member or a friend.

Where to hold the meeting?

The best place to hold the meeting is the employee’s normal place of work. If the nature of the employee’s condition or illness prohibits him/her from attending the workplace, you should offer to attend the employee’s home to hold the meeting.

Is attendance by the employee compulsory?

Employees must not be compelled to attend a welfare meeting. The meeting is exploratory and informal. It is permissible to emphasise that the meeting is necessary to establish the best way to move forward and to advise the employee it is in everyone’s best interests to do so.

Running a welfare meeting

The following format is a typical agenda for a welfare meeting:

  • Open the meeting & explain the purpose
  • First, ask the employee how they are feeling today and how they have been feeling recently
  • Ask about recent medical appointments
  • Ask about medication that may have been prescribed
  • Discuss any Medical Certificates submitted from GPs
  • If Medical Reports have been obtained, discuss these
  • If Medical Reports have not yet been sought, this meeting is an ideal opportunity to raise the concept and seek written consent to obtain the same
  • Ask the employee if they feel they will be able to return to work soon
  • Ask if there are any reasonable adjustments to their role or the premises which could be made to facilitate their return to work
  • Ask if the employee feels there are any alternative roles they could perform to facilitate their return to work
  • Update the employee on any important developments in the workplace, and
  • Close the meeting & thank your employee for his/her attendance.

Employees with a disability

Welfare meetings may also serve as an effective tool for keeping in touch with employees who are living with a disability. An informal welfare meeting allows you to make sure the employee has everything they need to do their job and to assess the suitability of any further reasonable adjustments that could be put in place. Regular conversations regarding reasonable adjustments and ongoing support will help employees with disabilities do their job.

Fact finding exercise

Welfare meetings are, in essence, a fact-gathering exercise and are not to be confused with a formal medical capability hearing. Care should be taken to ensure the line between a welfare meeting and a medical capability procedure is not blurred.

If you have any questions about the line between welfare and medical capability, please call 01 886 0350 to speak with a consultant.

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