Archive RSS
Blog  »  May 2017  »  Can you dismiss an employee on long-term sick leave? - Blog
May 17

Posted by
Lauren Conway

Can you dismiss an employee on long-term sick leave?

It can be frustrating if an employee on long-term sick leave keeps their employer in the dark about their recovery during that time. One of the more common questions is: What are my options if an employee is on long-term sick leave with an unclear indication if they will return to work?

O’Brien v Bolton St Catherine’s Academy

Ms. O’Brien was a teacher at Bolton St Catherine’s Academy who went on long-term sick leave after she was assaulted by one of her pupils. O’Brien claimed to be suffering from anxiety and depression due to the assault and said that she felt unsafe in the school. Following the first occupational health report, she was uncooperative in rescheduling the second one and after 14 months on leave and numerous attempts to get a position on her condition, the school decided to proceed with their medical incapacity meetings procedure, which led to her dismissal.

At the appeals meeting for O'Brien, a letter was produced from her GP. Although lacking detail about her absence, it claimed that due to a new course of treatment she was on, she was now fit to return to work. Frustrated by O'Brien's lack of cooperation up to this point, the Academy rejected her appeal and upheld the dismissal.


 Although the Tribunal agreed that the GP letter was full of scepticism and that the Academy had a legitimate reason for dismissing O'Brien, they found that the Academy had failed during the appeal to make further inquiries into the GP letter. They found that there was a lack of evidence that O'Brien's absence during that time was causing damage to the Academy; therefore they agreed that she had been unfairly dismissed.

In 2016 UK businesses lost an estimated £137 million due to sickness absence, so it is reasonable to see why employers are now taking sick leave more seriously. Over the next two weeks we will focus on how employers can manage sick leave in the lead up to our online webinar: "Sickness Absence: All you need to know about SSP and managing Sick Leave effectively" on Thursday 25th May 11 am. To register click here.

BrightPay - Payroll and Auto Enrolment Software
Bright Contracts - Employment Contracts and Handbooks


The new standard in payroll software, now available for employers in the UK and Ireland.

UK Website  Ireland Website

Bright Contracts

Create tailored professional employment contracts and staff handbooks. Available for employers in the UK and Ireland.

UK Website  Ireland Website