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Sickness/Absence Record and Potential Employers


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Old 30-09-2011, 06:31
Lushness
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The bottom three questions from that Q&A are crucial ones though.

Provided a conditional offer of employment is made you can ask for whatever you want in a reference, and it is perfectly acceptable to make the offer conditional on receiving a satisfactory reference, including their sickness / absence record from their previous employer.

If unsatisfactory references are received then the offer of employment can be withdrawn.
You still need to be careful about withdrawing an offer because an individual has had lots of sickness. You can really only get away with this if the sickness is deemed as current.

We taken on quite a few people this year with lengthy sickness issues, some have been okay, some we've had to manage out through probation.

It relates to the 2010 Equality Act. See here or here.

I'm an HR advisor and we have taken out all questions re sickness absence from our references.
It's perfectly okay to ask about sickness absence in references. In fact I think it's quite important as you're not necessarily going to get this from the individual. As someone else said, you need to know whether you need to make reasonable adjustments.

Seemingly, a dimmer view is taken of people who have lots of days off here and there rather than a long term illness.
That is dependant upon the company concerned, some companies may be more empathetic while others may not, it is very difficult to say how it will pan out.
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Old 30-09-2011, 12:02
FearFactor
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Not anymore it is now breach of legislation to ask the question pre offer. Any employers who do it are subject to a hefty fine.
Would someone like to tell the civil service about this? It is still a standard question on application forms here, which i know for a fact as I was helping someone complete one the other day.
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Old 30-09-2011, 13:54
Lushness
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Would someone like to tell the civil service about this? It is still a standard question on application forms here, which i know for a fact as I was helping someone complete one the other day.

I don't doubt it, that really is very very poor. The Equality Act has been in force for one year now...
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Old 30-09-2011, 18:13
merroney
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I work in the NHS and they are very hot on sickness at interviews and in references. HR sent out non-confidential sickness forms that the applicant completes and brings to interview - this discloses how many days over how many episodes sickness you have had in the past 2 years and other questions, like on-going issues. We can then discuss it at interview.
References are only taken up for "preferred candidates" and the final offer is subject to satisfactory references, health clearance and CRB check. The reference form sent out or used for verbal references, specifically asks again about the number of sick days & episodes in the past 2 years and also about reliability. I have recently withdrawn the offer from a "preferred candidate" after the sickness records were revealed as dreadful, and reliability extremely poor.

Once in employment, sickness is monitored and if you have more than 10 days and/or more than 4 episodes in a rolling year, you're given a "do not breach" target. If you do, then it's a disciplinary matter now. A lot of people think they are entitled to so much sick time per year, the reality is you're not, you just happen to still get paid if you're sick.

What employers want is someone who is going to pitch up and do the job. If you have a long standing illness, employers will take account of that but what is far worse is the person who has a few days off each month, either side of a weekend or when it's nice weather and it puts strain on the rest of the workforce who keep covering.
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Old 30-09-2011, 20:50
TUTV Viewer
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I work in the NHS and they are very hot on sickness at interviews and in references. HR sent out non-confidential sickness forms that the applicant completes and brings to interview - this discloses how many days over how many episodes sickness you have had in the past 2 years and other questions, like on-going issues. We can then discuss it at interview.
References are only taken up for "preferred candidates" and the final offer is subject to satisfactory references, health clearance and CRB check. The reference form sent out or used for verbal references, specifically asks again about the number of sick days & episodes in the past 2 years and also about reliability. I have recently withdrawn the offer from a "preferred candidate" after the sickness records were revealed as dreadful, and reliability extremely poor.
So how exactly do you find out?

My most recent employers have a formal policy for references, they are issued by HR, are a defined format and do not mention anything but the grade and dates of employment. It is a serious disciplinary offence for any member of staff to deviate from it.

Interestingly, due to the rather perverse way some laws are implemented in this country, it would be a criminal offence for me to disclose why I was signed off sick for a short period during 2010...
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Old 30-09-2011, 21:18
merroney
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So how exactly do you find out?
...
Like I said,every candidate completes a non-confidential disclosure which can be discussed at interview (during the mandatory HR questions bit at the end) and the standardised reference form which is either sent out by HR for written refs or used by the interview panel to take up verbal references asks (amongst other things) about the time off sick, number of episodes and reliability, with space to make comments. If you take up a verbal reference it's typed up and sent back to the person who gave it to confirm accuracy. References are only taken up for preferred candidates and, from my experience, in about 50% of cases, the candidate understates their sickness but usually not by any huge amount. It becomes a concern when it's repeated, with no actual health reason given and teamed with general reliability issues.

And one final thought - if you ask someone to provide a reference you are giving them permission to answer factually based questions upon your time of employment so if they reveal all about your sick time you've not really got any comeback. You can ask to see references and dispute bad ones, but can't avoid the truth.
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Old 30-09-2011, 21:30
TUTV Viewer
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Like I said,every candidate completes a non-confidential disclosure which can be discussed at interview (during the mandatory HR questions bit at the end) and the standardised reference form which is either sent out by HR for written refs or used by the interview panel to take up verbal references asks (amongst other things) about the time off sick, number of episodes and reliability, with space to make comments. If you take up a verbal reference it's typed up and sent back to the person who gave it to confirm accuracy. References are only taken up for preferred candidates and, from my experience, in about 50% of cases, the candidate understates their sickness but usually not by any huge amount. It becomes a concern when it's repeated, with no actual health reason given and teamed with general reliability issues.
Ok, how exactly would you verify?

Assume that it is the policy of the potential employee former employers not to disclose that information even when there is clear consent.
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Old 30-09-2011, 22:15
merroney
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Ok, how exactly would you verify?
.
Oh goodness me, is TV quiet tonight or something?
I have never ever in 15 odd years of interviewing had referees refuse to give details of sickness and reliability. Granted, some referees don't know a person's level of sickness but, as one has to be the line manger, they always do.. HR usually do the written references and the interview panel do verbal ones - and they always come back with complete information. Maybe that's the way NHS recruitment works - we also send people to occupational health for assessments if in doubt.

As regards the vetting, you go for a job and you have to disclose your sickness (in writing) and then your referees are asked about it. (one of the 2 or 3 referees has to be the current or most recent line manager). You can of course say what you wish and ask your referees to back you up on that (particularly if they are casual references). How is the person taking up the reference to know? They're not. You can only ask and hope the candidate and the person giving the reference is honest and by having 2, glaring differences do stand out.

When employing anyone you take a gamble and sometimes learn the hard way
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Old 30-09-2011, 22:28
TUTV Viewer
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Oh goodness me, is TV quiet tonight or something?
I have never ever in 15 odd years of interviewing had referees refuse to give details of sickness and reliability. Granted, some referees don't know a person's level of sickness but, as one has to be the line manger, they always do.. HR usually do the written references and the interview panel do verbal ones - and they always come back with complete information. Maybe that's the way NHS recruitment works - we also send people to occupational health for assessments if in doubt.

As regards the vetting, you go for a job and you have to disclose your sickness (in writing) and then your referees are asked about it. (one of the 2 or 3 referees has to be the current or most recent line manager). You can of course say what you wish and ask your referees to back you up on that (particularly if they are casual references). How is the person taking up the reference to know? They're not. You can only ask and hope the candidate and the person giving the reference is honest and by having 2, glaring differences do stand out.

When employing anyone you take a gamble and sometimes learn the hard way
See this is where things start to fall down.

When I changed jobs 6 months ago. I had to supply two references.

I did. In line with current practice with many large employers, both individuals replied via HR who provided two identical references to the list of questions.

"Mr TUTV Viewer worked for Oldco between 1988 and 2010. His role was "Manager".

Referees are contractually forbidden from providing a verbal reference.

Newco just had to accept it. As would the NHS.
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Old 01-10-2011, 09:55
merroney
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so if they don't do verbal references, a written reference (sent by HR) requesting the exact same info will be sent. If they don't supply the sickness information then they don't. If the reference is lacking in information as to capacity to do the job they have applied for (as the NHS reference form asks)or previous performance you have to go on what you've got. If you're not happy you can with draw the offer from the "preferred candidate" - the post is offered subject to satisfactory references, health clearance and CRB. If the person doesn't supply a reference at all then the candidate has to give the names of other suitable referees. No references no job. References are infallible and no-one wants to employ a dud whether you work for a mega corporation or tiny business but sometimes you do. People want rid so aren't completely honest
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Old 01-10-2011, 10:55
TUTV Viewer
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so if they don't do verbal references, a written reference (sent by HR) requesting the exact same info will be sent. If they don't supply the sickness information then they don't. If the reference is lacking in information as to capacity to do the job they have applied for (as the NHS reference form asks)or previous performance you have to go on what you've got. If you're not happy you can with draw the offer from the "preferred candidate" - the post is offered subject to satisfactory references, health clearance and CRB. If the person doesn't supply a reference at all then the candidate has to give the names of other suitable referees. No references no job. References are infallible and no-one wants to employ a dud whether you work for a mega corporation or tiny business but sometimes you do. People want rid so aren't completely honest
So what you are saying really is that the NHS (maybe just Derbyshire County/Derby City Trust) has a formal policy of refusing employment to someone who has worked for a major employer who meet their legal obligations with the detail supplied in a written reference request.

This is very concerning, I'll be speaking to my Unite representative next week.
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Old 01-10-2011, 20:10
merroney
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So what you are saying really is that the NHS (maybe just Derbyshire County/Derby City Trust) has a formal policy of refusing employment to someone who has worked for a major employer who meet their legal obligations with the detail supplied in a written reference request.
.
No that's what you are choosing to interpret it as. I've explained, posts are offered SUBJECT TO satisfactory references, Occ health clearance and CRB check. If they are not satisfactory then you can withdraw the offer.
By all means discuss it with a union chap but don't be as selective in passing the the details as you have been in taking in what I'e written - and I don't work in Derbyshire.
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Old 01-10-2011, 20:36
Miss Anthropic
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IMO employees should be able to be disregarded based on sickness levels. Of course there are genuine cases such as long term illnesses but some people take the mick when their company has a good sickness policy. I know of people who take time off just because they have a headache or the sniffles. Why? In the 14 years of my working life I've had one day off. Yes I go in when I don't feel 100% but then I'm not made of glass. I don't understand why people are so fragile! Pick yourself up and get on with it I say.
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Old 01-10-2011, 20:42
lemonbun
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No that's what you are choosing to interpret it as. I've explained, posts are offered SUBJECT TO satisfactory references, Occ health clearance and CRB check. If they are not satisfactory then you can withdraw the offer.
By all means discuss it with a union chap but don't be as selective in passing the the details as you have been in taking in what I'e written - and I don't work in Derbyshire.
I've read the thread. Many employers give basic references and do not say anything about sickness.

How do you deal with those that don't.
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Old 01-10-2011, 21:44
TUTV Viewer
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No that's what you are choosing to interpret it as. I've explained, posts are offered SUBJECT TO satisfactory references, Occ health clearance and CRB check. If they are not satisfactory then you can withdraw the offer.
By all means discuss it with a union chap but don't be as selective in passing the the details as you have been in taking in what I'e written - and I don't work in Derbyshire.
The issue, which you continue to avoid, is that you've made it absolutely clear that unless the former employer responds to every question in your reference request then the NHS nationally (or perhaps just the trust that you work for) deems the reference to be unsatisfactory.

Essentially the NHS (again perhaps just the trust you work for) has a formal discrimination policy against potential new employees on the basis of their former employer.

This is not satisfactory.
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Old 02-10-2011, 12:37
merroney
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The issue, which you continue to avoid, is that you've made it absolutely clear that unless the former employer responds to every question in your reference request then the NHS nationally (or perhaps just the trust that you work for) deems the reference to be unsatisfactory.
Have I? Where did I say that?
I have said you have to go on what you've got. If you're not happy (i.e it doesn't all stack up) you can with draw the offer from the "preferred candidate" - the post is offered subject to satisfactory references, health clearance and CRB clearance.

Rather tired of arguing with someone who obviously has a bit of an agenda and doesn't really read what you put and says you've put something else. The End.
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Old 02-10-2011, 13:06
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Have I? Where did I say that?
I have said you have to go on what you've got. If you're not happy (i.e it doesn't all stack up) you can with draw the offer from the "preferred candidate" - the post is offered subject to satisfactory references, health clearance and CRB clearance.

Rather tired of arguing with someone who obviously has a bit of an agenda and doesn't really read what you put and says you've put something else. The End.
Oh it's never the end...

You keep repeating, in your formal capactiy as a representative of the NHS, that you will withdraw the offer from the "preferred candidate" if the reference isn't satisfactory.

We have together established that the NHS has a defined policy to consider a reference as unsatisfactory if the former employer, (who as a matter of their own internal policies), does not reply to your questions in full.

So we come back to the same end.

The NHS will automatically withdraw the offer to the "preferred candidate" if they were previously employed by many major employers.

It's still unsatisfactory.
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Old 02-10-2011, 18:01
Stiko
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It relates to the 2010 Equality Act. See here or here.

I'm an HR advisor and we have taken out all questions re sickness absence from our references.
Thanks for this, I currently have a running dispute over a bad reference and my application put on hold and it is clear that the reference giver has defamed me with over blown alligations. The outcome will be known this week to whether I get the job or take the case further.
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Old 02-10-2011, 18:52
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Thanks for this, I currently have a running dispute over a bad reference and my application put on hold and it is clear that the reference giver has defamed me with over blown alligations. The outcome will be known this week to whether I get the job or take the case further.
It would probably be worth your while to pay for a "subject access request" at your former employer. They usually cost around 10.

It should include a copy of all data held about you - and will include a copy of any emails, text messages (if retained) and letters concerning the reference - where calls are recorded for "training and monitoring purposes" you should be provided either with the recording or a transcript.

If don't get the job, and can afford it, do the same for the potential new employer and see if the reference data accurate and matches up.

If it doesn't, you're in the money.
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Old 02-10-2011, 22:19
Stiko
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It would probably be worth your while to pay for a "subject access request" at your former employer. They usually cost around 10.

It should include a copy of all data held about you - and will include a copy of any emails, text messages (if retained) and letters concerning the reference - where calls are recorded for "training and monitoring purposes" you should be provided either with the recording or a transcript.

If don't get the job, and can afford it, do the same for the potential new employer and see if the reference data accurate and matches up.

If it doesn't, you're in the money.
Last Job was with local authority and I had applied to another department within the same council and have succesfully matched the criteria set out. The person responsible for my negative reference may well be diciplined as a result anyway as it could be seen as unprofessional. I wonder if I can have the reference withdrawn!
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Old 02-10-2011, 23:04
TUTV Viewer
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Last Job was with local authority and I had applied to another department within the same council and have succesfully matched the criteria set out. The person responsible for my negative reference may well be diciplined as a result anyway as it could be seen as unprofessional. I wonder if I can have the reference withdrawn!
In that case definitely worthwhile doing a subject access request, there may be more naughty emails that mention you in an inappropriate way in the system.

(Although as part of the review, they will have to go through all your work emails too...)
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Old 03-10-2011, 14:41
Lushness
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In that case definitely worthwhile doing a subject access request, there may be more naughty emails that mention you in an inappropriate way in the system.

(Although as part of the review, they will have to go through all your work emails too...)
I can ensure you that any such emails would be removed. Whenever HR departments receive these requests (in my experience) the whole file is reviewed before giving a copy to the individual. Any inflammatory papers are removed. It may not be right but it can prevent the risk of challenge in the future.
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Old 03-10-2011, 16:07
Chilli Dragon
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We have together established that the NHS has a defined policy to consider a reference as unsatisfactory if the former employer, (who as a matter of their own internal policies), does not reply to your questions in full.
It varies from Trust to Trust. My Trust would not act in this way but many do.

Our reference request forms do ask for sickness details as well as the "would you re-employ this person" questions. But, I've seen people still be appointed if their previous employer refuses to disclose sickness as it goes against their policy.
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Old 03-11-2011, 11:15
Stiko
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In that case definitely worthwhile doing a subject access request, there may be more naughty emails that mention you in an inappropriate way in the system.

(Although as part of the review, they will have to go through all your work emails too...)
I have found out this week that there is issues relating to my health on one of the references. I am now seeking Subject Access to my files, will I get to see everything and what next!
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Old 03-11-2011, 11:24
The Prumeister
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[quote=soulboy77;53128444]Is someone really going to own up about having a poor sickness/absence record? An employer's reference isn't going to provide that detail.[/QUOTE]



Yes it is. I work for a recruitment agency and we have a tick list that we send off to employers asking for employees' honesty, relationship with colleagues and attendance amongst other things. They are marked from poor to excellent.

Admittedly, some companies only give factual references i.e they only confirm the dates that the employee worked for them - this covers them and is common in big organisations like the NHS.
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